State sues Brownsville over plastic bag ban

FILE - Plastic bag (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Plastic bag (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (AP/KXAN) — Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the U.S.-Mexico border city of Brownsville, calling a local $1 fee on plastic bags at store checkouts an illegal sales tax.

Brownsville’s “environmental fee” was approved locally and took effect in January. It’s meant to reduce waste by discouraging single-use bags.

The suit was filed Wednesday in state District Court in Brownsville. Paxton said in a statement that the ban has cost Brownsville residents millions in fees, adding: “The rule of law must be upheld.”

The suit marks the first time the state attorney general has sued a locality over a bag ban in recent years, though the Republican-controlled Legislature has previously tried unsuccessfully to outlaw such bans. In 2014, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott said city bans on single-use plastic bags are illegal.

For Austinites, the reality of remembering to bring your reusable bags with you to the grocery store happened in 2013. The Dallas City Council implemented a partial plastic bag ban in 2015 but immediately repealed it a few months later. 

Austin Resource Recovery says the environmental impact of the bag ban in Austin is significant. Within the first year of the ban, ARR says it saw about 30 percent fewer bags go into landfills.

The Texas Retailers Association is against plastic bag bans. They say the bans have a larger impact on lower income families, could impair existing recycling efforts, and are not a comprehensive solution to the problem. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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