Sierra Club Takes McCain to Task for "Lie" about Clean-Energy Non-Vote

Posted by Brad Johnson Sat, 09 Feb 2008 21:56:00 GMT

Following the one-vote failure on Wednesday of S. Amdt 3983 to H.R. 5140, the Senate stimulus package that contained $5.6 billion in “green” incentives, various environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, called Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for missing the vote.

On Thursday, the Sierra Club asked its members to call McCain’s office to ask “why he failed to show up for a vote that could have determined the future of green energy in America.”

Today, Executive Director Carl Pope blistered the office response to member calls in a blog post entitled John McCain Should Be Ashamed.

Immediately, people begin calling and emailing me, saying, “The Senator’s office says he voted for clean energy, and that your alert is wrong.” We check. He didn’t. We call his office. Stunningly, his staff has been coached to mislead callers. “That’s not true at all,” they say, “he voted for the bill yesterday.” Well, he voted, yesterday, but for a different bill. However we phrase the question, we get a lie. “No, if he had voted for the bill, it would not have passed. That was purely procedural.” But McCain’s staff knows that if cloture had been invoked, passage of the bill would then only require 51 votes, and the bill with clean energy would have passed. [Ed.- emphasis added.]

Friends of the Earth Airs DC-Area "Fix or Ditch" Ads Before Primaries

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 08 Feb 2008 19:38:00 GMT

Friends of the Earth announced today that it is expanding its web and print “Fix or Ditch” campaign with a local network and cable ad buy before the February 12 Virginia, Maryland, and DC primaries.

The campaign, which challenges Senate Democrats to change Lieberman-Warner’s emissions targets and allowance distribution provisions (S. 2191) to reflect the platforms of the presidential candidates of their party, has drawn fire from Sen. Boxer (D-Calif.) and Environmental Defense as well as a passionate letter of support from Greenpeace.

Meanwhile, American Prospect correspondent (and Tapped co-founder) Chris Mooney challenges the Democratic platforms of 100% auction and 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 in This Will Mean the World to Us (sub. req.):
Many Democratic campaigns, responding to their environmental base, are currently outlining cap-and-trade regimes featuring a highly ambitious 100 percent auction process for the initial pollution allowances or permits, with the proceeds going to other needed public policies, such as investment in the clean-energy technologies that must ultimately supplant fossil fuels. When it comes to specifying precise reductions, meanwhile, the campaigns generally seem to agree that we need something like bringing emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020 and decreasing them by 80 percent by 2050, through a cap that becomes progressively more stringent.

An 80 percent reduction by 2050 does indeed square with what scientists think would be necessary to avoid the worst climate impacts—most notably, the loss of large bodies of land-based ice currently perched atop Greenland and West Antarctica, which, upon sliding into the ocean, would drive catastrophic sea-level rise. It’s one thing to outline a policy in the abstract, however, and quite another to get it through the next Congress. As one climate policy insider says, “The environmental community has a tendency to run their leaders off a plank; that’s what they’re setting up right now with this 80 percent reduction by 2050.”

The more moderate approach of the Lieberman-Warner bill is to reduce capped emissions (and not all emissions are included) by 70 percent by 2050. Lieberman-Warner is also pragmatic in another way: It does not set up a 100 percent auction for emissions allowances, a system that major emitters oppose. They think they should be granted allowances gratis at the outset (or as climate experts say, there should be “grandfathering”). Under Lieberman-Warner, just 24 percent of allowances would be auctioned off initially, though the percentage would increase over time. It’s far easier to get buy-in from industry in this way, and although Lieberman-Warner may have a tough time passing both houses of Congress before the election (or surviving a possible presidential veto), it may be precisely the type of bill that can sail through in 2009.

What’s achievable in climate policy seems to be changing all the time, but still we mustn’t shoot the moon. Consider the perspective of Tim Profeta, current director of Duke’s Nicholas Institute, who previously served as a chief architect of the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, which failed by a 55-to-43 Senate vote in 2003. “As somebody who fought for a freeze of emissions in the 2003 Congress and was told it was too aggressive, it is hard for me to believe where we are now,” Profeta says. “The current movement to require 100 percent auctions and even deeper cuts faces strong political opposition from emitters, many of whom have good arguments about what is economically feasible for their companies. I fear that we might pass up the opportunity for real action now—when it is essential to have the U.S. begin to reduce its emissions—because someadvocatescontinue to shift the objectives to stricter and stricter limits as the debate proceeds.” It’s fine for Democratic candidates, at the moment, to answer the call of environmental groups—the Sierra Club, for instance, has criticized Lieberman-Warner—and present highly ambitious cap-and-trade proposals. But after the election, the new president will need to be flexible and focus on getting a workable bill passed. It can be strengthened later as more science comes in—2050 is, after all, still far away—but we must at least begin ratcheting down emissions now.

Chukchi Lease Sale Goes Forward; Still No Polar Bear Decision from FWS

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 06 Feb 2008 16:46:00 GMT

Despite opposition from environmental organizations and Democrats in Congress, the Minerals Management Service is proceeding with its scheduled sale of offshore drilling leases in the Chukchi Sea at 9 AM Alaska time (1 PM EST). FWS chief Dale Hall failed to make the February 6 deadline despite his testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week that he was “pushing to get there.”

A Los Angeles Times op-ed penned last weekend by MMS director Randall Luthi, The Bear Necessities, defends the lease sale, claiming that “under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, the bear currently receives regulatory protections even stricter than those available under the Endangered Species Act.” This statement ignores the critical habitat provisions of the ESA which could prevent such actions as the lease sale.

Last week MMS officials sent a cease-and-desist order to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, who earlier published “a series of internal e-mails from current and former Interior scientists raising troubling questions about how badly environmental assessments of Arctic offshore oil development were skewed.”

The Alaska Wilderness League plans to live-blog the sale.

Update The sale has been completed, the 488 blocks selling for a total of over $2.6 billion.

Estimated reserves include 77 trillion cubic feet of conventionally recoverable natural gas (worth about $635 billion at $8/MMBtU) and 15 billion barrels of oil ($1.5 trillion at $100/barrel).

The winning bidders:
  • Shell (Netherlands, $2.1 billion)
  • ConocoPhilips (US, $506 million)
  • Repsol (Spain, $14.4 million)
  • Eni (Italy, $8.9 million)
  • StatoilHydro (Norway, $14.4 million – most Statoil & Eni bids were joint bids)

As StatoilHydro noted in its press release, “The area is considered a frontier area with no production or infrastructure as of today.”

Boxer, NRDC, ED Attack Friends of the Earth Campaign: "Defeatist", "Small", "Isolated"

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 05 Feb 2008 15:32:00 GMT

Last Thursday, Darren Samuelson of E&E News interviewed Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and an NRDC representative in response to the Friends of the Earth campaign to “fix or ditch” the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill (S. 2191). In its campaign, Friends of the Earth challenged Boxer for supporting Lieberman-Warner’s high degree of emitter giveaways and subsidies and its target of 60% reductions from 1990 levels of greenhouses by 2050, although the Democratic presidential candidates are calling for 100% auction and 80% by 2050.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.):
Their logic doesn’t hold up. What we need to do is not waste time. If we can get a strong bill signed into law, we should get it. And if we can’t, we shouldn’t. . . . They’re sort of the defeatist group out there. They’ve been defeatists from day one. And it’s unfortunate. They’re isolated among the environmental groups.
Boxer went on to emphasize the importance of holding senators accountable on global warming through test votes.

Julia Bovey, NRDC:

We do not agree with Friends of the Earth. We are not willing to give up the fight. We believe the Lieberman-Warner bill as passed out of committee is a very strong start. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

NRDC had previously described the bill as “a strong start”.

Brent Blackwelder, Friends of the Earth president, responded:

Far from being defeatists, we’re being realists. We’re focusing on what the scientists tell us has to be done to solve global warming. It’s not acceptable to pass a bill that falls short of the science. It’s not acceptable to pass a bill that gives $1 trillion to polluters.

On Monday, Environmental Defense Climate & Air director Mark McLeod sent an email to several Senate offices excoriating Friends of the Earth for placing L-W and Boxer “under attack”, claiming that opposition in the “liberal blogosphere” to Lieberman-Warner or the passage of any climate bill in this session “will become orthodoxy if we do not present a counterview from respected pro-environment voices.”

He characterized Friends of the Earth as “small and fairly isolated” in contrast to ED and “many other major environmental groups” who “are in favor of moving forward to get a strong bill like Lieberman-Warner,” saying also that Friends of the Earth is calling for “unrealistic dramatic changes.”

The full text of McLeod’s email is after the jump.

Text of the email (verified by various sources, see also Energy Smart, the blog of the “major DailyKos contributor” named below):
From: Mark MacLeod
Cc: Elizabeth Thompson
Sent: Mon Feb 04 XXXXXXXX 2008
Subject: Need your help challenging attacks on Chairman Boxer, the EPW Committee, and climate bill


   Senator Boxer and the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act have come under attack in ads placed on liberal blogs. Some blog posts have picked up on the claims in these ads (see Environmental Defense has been defending the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act and the work of the EPW committee on these blogs and through posts on our own blog, but we feel at this point it would be very helpful to have members of the Committee voice their support for Sen. Boxer, the committee, and the LWCSA. One idea we have would be to run ads on the blog sites and we would be happy to work with your office to arrange for filming of a short statement of support. Other ideas include a joint letter from the members of the committee who voted for the bill. The more members that would participate – the stronger the message (further details below).

   Please let us know if you would consider participating in such an ad or taking other action. Time is of the essence. FYI – I am sending this message to all the offices that voted for the bill as well as other prominent supporters

   Mark MacLeod

   Friends of the Earth (FOE) is running ads against the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, calling for killing the bill (if unrealistic dramatic changes are not made).

   – There are growing calls in the liberal blogosphere for opposition to the bill; and a general push against passing any climate bill in this Congress. This position has NOT yet solidified, but will become orthodoxy if we do not present a counterview from respected pro-environment voices.

   – A major DailyKos contributor today (2/1/08) ran a full-throat expression of the FOE point view, directly attacking Sen. Boxer for wanting to move forward and for objecting to the FOE ads.

   – Environmental Defense and many other major environmental groups (Friends of the Earth is small and fairly isolated) are in favor of moving forward to get a strong bill like Lieberman-Warner. We may differ on details and areas which require improvement, but are still pushing for action in this Congress.

   – For scientific reasons, and to take advantage of political momentum (which should not be taken for granted), we think it is important to make a strong start on global warming by passing a bill like Lieberman-Warner this year. If there are more environmental supporters in Congress in the future, we can improve it, as we did the Clean Air Act and other important first steps. Delay only makes the solution harder and more expensive.

   – We need a strong voices to stand up for Sen. Boxer, the committee, the LWCSA, and for the importance of acting NOW on climate change. Environmental Defense is interested in running ads featuring that voice on the same blogs where the FOE ad is appearing.

Friends of the Earth Launches Campaign Against Lieberman-Warner

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 30 Jan 2008 22:31:00 GMT

This advertisement is running on environmental and progressive blogs.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth, who had endorsed John Edwards’s campaign for president, today launched an ambitious campaign criticizing the Lieberman-Warner climate bill (S. 2191) and Senate Democrats supporting it, noting that Edwards, Clinton, and Obama had all released climate plans that distinctly differ from the bill in economics and emissions targets. At
After years of ignoring global warming, the U.S. Senate is finally considering legislation to cap greenhouse gas pollution. Unfortunately, the Lieberman-Warner bill being advanced by Senate Democrats lavishes up to $1 trillion on industries responsible for global warming, and in return asks for reduction targets well below what scientists say are necessary. If this is the best Senate Democrats can do, the world is in trouble.

Friends of the Earth Action is leading the fight to either fix, or ditch, Lieberman-Warner, and we need your help.

The good news is that we already have some key allies: the Democratic presidential candidates. They all have plans that make polluters pay for emissions and that seek the carbon reductions called for by science. We think the Senate needs to build on their plans rather than the weak Lieberman-Warner bill, which is modeled on legislation by Senator John McCain.

At the Auto Show: Dingell Supports EPA's Denial of California Waiver

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 16 Jan 2008 19:38:00 GMT

In a Detroit News piece entitled Dingell tours show; says state-by-state emissions rules would doom carmakers, David Shepardson writes that Dingell fully supported last month’s decision by the EPA to deny the California waiver to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions.

Dingell, D-Dearborn, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said if California got the waiver it could impose conflicting federal and state standards. The California standards could be make automobile production “so expensive that people won’t be able to buy and second of all get so difficult that the companies won’t be able to produce anyhow.”

Dingell said the California system could lead to 50 different standards. He said the EPA decision “makes good sense.”

As has been previously discussed on Hill Heat, the specter of 50 different standards is simply false. Under the Clean Air Act only California has the authority to get waivers from national standards. Other states can then follow California or the federal standards. At most there can be two different standards.

Dingell plans to introduce a climate change bill in his committee “as fast as we can” but wants to exclude the auto industry, arguing that the CAFE standards in the 2007 energy bill are sufficient regulation: “We’ve had everybody else get practically a free ride and auto industry has to come up with a 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency,” Dingell said. “We’re going to try to see that the pain is shared equally all around.”

Update: Dingell has issued a clarification of his remarks, stating that he considers CAFE standards to be a “carbon constraint” and that the CAFE standard increase “tightens the cap on automobiles by 40 percent by 2020.” Any carbon cap would entail “further reductions” that would be have to matched by “comparable contributions” by other industries.

Shepardson also reports on an interview with Margo Oge, director of the EPA’s office of transportation and air quality. She didn’t expect the agency to issue a formal written denial “until next month at the earliest.” The EPA may be trying to argue that its the EPA press release announcing the denial isn’t actually grounds for a suit to overturn the decision. She also said that the EPA “completed its draft of its own new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” but didn’t provide details.

Fred Krupp, head of Environmental Defense, was also interviewed:
Krupp said he that he and Dingell don’t agree on all issues, but do on the need for a broader climate change.

“He may be the only one that can get a climate change bill,” Krupp said, noting Dingell’s experience in moving large pieces of environmental legislation.

Krupp said he liked the increase in advanced technology vehicles especially in hybrids in broader vehicle lineups. “The fact that the Big Three makers as well as Toyota and others are making these higher mileage options available in everyday cars is terrific,” Krupp said.

Asked about the fact that hybrids still account for just 2 percent of U.S. sales, Krupp noted the growth rate year over year. “I suppose people said initially that very few people were buying Macintosh Apple computers,” Krupp said. “When gasoline prices are $3.50 a gallon, I think you will see growing interest in these options.”

Krupp said there’s “going to be a need for a shared burden” among automakers, oil companies and utilities. They all will have to “belly up to the bar,” Krupp said.

Administration Misses Polar Bear Deadline; Conservation Groups to Sue

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 09 Jan 2008 16:38:00 GMT

On Monday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would miss today’s deadline on determining whether to list the polar bear as an endangered species due to global warming-induced polar sea ice loss. As noted in Hill Heat, last week the administration announced its intent to sell off-shore drilling rights in polar bear habitat off Alaska.

Today the Center for Biological Diversity, NRDC, and Greenpeace announced they have filed a notice of intent to sue the administration.

This would be the second lawsuit filed over FWS delays; in 2005 the Center for Biological Diversity v. Kempthorne lawsuit to compel the FWS to respond to the request to start the polar bear listing process (the FWS ended up taking two years instead of the Endangered Species Act-mandated 90 days).

Alaska Drilling Sale Announced Before Polar Bear Endangerment Decision

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 03 Jan 2008 17:29:00 GMT

The U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) will hold its first federal Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas lease sale since 1991 on February 6. It is leasing nearly 46,000 square miles in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska, with estimated conventional reserves of 15 billion barrels of oil. Waters within 25 miles of the coast are excluded from the lease area. This announcement comes just six days before the January 9 deadline for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide whether to list the polar bear as endangered because of the global-warming induced decline of Arctic sea ice, some of which covers the Chukchi Sea.

The MMS believes that environmental concerns will be sufficiently addressed by its stipulations, which do not consider the effects of climate change:
The sale area will not include nearshore waters ranging from about 25 to 50 miles from the coast, which includes the near-shore “polynya” through which the bowhead and beluga whales, other marine mammals, and marine birds migrate north in the spring, and in which local communities subsistence hunt. Leases issued from the sale will include stipulations to address environmental effects that may occur because of exploration and development of the area’s oil and gas resources. These stipulations call for protection of biological resources, including protected marine mammals and birds and methods to minimize interference with subsistence hunting and other subsistence harvesting activities.

Environmental organizations are livid. The World Wildlife Fund published a series of statements from Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Audubon, and indigenous activists condemning the threat to the polar bear and other marine life from the planned sale.

In the fine print of its final notice of sale, the MMS does note:
Lessees are advised that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and has initiated a comprehensive scientific review to assess the current status and future of the species. The FWS anticipates making a decision in early 2008 on whether to list polar bears under the ESA. Please refer to for additional information. If the polar bears are ultimately listed under the ESA, then MMS will consult with FWS under Section 7 of the ESA, and may be required to apply additional mitigation measures on OCS activities to ensure appropriate protection.

Update: Sierra Club has launched a letter-writing campaign to “chill the drills” in what it calls the “Polar Bear Seas”.

Further California Waiver Denial Responses

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 20 Dec 2007 16:01:00 GMT

Further responses (see California responses) to the waiver denial, including praise from Detroit’s lobby group.

Environmental Defense:

EPA is not following science or the law . . . This decision is like pulling over the fire trucks on their way to the blaze . . . The Administration’s first bold act on global warming – and it’s to stop the states who are trying to do something about the problem. It is just plain shocking. . . New CAFE standards, if they go into effect, do not fully phase in until 2020. The California greenhouse gas limits will occur earlier – beginning in 2009 and fully phased in by 2016. With the mounting evidence of climate change impacts occurring now, it is imperative that we are take action immediately.


This rejection represents bald-faced political interference with California’s decades-long authority to enforce its own clean air rules . . . The California standards are the single most effective step yet taken in the United States to curb global warming. By blocking the California standards, the administration has stuck a thumb in the eye of 18 governors from both red and blue states who have led the way on global warming by adopting these landmark rules.

Friends of the Earth:

There is absolutely no reason for the Bush administration to block California’s effort to fight global warming. Today’s EPA decision is a major setback in the global warming fight and a slap in the face to all of the states that have moved forward when the federal government would not. This decision cements the United States’ reputation as the nation that is holding the rest of the world back at a time when our leadership is desperately needed. One can only hope that the next administration will play a more constructive role.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.):
The EPA’s ruling is disgraceful. The Bush administration’s refusal to carry out the duties imposed on it by the Clean Air Act have polluted our air and water, further endangered the health of millions of Americans, and cost us precious time in our fight to address the looming threat of global warming. We can’t afford to delay strong steps to address global climate change. We will keep fighting to pressure this administration to do the right thing and allow states like Rhode Island to take action.

Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers:

We commend EPA for protecting a national, 50-state program. Enhancing energy security and improving fuel economy are priorities to all automakers, but a patchwork quilt of inconsistent and competing fuel economy programs at the state level would only have created confusion, inefficiency, and uncertainty for automakers and consumers. . . Under the new national fuel economy law, automakers will make dramatic, 30-percent reductions in carbon dioxide.

Enviro Groups Attack Nuclear, Coal Loan Provisions in Appropriations Omnibus 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 17 Dec 2007 18:11:00 GMT

The omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2764) wending its way to passage in the year-end Congressional rush.

As EE News reports, included in the bill are $18.5 billion in nuclear loan guarantees that have been championed by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Related provisions grant $6 billion for coal-based power generation and industrial gasification activities at retrofitted and new facilities that incorporate carbon capture and sequestration; $2 billion for advanced coal gasification; $10 billion for renewable and/or energy efficient systems and manufactoring and distributed energy generation, transmission and distribution; and $2 billion for uranium enrichment technology.

The loan guarantees come with the caveat that Congressional appropriators must approve any project implementation 45 days before the Department of Energy could activate the guarantee.

Funding for continuing nuclear programs includes $1.1 billion for DOE’s nuclear programs and $8.8 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Environmental groups have come out strongly against the nuclear and coal-to-liquids provisions. NRDC’s Heather Taylor told EE News, “The loan guarantee is certainly a poison pill for us. It’s an investment in the bad policies of the past.

In a joint letter to Congress, seventeen environmental organizations wrote:
On behalf of our millions of members and activists, we regretfully ask you to vote no on H.R. 2764, the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2008 (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008) because it would take America down a dirty energy path. Although Congress started with the promise of leading our country into a new energy future, H.R. 2764 breaks faith and continues the misguided, polluting policies of the past.

Dear Representative:

On behalf of our millions of members and activists, we regretfully ask you to vote no on H.R. 2764, the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2008 (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008) because it would take America down a dirty energy path. Although Congress started with the promise of leading our country into a new energy future, H.R. 2764 breaks faith and continues the misguided, polluting policies of the past.

While Congress is poised to take historic steps to slow global warming, those positive steps would be undermined by approving H.R. 2764, which would invest taxpayer dollars in loan guarantees for polluting, expensive energy technologies. If passed, almost $30 billion would go to subsidizing dangerous, costly, and polluting industries, like nuclear power and coal. Rather than promoting clean energy resources, the bill wastes money to help launch an industry that produces liquid fuels from coal (“liquid coal”), which emits about twice as much global warming pollution as gasoline. We acknowledge that key oversight provisions were included, but we still believe that Congress should reject this proposal and keep its promise to forge a clean energy future.

It is also unfortunate that the bill also contains dramatic cuts to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The omnibus also includes a bad rider, which the environmental community was told would be deleted, that would interfere with judicial review of aspects of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Johns Bayou/New Madrid Flood control project, which would drain tens of thousands of acres of wetlands and put neighboring communities at risk. While we were pleased to see that there were increases for important environmental priorities like National Wildlife Refuges, the National Park Service, Forest Service road decommissioning, and the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, these positive improvements are outweighed by the short-sighted investment of billions of dollars of loan guarantees that will increase global warming pollution. It is for this reason that we respectfully ask for you to join us in opposition to H.R. 2764.

  • Kristen Miller, Alaska Wilderness League
  • Caitlin Love Hills, American Lands Alliance
  • Peter Raabe, American Rivers
  • Lynn Thorp, Clean Water Action
  • Bob Shavelson, Cook Inletkeeper
  • Yochi Zakai, Co-op America
  • Marty Hayden, Earthjustice
  • Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network
  • Anna Aurilio, Environment America
  • Shawnee Hoover, Friends of the Earth
  • John Passacantando, Greenpeace
  • Tiernan Sittenfeld, League of Conservation Voters
  • Karen Wayland, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Michael Mariotte, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
  • Bonnie Raitt & Harvey Wasserman,
  • Tyson Slocum, Public Citizen
  • Debbie Sease, Sierra Club

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