Protecting Public Health and the Environment in the Wake of the Norfolk Southern Train Derailment and Chemical Release in East Palestine, Ohio

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 09 Mar 2023 15:00:00 GMT

On Thursday, March 9, 2023, at 10:00 AM ET, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, led by Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), will hold a full committee hearing on addressing the environmental and public health threats from the Norfolk Southern train derailment and chemical release in East Palestine, Ohio.


Panel I
  • Sherrod Brown, United States Senator, The State of Ohio
  • JD Vance, United States Senator, The State of Ohio
  • Bob Casey, United States Senator, The State of Pennsylvania
Panel II
  • Alan Shaw, President and CEO, Norfolk Southern Corporation
  • Debra Shore, Regional Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,, Region V
  • Anne Vogel, Director, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
  • Richard Harrison, Executive Director and Chief Engineer, Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission
  • Eric Brewer, Director and Chief of Hazardous Materials Response, Beaver County Department of Emergency Services

A Sectoral Approach to Climate Mitigation: The Energy Sector

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 07 Mar 2023 18:00:00 GMT

Analyzing climate change and proposing solutions at the nation-state level can obscure the path forward, as ambition varies widely across countries and can change dramatically as soon as the next election. Furthermore, coordinating the actions of nearly 200 nations (including more than a dozen major emitters) presents its own challenges. Viewing climate solutions as sectoral rather than “national,” may be more productive and give a clearer of how to cut the most emissions in the fastest manner.

This webinar series, sponsored by American University’s Center for Environmental Policy (CEP) and the not-for-profit think tank Energy Innovation, reframes causes and solutions of climate change as “sectoral” issues.

The energy sector has been the focus of many mitigation efforts to date, as clear alternatives like renewable technologies are readily available and increasingly competitive. Should the energy sector be the highest priority for mitigation strategies? What has been done right and what has been done wrong to date? What sort of changes would enhance energy sector mitigation strategies (particularly as these relate to the energy grid)?

  • Michael O’Boyle, Energy Innovation
  • Michelle Solomon, Energy Innovation
  • Dan Fiorino, Center for Environmental Policy, School of Public Affairs
  • Moderator: Gabriela Siegfried, EPRI

Mike O’Boyle is Energy Innovation’s Director, Electricity. He directs the firm’s Electricity Program, which focuses on designing and quantifying the impacts of policies needed to affordably and reliably decarbonize the U.S. electricity grid. Mike’s expertise includes clean electricity standards, wholesale market design, monopoly utility regulation, and energy efficiency policies.

Michelle Solomon is a Policy Analyst in the Electricity program at Energy Innovation, working to accelerate the transition to a clean and affordable electricity sector in the United States. Prior to joining Energy Innovation, she completed her PhD at Stanford University in Materials Science and Engineering, focusing on nanotechnology. Immediately after graduate school, she was a Congressional Science and Engineering Fellow in the office of Senator Ed Markey, where she worked on all things energy and environment.

Daniel J. Fiorino is the founding Director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Distinguished Executive in Residence in the School of Public Affairs at American University. Fiorino is the author or co-author of seven books and some 60 articles and book chapters, including A Good Life on a Finite Earth: The Political Economy of Green Growth (Oxford University Press, 2018), Can Democracy Handle Climate Change? (Polity Books, 2018), and Conceptual Innovation in Environmental Policy (with James Meadowcroft, MIT Press, 2017). MIT Press also published the second edition of Environmental Governance Reconsidered (with Robert F. Durant and Rosemary O’Leary) in 2017.

Gabriella A. Siegfried is a Senior Sustainability Analyst at the Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI), Gabriella performs research within the energy sector related to ESG governance/disclosure, corporate social responsibility, and cross-industry benchmarking. While at EPRI, Siegfied has led projects on climate change mitigation through sustainability goal-setting and circular economy metric development for the energy sector. Through AU’s Center for Environmental Policy, where Siegfried worked during her MA program, she conducted research on environmental justice, such as analyzing Hurricane Katrina reconstruction and the Texas Freeze of 2021 from an environmental justice lens.


The economic case for tackling climate change now

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 06 Mar 2023 16:00:00 GMT

The dangers of global warming are increasingly evident—extreme weather, rising sea levels, wildfires, and melting glaciers—but there hasn’t been sufficient political will to take the steps needed to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, which scientists deem essential.

To examine the economic case for moving sooner rather than later, the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy and the Center on Regulation and Markets at Brookings will convene a virtual conference on March 6 to discuss two recent papers. The first, by the IMF’s Tobias Adrian and coauthors, focuses on the benefits of phasing out coal as an energy source. Following the presentation, the World Bank’s Carolyn Fischer will react. The second, by Hutchins Nonresident Senior Fellow Glenn Rudebusch and coauthors, quantifies the inverse relationship between carbon prices and future temperatures, illustrating how climate policy choices determine climate outcomes. Following this presentation, Irene Monasterolo of EDHEC Business School will respond. All four will then participate in a panel discussion on the broader implications of these issues.

Viewers may submit questions by emailing [email protected], on Twitter using the hashtag #ClimateEcon, or at using the code #ClimateEcon.

  • David Wessel, Director – The Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy Senior Fellow – Economic Studies
Paper presentation – The Great Carbon Arbitrage
  • Tobias Adrian, Financial Counsellor & Director – Monetary and Capital Markets Department, International Monetary Fund
  • Carolyn Fischer, Research Manager of the Sustainability and Infrastructure Team in the Development Research Group – World Bank
Paper presentation – Climate policy curves: Linking policy choices to climate outcomes
  • Glenn Rudebusch, Nonresident Senior Fellow – Economic Studies, The Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy
  • Irene Monasterolo, Professor of Climate Finance – EDHEC Business School, EDHEC-Risk Climate Impact Institute
Panel discussion
  • Moderator: Sanjay Patnaik, Director – Center on Regulation and Markets, Bernard L. Schwartz Chair in Economic Policy Development Fellow – Economic Studies
  • Tobias Adrian
  • Carolyn Fischer
  • Irene Monasterolo
  • Glenn Rudebusch


Future Generation: Exploring the New Baseline for Electricity in the Presence of the Inflation Reduction Act

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 15 Feb 2023 17:00:00 GMT

What does the future of electricity look like in the wake of major climate policy packages including the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act? EPRI and Resources for the Future (RFF) will explore recent findings and the latest power sector modeling.

Join us on Wednesday, February 15 for this RFF Live virtual event featuring opening remarks by EPA Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation, Joseph Goffman, followed by a panel of energy sector modelers from RFF, EPRI, EPA, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Panelists will present recent findings on how the electricity sector is expected to transform in the coming decades as a result of the IRA, illuminating a new baseline for the sector.

Presented by EPRI and RFF

Opening and Framing
  • Billy Pizer, RFF
  • Robert Chapman, EPRI
  • Joseph Goffman, EPA


  • Karen Palmer, RFF (moderator)
  • John Bistline, EPRI
  • Cara Marcy, EPA
  • Daniel Steinberg, NREL
  • Kevin Rennert, RFF

Register to attend virtually.

Achieving Zero Emissions with More Mobility and Less Mining

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 10 Feb 2023 22:30:00 GMT

Join the Climate and Community Project for a briefing and happy hour to discuss its latest report, “Achieving Zero Emissions with More Mobility and Less Mining.”

Where: Friday, February 10 at 5:30PM

When: Creative Grounds DC, 1822 North Capitol St NW, Washington, DC 20002

Please be ready to show proof of up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination.

We need to decarbonize the US transportation sector — one of the top contributors to our country’s GHG emissions. Decisions made now will affect the speed of decarbonization and the mobility of millions — and decarbonization will transform global supply chains, with implications for climate, environmental, and Indigenous justice beyond US borders. Join us for a discussion with Dr. Thea Riofrancos, lead author of Climate and Community Project’s latest report Achieving Zero Emissions with More Mobility with Less Mining, to consider the future of the transportation system, futures of lithium mining, and how we make it just and equitable for all.


Stakeholder Perspectives on the Impacts of the Biden Administration's Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 08 Feb 2023 15:00:00 GMT

The Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (Chair David Rouzer, R-N.C.) will hold a hearing titled “Stakeholder Perspectives on the Impacts of the Biden Administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule” on Wednesday, February 8, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. ET, in Room 2167 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

  • Garrett Hawkins, President, Missouri Farm Bureau
  • Alicia Huey, Chairman, National Association of Home Builders
  • Mark Williams, Environmental Manager, Luck Companies, On Behalf of National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association
  • Susan Parker Bodine, Partner, Earth & Water Law LLC
  • Dave Owen, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of Scholarly Publications, UC College of the Law, San Francisco

AGU Quietly Began Divesting From Fossil-Fuel Industry in 2021

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 11 Jan 2023 16:44:00 GMT

After years of protests from its climate-scientist members for its ties to climate polluters, the American Geophysical Union quietly divested its $100-million-plus investment portfolio from the fossil-fuel industry. In November 2021, AGU leadership posted a video labeled only “AGU announces change in its investment strategy.” In the video, AGU president Susan Lozier announced the implications of its newly adopted ESG investment policy:

Also as a result of this policy, AGU has no direct investments in fossil fuels. However, a recent audit of AGU’s portfolio showed that approximately five percent of our holdings are invested in fossil fuels through our mutual fund accounts. Today’s announcement is to let you know that AGU has started to divest its portfolio of these holdings to strengthen our commitment to mission-related investments and to better align with our strategic plan, which places a strong focus on a sustainable future.
In the video, AGU president-elect Susan Gramlich explained the decision was a result of the “unprecedented climate emergency” which makes this an “all-hands-on-deck moment for our scientific community,” while recognizing that AGU members include employees of fossil-fuel companies.
As Susan mentioned, AGU’s Board’s decision was focused on making sure our actions match our strategic plan, who we are as an organization and our investment policy. Core to all three is that we must address our global climate crisis. The world is facing an unprecedented climate emergency where every decision – and inaction – affects all who inhabit our planet. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for our scientific community as we are called upon to continue to build our capacity to anticipate the impacts of climate change and work with others to ground policy and practices in our science. As we continue to pursue our science, we are also engaging with an ever broadening array of fields of expertise from scientific to social to political. We aspire to deepen our collaboration with the private sector, especially those companies that are committed to truly doing better for future generations by advancing science-based solutions. . . Our members also work in and for a variety of organizations, including non-profits, academia, scientific organizations, government programs and corporations, including fossil-fuel companies.

AGU past president Robin Bell, a cryosphere geophysicist, discussed the AGU Finance and Investment Committee’s plan for “net carbon neutrality” with AGU investments, which opens the door for further investment in the fossil-fuel industry.

The current landscape is very dynamic and as Earth scientists, we understand that the fossil fuel companies have the potential to become truly renewable energy companies driving carbon sequestration and direct air capture. Carbon Capture and sequestration will be essential to meet the Paris Agreement goals. We know developing robust metrics for a carbon neutral portfolio will not be simple given the complexities of the carbon cycle. We will build on the evolving understanding of carbon in the Earth system that our membership brings to this discussion. We are grateful for the work of our scientists and will be looking to our community to help us hone our strategies.

At that time AGU adopted a new investment policy with the vague language:
Based on a desire to align the Long-Term investments with the mission of the organization, AGU will emphasize Mission Related Investments (“MRI”) that include the following characteristics: Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) integration, thematic investments, transparency and women and minority owned or managed investments.
In a June 2022 communication with Scientists for Global Responsibility, executive director Randy Fiser confirmed:
To better align with our new strategic plan, which places a strong focus on a sustainable future, and to strengthen our commitment to mission-related investments, the AGU Board of Directors voted to entirely divest AGU’s portfolio of fossil fuels, starting October 2021. We recently announced this decision in a From the Prow post.

The post to which Fiser refers is the one having only the vaguely named video.

It remains unclear whether AGU has any policy or standard against accepting funding and sponsorships from fossil-fuel companies, the subject of massive protest from members in 2016. At the time, the board rejected member calls to sever its long-standing financial and promotional relationship with ExxonMobil. Although Exxon chose not to continue its sponsorship of the Fall Meeting student breakfasts, Chevron continued as a sponsor of Fall Meetings through 2019. No fossil-fuel companies were public sponsors for the 2020, 2021, or 2022 meetings.

At the 2022 fall meeting in December, AGU expelled climate scientists Rose Abramoff and Peter Kalmus for interrupting a plenary session with a call for their fellow AGU members to engage in more climate activism. AGU staff complained to Abramoff’s employer, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, leading to her firing in January 2023.

Soccer in a Warming World Workshop

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 16 Nov 2022 18:00:00 GMT

Join the Columbia Climate School Office of Research and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory for this hybrid, half-day workshop to address questions about how climate change will affect the way soccer is played, and the health and performance of soccer players worldwide.

Co-hosted by Co-Founding Dean for Research, Dr. Maureen Raymo and World Cup winning member of the US Women’s National Team, Samantha Mewis, this workshop will feature short talks from Columbia researchers, followed by small panel discussions and Q&A.

A light reception in the Monell Lobby will follow.

A Zoom link will be sent to virtual attendees approximately 24 hours prior to the event.

If you have any questions, please email [email protected].

Tickets are free: RSVP here.

Samantha Mewis is an American professional soccer player who currently plays as a midfielder for the KC Current of the NWSL and the United States Women’s National Team. Mewis is considered one of the best midfielders in the world, having won 3 NWSL titles, a FIFA World Cup and was named the #1 Player in the World by ESPNFC in 2021.

Climate on the 2022 Ballot

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 09 Nov 2022 01:37:00 GMT


Prop 30, Tax on Income Above $2 Million for Zero-Emissions Vehicles and Wildfire Prevention Initiative

Proposition 30 would raise income taxes by 1.75% on Californians who make more than $2 million annually, spending 80% of the estimated $3.5 billion in yearly revenue on electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and rebates for EV purchases, and the remaining 20% on wildfire fighter hiring and training. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) would be directed to prioritize low-income Californians in allocating EV rebates.

California governor Gavin Newsom has decried Prop 30 as a “Trojan horse” initiative and cut an ad opposing it. Newsom’s argument points to Lyft’s substantial funding for the measure, motivated by its desire to have the wealthy subsidize its compliance with a new CARB rule requiring 90% of ride mileage to come from EVs by 2030. It’s a reasonable complaint, but curious coming from someone who was silent two years ago when Lyft spent millions to overturn a California labor law to stop misclassifying drivers.

With support from the California Democratic Party, many labor organizations, billionaire Tom Steyer, legislators like state senator Henry Stern and Rep. Ro Khanna, and environmental organizations, polls show Prop 30 in a pretty strong position to pass (albeit with gradually declining support). We will see if Prop 30’s support holds up against Newsom, the California Chamber of Commerce and Teachers Association, and scolding editorials from the San Jose Mercury News and the LA Times.


Amendment 1, Disregard Flood Resistance Improvements in Property Value Assessments Measure

If approved by 60% of voters, Amendment 1 would exempt expenditures on home flood resilience improvements from property tax value assessments. The measure is meant to encourage flood mitigation investments by Florida homeowners. One third of the 5 million policyholders in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) live in Florida, and 1.7 million Floridians live in an area that is subject to 100-year flood risk— a figure that is projected to grow considerably in the years ahead.

A long-term reauthorization of the NFIP is needed to modernize flood mapping, provide resources for flood mitigation, and expedite the buyout process for many Florida homeowners who really should relocate. But Congress has perpetually “kicked the can” down the road on NFIP reform. Although the Build Back Better Act included significant reforms, that died in the Senate. With the U.S. Congress failing to provide NFIP relief, a near-unanimous vote of the Florida legislature placed Amendment 1 on the ballot.

Lest we give Florida lawmakers too much credit, an emergency session in May utterly failed to address the climate-driven property insurance “meltdown” taking place there. Available reforms to make insurance more affordable, and shore up Florida’s state-funded reinsurance company by taxing corporations rather than individuals, were rejected.


Amendment 2: Temporary Property Tax Change for Disaster Areas Measure

Similar to Amendment 1 in Florida, Georgia’s Amendment 2 would allow temporary property tax relief for any homes that are damaged by climate disasters, if it receives approval from 2/3 of the voters. Georgia has among the most regressive and meager tax systems in the country.

New York

Proposal 1, Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act

If approved, Proposal 1 would authorize $4.2 billion in general obligation bonds for projects dealing with climate change resilience, including wetlands restoration to mitigate sea level rise, heat pumps, electric buses, and other home energy upgrades. 35% of the bond revenue is required to be dedicated to disadvantaged communities. If passed, Prop 1 will be the first environmental bond act that New York voters have seen in 26 years. It was originally slated to be on the 2020 ballot, after former governor Andrew Cuomo pointed to reports citing mounting state infrastructure costs from climate change. After the pandemic caused the bond measure’s postponement, governor Kathy Hochul revived the effort last year, and called for an additional billion dollar in funding, which some legislators felt was still inadequate. The New York Public Interest Group suggested that the bond should follow the “polluter pay” model of past NY environmental bond measures and repeal fossil fuel subsidies, but those calls were not heeded.

Local Measures

Boulder, Colorado

County Issue 1A, 1B, and 1C: Wildfire Mitigation, Emergency Services, and Transportation Sales Taxes

The shocking Marshall Fire, powered by fossil-fueled climate change, ripped through suburban Boulder in December 2021. County Issues 1A, 1B, and 1C would raise county-wide 0.1% sales tax to raise $11 million each for wildfire mitigation, rural fire, mountain rescue, and ambulance services, and rural rapid transit, trails, and bicycle lanes respectively. The Yes On 1C coalition includes the Sierra Club and Clean Energy Action.

Boulder Daily Camera opinion editor Gary Garrison writes: “With the climate ever-changing and Boulder ever-growing, these taxes — wildfire mitigation, emergency services and continued transportation funding — are necessary.”

City Ballot Issues 2A and 2B, Climate Tax

Boulder City has a two-part ballot measure—Ballot Issue 2A and 2B—to expand its climate tax on fossil-fuel energy use from $6.5 million from $3.9 million and increase the share paid by businesses.

Jonathan Koehn, the director of Boulder’s Climate Initiatives Department, the director of Boulder’s Climate Initiatives Department explained the planned change:

: “When the original carbon tax was created in 2006, since that time, businesses have paid roughly one-third of the annual tax collections and they’re responsible for emitting roughly two-thirds of our community’s emissions. We’re really trying to true up that proportional impact in cost to make sure that the dollars collected are really going to those that are attributed to … emitting those emissions.”

El Paso, Texas

Proposition C, Renewable Energy and Efficiency Improvements Bond Measure

In order to fund its Climate Action Plan, El Paso’s Proposition C proposes a $5.2 million bond measure for renewable energy and resource use efficiency improvements and planning, the smallest of three bond measures on the El Paso ballot. The others are a $246.8 million bond measure for street improvements and $20.8 million bond measure for parks and recreation.

California Local

Local residents in Alpine County are hoping to prevent the construction of a biomass plant in this sparsely populated county on the Nevada border that is 96% national forest have gotten a measure on the ballot. County officials oppose Measure D.

Long Beach, California is proposing to merge its Gas and Oil Department with its Water Department into an Energy Resources Department; the new name will “better reflect the current global, State and local views regarding energy resources and climate change mitigation.”

Mono County Measure H and Siskiyou County Measure R will raise additional funds for the Antelope Valley Fire Protection District along the Nevada border and the Mount Shasta Fire Protection District, respectively. Mount Shasta, on the Oregon border, experienced a fast-growing wildfire last month.

Cloverdale, the last jurisdiction in Sonoma County that allows the sale of fireworks, has Measure K on the ballot to prohibit the practice, as global warming increases wildfire risks. Mayor Todd Lands blames recent Cloverdale fires on homeless people and is campaigning to protect fireworks sales.

The city of Watsonville, on Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz County, is voting on Measure Q to renew its Urban Limit Line, which protects the Pajaro Valley farmland and encourages urban infill. The smart growth rules were established in 2002 and renewed in 2013. The counter measure, Measure S, would allow for more development outside the current limits, and the competing camps are accusing each other of racism.

Berkeley’s Measure L is a $650 million bond measure that proponents say will help pay for climate projects, but it’s a non-earmarked general funding bond.

Boulder Creek’s Measure T for a $36 per parcel tax to fund parks and recreation includes “alternative green energy to power our public spaces.”

Honolulu, Hawaii

Charter Question 2 would require the city’s planning commission to “have at least one member with expertise or experience in (a) Native Hawaiian tradition, native Hawaiian law, and traditional Hawaiian land usage; (b) land use planning, policies, and principles; (c) land development and construction; and (d) climate change and sea level rise causes, effects, and solutions or environmental protection and preservation.”

Charter Question 3 proposes expanding the use of funds in the city’s Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund to allow expenditures for operation, maintenance, improvement, and management of lands acquired by the Fund.

Some Other Local Ballot Measures

Wayne County, Michigan, the home county of Detroit, is voting on the continuation of funding for its public transit system (SMART) through a 0.994 millage.

Carson City, Nevada’s Question 1 asks whether to continue the city’s five cents per gallon tax on diesel fuel for road maintenance.

Albuquerque, New Mexico has a bond measure for $25 million for the flood control system. Last year the region saw deadly flash floods, and this year it whipsawed from extreme drought to heavy rains.

King County, Washington Proposition 1 extends the Conservation Futures levy, a property tax that finances greenways, farmland, and wildlands.

PROMESA and LUMA Energy’s Contract (Postponed)

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 22 Sep 2022 14:00:00 GMT

The Committee on Natural Resources Office of Insular Affairs will hold a hybrid oversight hearing on “PROMESA and LUMA Energy’s Contract.” Scheduled for Thursday, September 22, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. ET, in room 1324 Longworth House Office Building and via Cisco Webex, the hearing has been postponed because of the catastrophic damage from Hurricane Fiona.

The hearing will feature testimony from key stakeholders regarding the implementation of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) and discuss H.R. 7409TRUST for Puerto Rico Act to dissolve the Oversight Board. The hearing will also examine LUMA Energy’s contract to manage, operate, and rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric power transmission and distribution system.


Panel I: PROMESA and H.R. 7409
  • Pedro Pierluisi, Governor of Puerto Rico
  • José Luis Dalmau, President, Puerto Rico Senate
  • Rafael “Tatito” Hernández, Speaker, Puerto Rico House of Representatives
  • David A. Skeel Jr, Chair, Financial Oversight and Management Board
  • Jessica E. Méndez-Colberg, Attorney, Bufete Emmanuelli, C.S.P.
  • Cecille Blondet, Executive Director, Espacios Abiertos
  • Maryln Goyco-García, Puerto Rico Campaign Coordinator, Center for Popular Democracy
Panel II: LUMA Energy’s Contract
  • Fermín Fontanés, Executive Director, Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority
  • Josué Colón, Executive Director, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority
  • Edison Avilés-Deliz, Chair, Puerto Rico Energy Bureau
  • Wayne Stensby, President & CEO, LUMA Energy Corporation
  • Ruth Santiago, Attorney & Environmental Policy Expert
  • Ingrid Vila Biaggi, President, CAMBIO

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