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June 23, 2021

Guest View: Supervisor contends Measure J goes too far

I think most San Benito County residents believe that energy companies should be able to continue to operate here—and perhaps even expand—provided they are held to stringent environmental regulations. I fall into this camp, too. It is why I am voting no on Measure J.
Measure J is about much more than one controversial method of oil extraction—one, by the way, that isn’t even used or proposed here. Measure J goes much further than hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Measure J would broadly ban energy companies from using any of the techniques currently employed in California—or that might be developed in the future—to enhance the flow of oil below ground for pumping to the surface. Specifically, as stated in Section 2 of the ballot measure, Measure J would prohibit so-called “high-intensity petroleum operations,” a term, by the way, entirely made up by the political activists behind the measure. And what are high-intensity petroleum operations? As defined by Measure J, high-intensity petroleum operations means “any treatment of a well designed to enhance oil and gas production or recovery.” This is the crux of the problem with Measure J—and why it goes way too far and should be rejected.
A ban on the ability of petroleum companies to perform any treatment on a well to enhance oil and gas production or recovery is the same as telling petroleum companies to pack up and leave town. Such a sweeping ban would result in an immediate end to new investment by energy companies in San Benito County and eventually a shutdown of petroleum operations here. An end to new investment and a shutdown of current petroleum operations will cost our county good-paying jobs, opportunity for new employment, and economic activity that benefits other local businesses and rural landowners in our community. Take into account that Measure J is just one of several such measures being pushed at the local level elsewhere in California, and the costs become even greater. This measure and others like it would eliminate a source of revenue for schools and vital public health and safety services. Measure J is being promoted as an environmental protection measure. In reality, it would serve to undermine our energy independence and lead to more oil being imported into California by ship, pipeline and rail as well as greater reliance on other states and other countries—putting our county and state at greater environmental, economic and geopolitical risk.
Measure J is opposed by organizations I trust, like our county Farm Bureau and Cattlemen’s Association and the former editorial board of the Hollister Free Lance newspaper. Measure J is being presented as a simple fracking ban, an almost symbolic gesture. In reality, the stakes are huge. The agenda of the people behind Measure J is an end to petroleum production in California altogether, one city and county at a time. They know there is no fracking in San Benito County. They know none is proposed. They know that petroleum companies that operate here have said they have no plans or need for it in San Benito County.
I think, as I stated earlier, that most of my fellow San Benito County residents believe that a continuation of safe, stringently regulated petroleum production is important to our county and state’s economic, fiscal and environmental strength and future. I hold to this view. It is why I am voting no on Measure J. And it is why I hope you will vote no, too.
Margie Barrios is District 1 supervisor in San Benito County.

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