The city council in the tiny town of Beverly Hills passed a measure Tuesday that bans hydraulic fracturing, an oil drilling technique commonly referred to as fracking.
Five council members voted to pass the measure, making the city the first in California to ban the practice that is used to free underground deposits of oil and natural gas.
Contrary to a popular misconceptions, the celebrity-filled city is not immune from concerns about oil drilling. A recent Reuters story indicates that drilling has occurred there for decades. Efforts to stop drilling on property owned by Beverly Hills High School were stalled for years but the council voted in 2011 to cease those operations by 2016.
Although no companies had come forward with proposals to use fracking in the city, officials grew concerned when it started being used in the oilfields of nearby Los Angeles County.
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City Councilwoman Therese Kosterman said that the technique was simply not a good fit for the city.
"It's just the sense that industrial processes such as mining and oil drilling really is not appropriate in Beverly Hills," she said.
The chemicals used in fracking have been linked to birth defects, infertility and cancer according to Think Progress.
There is also some momentum behind state lawmakers who want to pass a statewide ban on the practice, but others feel that would be a mistake.
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Dave Quast, of the California Independent Petroleum Association, said in a statement that such a ban could threaten the state’s energy independence.
"A greater reliance on expensive imported fuel sources would put Southern California jobs at risk and could result in higher prices at the pump," he said.
Fracking relies on a process that pumps huge volumes of high-pressure water and chemicals into the ground to break up rock and soil to release the energy deposits. Some argue that the technique can lead to more earthquakes — a real concern for many in quake-prone California.
Beverly Hills Councilman John Mirsch highlighted both the chemical and earthquake concerns in a press release quoted by RT.com.
“This is not a ‘not in my backyard issue’ – it should not be in anyone’s back yard,” he wrote. “And we also need to think long-term, even if our city is not a center of drilling — injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals at high pressure into the earth can't be good.”