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State pegs cracker jobs at 10K, give or take 10K

| Wednesday, June 27, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Members of Gov. Tom Corbett's staff cited job projections on Tuesday that were half what they touted this month while promoting a proposed petrochemical plant in Beaver County and related tax breaks.

Royal Dutch Shell plc might build an ethane processing, or cracker, complex in Beaver County, a project that could require 10,000 permanent jobs in the state, according to a news release sent out after three Corbett Cabinet members led an event in Philadelphia touting the project and the governor's proposed $1.65 billion tax credit.

The administration's news release after a similar event June 14 in Beaver County touted “up to 20,000” jobs, a figure critics said could be inflated to help win over lawmakers and the public.

State officials have estimated 10,000 to 20,000 permanent jobs would grow out of the project, Department of Community and Economic Development spokesman Steve Kratz said when asked about the apparent difference in projections. He declined to say why officials used the low-end estimate in the latest release.

Corbett spokeswoman Kelli Roberts said the administration may use different numbers depending upon where its officials are speaking. There would be more jobs in Beaver County, she said.

“Everywhere we are, we're talking about the same range,” Roberts said. “We're not backing off or jumping down” from the 20,000-jobs estimate.

State leaders relied on an industry projection that such a project could create 17,000 permanent jobs. They cited that estimate in part of yesterday's press release, too.

The state Department of Labor & Industry is doing its own research, and its officials said this month that a new plant might lead to 6,000 to 8,000 permanent jobs. Administration officials have since claimed their projections are aligning closely with the industry's, but that research isn't finished yet, department spokesman Christopher Manlove said.

“I'm going to stand by the figures as they're outlined in today's release,” he said when asked about the change.

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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