SLO County IWMA repeal of polystyrene ban spurs political fight

February 18, 2021


Divided along party lines, the San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA) took the first step to repeal a countywide ban on polystyrene. The repeal requires a second vote, scheduled for March 3, for ratification.

Even though the IWMA adopted a countywide ordinance prohibiting businesses from using or selling polystyrene products in Oct. 2019, the ban was never implemented. Noting financial concerns and an increased need for takeout containers during the pandemic, the board voted last year to delay implementation until mid-2021.

The IWMA is a joint powers authority made up of one representative from each of the county’s seven cities, all five members of the SLO County Board of Supervisors, and one representative for the county’s community services districts.

Currently, five of the seven cities in SLO County — Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo — have existing polystyrene bans. Each of the ordinances prohibit restaurants and stores from providing food in polystyrene  containers, while the IWMA ban is more restrictive.

For example, the IWMA ban restricts grocery stores from selling uncooked meat on polystyrene trays. This is an issue for grocers who typically receive meat on polystyrene trays. Even though the ban was not implemented, in 2020 local grocery stores began repackaging  meat on plastic trays, and tossing the polystyrene trays in the trash.

In response to concerns from elected officials that the IWMA ban usurped the ability of city councils to legislate for their constituents, the IWMA board brought the polystyrene ban back to either repeal, change or implement it, with staff supporting the repeal.

Republicans on the board argued for local control, voiced concerns for businesses in financial distress from the coronavirus and noted concerns over the six-month jail sentence per violation. In addition, SLO County Supervisor John Peschong announced plans to have the county leave the IWMA if the board voted for the ban.

Democrats on the board discussed the need to take responsibility for polystyrene waste and to stay true to an environmental mission, while disregarding concerns over local control.

“That we need to preserve local control, is selectively invoked and ignores the efficiency of us working as a county, as a whole,” said SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson.

In the end, the seven Republicans on the board — Robert Enns from Cayucos, Atascadero Councilman Charles Bourbeau, Paso Robles Councilman John Hamon, Pismo Beach Councilman Scott Newton, and SLO County supervisors Debbie Arnold, Lynn Compton and Peschong — voted to repeal the ban.

The five Democrats and the one decline to state — Grover Beach Councilwoman Karen Bright, Arroyo Grande Councilman Keith Storton, SLO Councilwoman Andy Pease, SLO County supervisors Bruce Gibson and Dawn Ortiz-Legg, and decline to state Morro Bay Councilman Jeff Heller — voted against the repeal.

Following their loss, several proponents of the ban made plans to flip one of the board members who voted for the repeal, according to an email chain. They selected Pismo Beach Councilman Scott Newton.

Former SLO City Councilman John Ashbaugh looked into Newton’s background, as the group strategized on how to get him on their side and who could help. While referring to Newton as an “entree,” Ashbaugh noted Newton had no significant political history.

“Newton is a conservative family man with too much money and time on his hands,” Ashbaugh said in a Feb. 12 email.

Jenine Rands, a proponent of the polystyrene ban, suggested having like-minded Pismo Beach residents contact Newton. In addition, Rand noted plans to contact Grover Beach Mayor Jeff Lee and Councilwoman Mariam Shah to help devise a plan to work on Newton, Rands said in a Feb. 12 email.

“We definitely need help on wooing Scott into our ranks and pronto,” Rands wrote. “We need everyone from Pismo Beach to call, write and even let PB City Council know that he voted to repeal.”

The group also voiced concerns about Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg, a Democrat who voiced concerns the ordinance went too far.

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I wonder if they even know how Pfizer’s vaccine is shipped….in Styrofoam boxes packed with dry ice….same with many medicine’s that must remain cold like Repatha….

Your are not making a point.There are recyclabe material that can stay cold.The vaccin package does not stay out of the fridge anyway.

STyrofoam is a nasty product that is easiy excuse to use this crap anymore.Mr Bourbo should be ashamed of his vote. You do not vote party line on this issue, you should have vote to safeguard the planet . Easy to look like a nature lover in Atadcadero, when it is time to show some conviction, you did not delivered

Interesting that the Tribune has locked their editorial as a “subscriber exclusive” “SLO County board banned polystyrene. Should a gang of bullies be allowed to do it?”

I’ve seen a copy of the email between Janine Kennel Rands and Tribune editor Joe Tarica.

Perhaps the Tribune doesn’t want it known they’re following Ms Rand’s voice mail request to Mr. Tarica for an editorial, and Mr. Tarica’s direction to Stephanie Finucane to write one. Or that Ms Rands “filled her in, and sent her a stack of links. She’ll work on this next week – stay tuned. BUT, between now and March 10 – next IWMA Board Meeting, we need letters to the editor from supporters.” Or how Ms Rand is gloating over the “huge outpouring of support” letters. But then again, by Ms Rand’s own writing, she’s “going to work on the next action alert.”

Who’s bullying whom? Everyone, stay tuned!

Watched the meeting on the IWMA site. The callers were primarily a group of Cal Poly students, the same ones who often call in to support whatever side Bruce Gibson is on, and who were woefully uniformed.

In this case, the students appeared to be going off the same set of talking points. One of their main complaints was that most of the pro-repeal board members were worried about the cost of outreach. But none were.

Also, the students were outraged about those who wanted elected bodies to legislate for their citizens. The students then argued about other votes the IWMA board had made that were regulatory, arguing they were legislative. Is this a failure of their civics teachers or were they not paying attention?

While some may think having 20 people call in on your behalf is a win, when they appear uniformed and ignorant of the facts you lose the advantage.

The half life, carcinogenic nature, and dispersal and disintegration of styrofoam is extremely dangerous. And to call this cancel culture is laughable, so, should we allow leaded gasoline and wall paper, let’s eat asbestos. Oh no, cancel culture! Wow, to say this is political vs economics is a joke, and sad, and apparently, people dont know how to read or do research of peer reviewed journals saying this Plastic Crap kills life. Hm, I bet smoke is safe too to inhale, and radioactive isotopes based on the lack of logic of a few radicalist fringe people. Dollar over life, convinience over preservation. No wonder earth is a mess.

You make my point beautifully. Thank you! Instead of seeing my comment as an indictment of the political method used by the left, which is what it was, you call me an unscientific rube. Save some keystrokes next time and just type Nazi three times.

Oh, and don’t forget “RACIST”

Right along side John Kerry and the others who fly around in private jet justifying it while telling us to bike and walk, or those same owning three, four or more houses while telling us to be basic and conserve.

kayaknut, John Kerry is not in the iwma or the county.

Stop derailing.

John Kerry is not telling you to bike or walk—please point to any quote he has made on that point. His goal is much broader: the total elimination of fossil fuel consumption in this nation. GM has already pledged to go all-electric by 2035. Every other automaker and energy provider is not far behind. Kerry could give a rat’s ass what you do, so go ahead and drive your gas guzzling Chevy for the rest of your life. You are not sustainable and you will soon be replaced by someone who uses sustainable energy for their needs.

May we add two small technical corrections for the record:

1): it’s properly known as EXPANDED POLYSTYRENE (EPS), and

2): John Ashbaugh’s positions suddenly appear BRILLIANT when contrasted with Harmon’s positions.

Progressives have only two strategies: Yell racism and cancel culture. They are the newest Taliban. Their religion is environmentalism (not science as they claim). Sadly, they have two generations of undereducated to manipulate, and they are effective because of that.

south, The Taliban are not in the iwma.

Stop derailing, if you want to rail against people in general, fine but do it some other place.

Lol, got a real comedian here.

“They are the newest Taliban”

As opposed to the MAGA crowd that would install a dictator just because they believed the “big lie” that somehow the election was a fraud? Ok, right.

As for cancel culture, conservatives have been doing this for years, changing textbooks in public schools (in Texas they have consistently attempted to downplay the role of slavery in American history), eliminating the term “climate change” from federal websites, and denying that gay Americans are really homosexual, but should simply go to camps to be re-indoctrinated.

I don’t know Newton, but I understand he’s pretty conservative. So how exactly are these libs going to flip the guy? John Ashbaugh has too much time on his hands.

Another “home run” in terms of investigative reporting, Karen V! How dumb is it to use emails to discuss sensitive political strategies.

Republicans with DUMB health consciousness, again. For the unaware, Styrene (a component of Styrofoam) leeches into food and drink. Styrene is classified as a carcinogen per the National Research Council. Use paper and glass with food. If the drink is hot, use a corrugated sleeve. Why risk the health effects of Styrofoam for a mere convenience?

“After 40 years in limbo: Styrene is probably carcinogenic”

Probably…wow, how’s that for overwhelming proof?

The article is an objective summary. My view is, why risk long term health and financial ruin, from a “probably carcinogenic” material, for a convenience that is easily substituted? All downside risk for no gain. The decision of the seven Republicans on the board is dumb, i.e., makes no sense.

But, the National Research Council, in their rather enormous study, listed Styrene as “…reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

You know, much like the Cubs being reasonably anticipated World Series contenders for about 109 years.

YOU said listed as a carcinogen. The actual listing, does not say that.

Try the truth sometime. It won’t hurt you.