Oil rig popularity dropping in Beverly Hills

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A 165-foot-tall oil well tower (C) decorated with flower designs in 2000 by children suffering from cancer and other serious diseases stands at Beverly Hills High School May 6, 2003 in Beverly Hills, California.

City officials in Beverly Hills have voted to end above-ground oil rigs within city limits. The decision could affect just one existing rig.

Oil company Venoco has operated a rig at Beverly Hills High School for decades. The company calls it the Tower of Hope – it’s covered in soundproofing material, brightly colored, decorated by kids.

Venoco has permission to operate the rig under a contract that expires in six years. But opposition to oil drilling is on the rise in Beverly Hills.

Seven years ago a group of former students and others sued the oil company claiming the rig led to lifelong health problems including cancer. A judge later dismissed the lawsuit for lack of evidence.

The Beverly Hills City Council vote doesn't end oil extraction from underground wells linked to operations outside the city, and it needs confirmation with another council vote next month.

Beverly Hills voters will weigh in next month on another measure that could slow or end oil extraction in the city. If they pass it, Measure O would convert a flat-rate tax oil companies pay for drilling into a potentially more lucrative revenue-based levy.

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