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The energy industry, once a strong economic driver in San Benito County, is poised for a comeback and to become a major source of new employment and high-paying jobs, according to a new analysis commissioned by the county Farm Bureau. The economic impact analysis was presented at Paine’s Restautant in Hollister on the morning of Sept. 11 to members and invited guests of the San Benito and Monterey County Farm Bureaus and Cattlemen and California Women for Agriculture.

“The study demonstrates why Measure J is so misguided,” said Richard Bianchi, president of the San Benito County Farm Bureau. “Oil production has taken place safely in San Benito County for decades, has been an important contributor to our economy and way of life, and holds great promise for future employment and creation of good-paying jobs.”

According to the report, petroleum operations could add hundreds of new jobs in San Benito County—with wages ranging between $95,000 and $112,000 a year—as wells now dormant or running at low capacity are rehabbed, replaced and brought back online. Specifically, the analysis claims that the most modest investment plans of two petroleum companies currently active in San Benito County could add 168 jobs. Taking into account projected spillover growth in related businesses and resulting from the spending of petroleum industry workers, the report says total new employment attributable to petroleum industry activity could reach 258 jobs under the most modest of the companies’ investment plans.

Under a stepped up investment scenario—one in which the companies, Patriot Resources and Citadel Exploration, replace and bring online 42 under-performing or dormant wells—direct industry employment could hit 820 jobs, according to the report. Factoring in the growth of related businesses and the effect of spending by petroleum industry employees, the report claims total new employment could reach 1,256 jobs. To put that in perspective, the study says San Benito County currently supports just more than 20,000 jobs of all types. The addition of 1,256 jobs would mean a 6 percent increase in employment.

Meanwhile, total economic activity in San Benito County—currently at $3.7 billion annually—could rise 9 percent to over $4 billion a year, the analysis found.

“The Farm Bureau and our agricultural community deserve credit for quantifying the value of our local energy industry and for demonstrating what is at stake for our county when voters decide on Measure J this fall,” said Kristina Chavez Wyatt, of the No on Measure J campaign. The ballot measure would amend county General Plan to prohibit virtually all petroleum drilling techniques likely to be used in San Benito County.

“Like similar measures being pushed elsewhere in California, Measure J is part of a campaign by outsiders to advance their own political agenda at the expense of our economy and way of life,” Wyatt said. “We join the Farm Bureau and other agricultural and business organizations in urging voters to reject Measure J.”

To read the study, click here.