Fort Bragg is poised to become the first city in Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma counties to ban plastic shopping bags.

"At this point, the city is the leader of the pack," said Fort Bragg City Manager Linda Ruffing.

The City Council earlier this week unanimously approved proceeding with the first step toward a ban on plastic carryout bags, It is asking the Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority to produce an environmental impact report, an effort aimed at avoiding a lawsuit from the bag industry.

The city ordinance would ban plastic carryout bags at at all retail stores, including grocery stores, boutiques and take-out restaurants, Ruffing said. With some exceptions, it would require them to charge a small fee for paper bags or reusable bags.

The fees are aimed at encouraging people to bring their own reusable bags.

With plastic bags littering the world and creating hazards for wildlife, cities, counties and entire countries increasingly are seeking ways to reduce their use. Marin County, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica and Los Angeles County have plastic ban bags.

The Sonoma County Waste Management Agency is working with a group of 450 retailers for ideas on how to regulate bags.

Giant retailer Wal-Mart has even discontinued offering disposable bags in some of its stores, including the one in Ukiah.

"It's the right thing to do," Ruffing said.

But the plastic bag industry has taken issue with some of the bans, forcing most cities and counties to conduct environmental impact reports. Fort Bragg has been discussing a plastic bag ban for several years, but decided to wait and see what happened with the industry's challenge to other jurisdictions.

Bag industry officials say producing paper bags brings more greenhouse gases and takes up more space in landfills than plastic bags.

Fort Bragg's ordinance is aimed at reducing both.

Two of the city's grocery stores, Harvest Market and Purity Market, attended meetings on the proposed ban and voiced support for the city's effort.

The timetable for additional meetings and adoption of the ordinance is not yet set.