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Category Archives: Environment

Sinkholes and Hired Muscle on the Mariner East Pipelines

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Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced that there had been new
developments along Sunoco’s Mariner East pipelines in Chester County, Pennsylvania over the
weekend. On Sunday, January 20, a new sinkhole opened up in a neighborhood along the
pipelines. In addition, the District Attorney’s Office discovered that constables from outside of
Chester County apparently had been hired by Sunoco to act as a private security force around the
pipelines, holding themselves out as acting in an official capacity to people approaching the area
of the pipelines.

District Attorney Tom Hogan stated, “At this point, the criminal investigation is widening
and deepening, much like the damage being caused by these pipelines. We are investigating
what individuals bear legal responsibility for these sinkholes. In addition, we want to know who
hired these constables and authorized them to act like they have some type of legal authority in
Chester County. This has the appearance of hired muscle showing up to intimidate our citizens.”
On Sunday, January 20, another sinkhole opened along the Mariner East pipelines in the
Lisa Drive neighborhood in Chester County. See attached photographs. The sinkhole exposed
the Mariner East 1 pipeline, which had volatile natural gas liquids pumping through it when it
was exposed. Coincidentally, a natural gas pipeline in Ohio exploded over the weekend, on January 21. A pipeline run by Sunoco exploded in Beaver County, PA in September of 2018.
This same neighborhood previously has suffered through multiple sinkholes
caused by drilling related to Sunoco’s pipelines. The prior sinkholes damaged the homeowners’
properties, caused an evacuation of the area, and resulted in work on the pipelines being halted.
During interviews in the last few weeks, Chester County citizens reported that state
constables were patrolling the pipelines in Chester County during the prior sinkhole incidents.
The District Attorney’s Office discounted this report because no Chester County constables had
been authorized to do any such work.

However, when the January 20 sinkhole appeared, citizens reported the sinkhole to the
District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Hogan dispatched Chester County Detectives to the
scene at Lisa Drive. When a Chester County Detective in plain clothes approached the scene, an
armed man flashed a badge at the Detective and identified himself as a constable. The Detective,
who is familiar with all of the Chester County constables, asked the armed man who he worked
for. The man then finally identified himself as a constable from Northumberland County in
central Pennsylvania. When pressed further by the Detective, the man admitted that he had been
hired as security by Sunoco.

The Chester County Detectives subsequently informed the man that he was not permitted
to claim any official authority in Chester County or use his badge for such a purpose. District
Attorney Hogan will be contacting the District Attorney of Northumberland County to discuss
this situation. “Sinkholes. Fouled well water. Obscene messages from out-of-state pipeline workers to
Chester County residents. Hired guns flashing badges. Volatile natural gas liquids flowing in
pipelines just a few feet from schools and homes. We are not sure what it will take to get the
attention of Governor Wolf and the Public Utility Commission. All of this is happening on their
watch. The Chester County District Attorney’s Office is committed to this criminal
investigation, even if we must fight alone. The citizens of Chester County deserve our
protection.” Anybody with further information about pipeline-related incidents should contact Chester
County Detective Ben Martin at (610) 344-6866. Reports may be made confidentially. The
Chester County prosecutors assigned to this matter are Alexander Gosfield, Myles Matteson, and
special prosecutor Seth Weber.


Approved for release:
Thomas P. Hogan, Chester County D.A.

 

Chesapeake Bay More Polluted for First Time in Decade

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By: Laura Rosbrow-Telem

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Chesapeake Bay became more polluted last year for the first time in a decade according to a new report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation – and a majority of the pollution came from Pennsylvania.

The foundation’s “State of the Bay Report” said extreme weather from climate change – including record rainfall in the summer – caused large amounts of dirty water to flow into the bay. In particular, increased pollution from farms and city streets drained into rivers and streams, especially the Susquehanna River.

According to Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania executive director for the foundation, more than half the state of Pennsylvania is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“It’s all about Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams and the lands that drain into them,” Campbell said. “And if we were to sustainably and successfully address this issue, we have to start at that source.”

Campbell recommends cost-effective, green solutions such as planting more trees along city streets, rivers and streams. This would help absorb nitrogen and other pollutants from the air and runoff from the land. According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania has 19,000 miles of polluted rivers and streams.

Campbell also advocated helping farmers so that less debris and pollutants from agricultural areas enter bodies of water. He said helping farmers adapt will likely cost the state resources beyond what is available in the farm bill.

“There is a need for additional logistical, technical and financial assistance to help get the plans that are necessary to keep soils and nutrients on the land instead of in the water,” he said.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William Baker applauded the Keystone State’s efforts to improve the watershed.

“The Commonwealth is actually developing a good science-based plan as to how to move forward,” Baker said. “But there is simply no evidence that they have the political will to fund it.”

Baker had some pointed words for the president.

“The Trump administration’s anti-environmental policies must be stopped,” he said.

He urged the public to oppose the administration’s denial of climate change and efforts to roll back environmental protections.

The foundation’s State of the Bay Report is available at cbf.org.

Chester County District Attorney Opens Criminal Investigation Into Mariner East Pipeline

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Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced that the District Attorney’s
Office (the “DAO”) has opened a criminal investigation into the construction of the Mariner East
1, 2, and 2X pipelines being constructed through Chester County. This investigation includes the
owners of the pipelines – – Energy Transfer LP, Sunoco Logistics Partners, and related corporate
entities (collectively, “Sunoco”).
District Attorney Hogan stated, “In the last two years, we have seen these pipelines rip
through the heart of Chester County. We have seen sinkholes created by the pipeline drilling,
contaminated well water, and some subtle and not-so-subtle bullying of Chester County citizens
by big corporate interests. We expected the state regulators and the governor to step in and
assure the safety of Pennsylvanians. They have not. So now the Chester County District
Attorney’s Office will demand that every aspect of these pipelines be conducted safely, or we
will bring into play all of the tools of the criminal justice system.”
The Mariner East 1, 2, and 2X pipelines are intended to ship volatile natural gas from
western Pennsylvania all the way to Marcus Hook in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. These
pipelines cut directly through the middle of Chester County, bisecting heavily populated
residential areas, running near schools and businesses, and in close proximity to railroads and
streets.
The Mariner East 1 pipeline previously existed to ship refined petroleum under Chester
County running from the eastern portion of Pennsylvania to the west. Refined petroleum is a
very different substance than natural gas and Mariner East 1 is smaller than the planned Mariner
East 2 and 2X pipelines. Sunoco intended to build the Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines along the
same route as Mariner East 1. In order to accomplish this, they intended to use horizontal
directional drilling, a process that can be problematic depending on the area where drilling is
occurring. Sunoco also introduced plans to reverse the flow of Mariner East 1 and use it to ship
natural gas under Chester County in the older and smaller pipeline.
The Mariner East pipeline construction has experienced significant problems. On the
property of homes in West Whiteland Township, the drilling resulted in significant sinkholes in
the residents’ back-yards. In another area of Chester County, the drilling caused the apparent
contamination of well water for multiple residences. In Beaver County, Pennsylvania, there was
an explosion along a pipeline, destroying a home. The Department of Environmental Protection
has fined the owners of the pipelines. But the construction of these pipelines keeps continuing.
“Two things recently happened that drew the attention of the District Attorney’s Office,”
District Attorney Hogan added. “First, the explosion in Beaver County changed speculation into
tangible danger and destruction. Second, over Thanksgiving, some of the residents of Lisa Drive
in West Whiteland were kind enough to take me onto their property and show me the damage
caused by the pipelines. The concerns and fears of those citizens were both disturbing and heartwrenching.
I then detailed District Attorney staff members to do the legal research to make sure
that the DAO had jurisdiction to investigate the pipelines and received an affirmative response.”
The District Attorney’s investigation will cover both past and future conduct related to
the pipelines. Potential charges include causing or risking a catastrophe, criminal mischief,
environmental crimes, and corrupt organizations. Such offenses could include criminal charges
directly against the individual employees involved, from workers on the pipelines through
corporate officers. Sunoco has been advised of this investigation via a letter. See attached,
Exhibit A.
District Attorney Hogan stated, “This investigation will not be easy. It will take time to
dig into the historical information and we will need to constantly monitor any future activity.
But we are committed to protecting Chester County. And we will need our citizens to help.”
Chester County Detective Ben Martin is the lead investigator. The assigned prosecutors
are Alexander Gosfield and Myles Matteson. Anybody with information should contact
Detective Martin at 610-344-6866.
District Attorney Hogan concluded with, “We understand that only the Pennsylvania
Utility Commission or the governor can shut down construction of these pipelines, and neither
has shown any inclination to do so. But we can at least make sure that anything that happens in
Chester County complies with the criminal laws of Pennsylvania. We owe that to our citizens.
Money should not be allowed to trump safety.”


 

FULL PRESS STATEMENT HERE

CALN TOWNSHIP SET FOR $525,000 WATER MAIN UPGRADE

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COATESVILLE, PA  – Pennsylvania American Water today announced the start of construction to install new water main in Caln Township to improve service reliability and prevent water outages. The project cost is approximately $525,000 and will replace outdated pipe dating back to the 1940s.

Starting this week, the company will install nearly 3,500 feet of new eight-inch ductile iron along Reed Street between 17th Avenue and 13th Avenue, and along 13th Avenue between Reed Street and West Chester Road. Crews expect to complete the water main installation, testing and disinfection, and connecting customers’ service lines to the new main by early December, weather permitting. Final street paving restoration is scheduled for next spring.

Crews will work weekdays between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Traffic restrictions will be in place during construction, and motorists are urged to give themselves extra time and exercise caution when traveling through the work zone. During construction, customers might experience temporary water service interruptions, discolored water and/or lower than normal water pressure.

DCNR Offering Grants to Plant Trees Along Streams, for Snowmobile/ATV Trails

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​Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) today announced that $1 million in PENNVEST-funded grants are being made available to assist landowners with planting trees along streams in Pennsylvania to improve water quality.

Pennsylvania has a goal of planting 95,000 acres of streamside buffers by 2025.

“Simply put, we can improve the water quality in our rivers and streams by planting trees along them to slow down runoff and filter sediments and fertilizers we apply to the land,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said.

To expand on the existing streamside buffer options for landowners, DCNR has a multi-functional buffer option that is eligible for these grant dollars to provide greater flexibility in landowner eligibility, buffer designs, widths, plant species and allows planting of some income-producing crops in the buffer zone. For the PENNVEST-funded grants, multi-functional buffers are preferred but not required.

“PENNVEST is pleased to be a part of this effort to expand multi-use buffers, as we believe it is imperative that we develop a sustainable funding source to support the streamside buffer goal for 2025 and beyond,” said PENNVEST Executive Director Brion Johnson.

The DCNR Community Conservation Partnership Program grant round is currently open and will close September 28.

Individual landowners; businesses; non-profit organizations; local governments; and educational institutions are all eligible for the buffer grants, but must be prequalified.

Information about how to prequalify is available online on the DCNR grant portal.

Forest buffers along stream banks provide critical barriers between polluting landscapes and receiving waterways. Properly planted and maintained, streamside tree and shrub plantings:

  • Filter the runoff of sediments and the fertilizers that are applied to lawns and crops
  • Control erosion
  • Improve water quality
  • Reduce flooding
  • Cool stream temperatures
  • Improve fish habitat

The grant application period opening this week also includes $250,000 for trails and projects related to the use of snowmobiles and ATVs. Funding for Snowmobile/ATV projects is through the ATV Management Restricted Account and the Snowmobile Management Restricted Account as authorized by Act 97 of 2016. The accounts are supported by registration fees.

Trail projects include acquisition; planning; development; rehabilitation; or maintenance of designated routes on land for motorized recreation activities. This includes the purchase of equipment for trail construction or maintenance.

Interested applicants should visit DCNR’s grants portal to apply.

DCNR Releases Second Shale Gas Monitoring Report

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Reported:

07/25/2018

Harrisburg, PA – Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn today announced the release of the department’s second Shale Gas Monitoring Report that outlines its efforts to track, detect, and report on the impacts of gas development on Pennsylvania’s state forest lands.
“Ensuring sound management of our state forests and park lands is one of the ways DCNR carries out the responsibility as trustee of the commonwealth’s natural resources,” Dunn said. “Using science to monitor how we manage our lands, specifically related to gas development, is an important way to assess the impacts of this activity, and adapt management practices to minimize those impacts to our state forests.”
The report was released during a presentation today to the Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council.
Some insights from the report:
• Gas development on state forest lands has slowed considerably since the first monitoring report in 2014, due largely to market forces and a moratorium on new leasing which has been informally in place since 2010 and was formalized by Executive Order in 2015. Many leased tracts are only built out by about 30 to 35 percent.
• While shale gas infrastructure can result in improved access to forest interior, it can also conflict with the expectations of visitors who seek more primitive, undeveloped experiences undisrupted by industrial development.
• Invasive plants are of increasing concern as their presence and quantities are on the rise. Disturbed sites are ideal for the establishment of invasive plants that often emerge early in the spring and outcompete native plants through their rapid reproduction. Monitoring for invasive species and prioritizing the control of these plants based on the species and population size will continue, and strong governing lease provisions require operators to survey and treat invasive species.
• Water quality monitoring efforts by the bureau and its partners have not raised significant concerns on state forest headwater streams to date, however these results are still relatively short-term.
• Through planning and careful siting, forest fragmentation has been minimized. Those efforts need to continue as development proceeds on existing leases or where mineral rights are not owned by the commonwealth.
The department’s shale gas monitoring program began in 2011 and continues with a 15-member monitoring team. DCNR monitors repeated measurements over time to determine trends or patterns. The report notes that while certain trends can begin to be identified after eight years, natural resource monitoring is a long-term endeavor, and it may take longer to discern other trends in resource change and conditions, particularly if development under existing leases intensifies.
Of the state’s 2.2-million-acre system, there are approximately 600,500 acres of state forest land available for gas development, either through historic DCNR-issued leases, or on areas where the commonwealth does not own the subsurface rights.

Livestock Growers Reminded to Review Revised Standard Animal Weights, Determine Effect on Their Farms

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New weights take effect October 1, 2019
Harrisburg, PA – Revised standard animal weights that take effect in 2019 could reclassify some livestock operations as Concentrated Animal Operations (CAOs) or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), requiring those farms to adopt new levels of compliance with nutrient management laws.

Pennsylvania’s Nutrient Management Program regulations include a list of standard animal weights used to calculate whether a livestock operation qualifies as a CAO. The weights are periodically adjusted to reflect trends in contemporary production agriculture. The revised weights, approved in May 2017, take effect on October 1, 2019. They are detailed in Penn State Agronomy Facts sheet 54. Farmers have the option to use other average animal weights instead of the standard weights if there is sufficient documentation to support their use.

“We’re more than a year away from the implementation of the new standard animal weights, but, since developing and improving a nutrient management plan takes time, growers should start planning now to make sure that their farms are in compliance by fall of 2019,” said Redding. “We encourage growers to calculate their farms’ true average animal weights to ensure that nutrient management plans are appropriate for their operations. Otherwise, calculate plans with the new standard animal weights to see how they may affect classifications.”

CAOs are operations that have more than 2,000 pounds of animal weight (Animal Equivalent Units or AEUs) per acre of ground available for manure application. CAFOs are operations that have greater than 1,000 AEUs, or CAOs with greater than 300 AEUs, or an operation that meets a specific head count as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, regardless of the amount of acres available to spread manure.

Operations that become newly classified as CAOs or CAFOs due to the new standard animal weights must have their nutrient management plan approved before October 1, 2019.

Current operations classified as CAOs or CAFOs must amend their nutrient management plans with the new standard animal weights within the three-year lifespan of their nutrient management plan.

“While not all agricultural operations require a nutrient management plan, they’re a good idea, regardless of farm size,” added Redding. “Nutrient management plans promote viable farms and healthy waterways, while providing some protection from liability and helping to demonstrate the agriculture community’s commitment to environmental stewardship.”

More information is available at county conservation districts or with private consultants, and at the Nutrient Management Program (Act 38) website. Visit https://extension.psu.edu/programs/nutrient-management and search either “standard animal weights” or “agronomy facts 54.”

A brochure sponsored by the Pennsylvania Agricultural Ombudsman program that county conservation technicians, and others, will provide to farmers in the course of compliance outreach, is forthcoming.

Planting The Seed Tour Pitches Strategic Investments in Agriculture Workforce at Lancaster Barnstormers’ Farm Show Weekend

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Lancaster, PA – Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding visited the Lancaster Barnstormers’ Farm Show Weekend Saturday on the Planting the Seed Tour, an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to highlight career and educational opportunities in agriculture. Prior to throwing out the first pitch at tonight’s game, Redding addressed 150 area agriculture leaders, emphasizing the importance of investing strategically in building the skilled workforce the industry needs in the coming decade.

“Lancaster County’s agriculture industry feeds the nation and the world,” Sec. Redding said. “To maintain the county and the commonwealth’s position as a leader in the world’s agriculture economy, it’s crucial for both government and private industry make strategic investments today. By investing in a strong workforce through agriculture education and apprenticeships, we can ensure that the next generation is prepared for meaningful careers and equipped with the skills to meet the needs of agriculture employers.”

Pennsylvania agriculture is a $135 billion industry facing several challenges, including an aging workforce. Attrition and advancing technologies will result in a workforce deficit of nearly 75,000 over the next decade. The Planting the Seed Tour aims to engage and educate the next generation about the many career opportunities available in Pennsylvania agriculture.

Redding commended area agriculture leaders, noting that the state’s first initiative to address a growing demand for technicians to service high-tech agricultural equipment is the result of ongoing partnerships in Lancaster County.

He also discussed Pennsylvania’s competitive advantage, and some of the additional challenges the industry must tackle to remain competitive, reviewing an economic impact study released earlier this year, along with the department’s strategic recommendations for continued success. Those recommendations include: capitalizing on branding and marketing opportunities; expanding infrastructure, including processing and manufacturing capacity, broadband, and transportation; broadening workforce development and education opportunities; and diversifying products to strengthen markets and build resiliency.

Redding also outlined immediate and short-term strategies the department is undertaking in partnership with private sector partners to address the current challenges faced by the dairy sector.

Over the past three years, the Wolf Administration has invested more than $50 million in agriculture-related economic development projects; increased support for workforce development and agricultural education to help prepare students and workers for the thousands of anticipated job openings in the industry over the next decade; and signed historic legislation that has created new markets for farmers and lowered their tax burdens. The administration is also working to expand broadband access to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, creating jobs and improving infrastructure statewide, especially in rural communities.

For more information about the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s programs and services, or to read the state’s Agriculture Economic Impact Study, visit agriculture.pa.gov.

 

 

 

 

Wolf Administration Officials Visit State Park, Borough Job Sites of Young Workers Employed by the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps

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Barnesville, Schuylkill County, PA – Today, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and other state officials visited two projects underway by the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps at Locust Lake State Park, Schuylkill County, and Clarks Summit Borough, Lackawanna County.

The highly acclaimed Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps is a Wolf Administration initiative offering work experience, job training, and educational opportunities to young people who complete recreation and conservation projects on Pennsylvania’s public lands.

The program helps protect and restore natural resources while providing young people with the knowledge to be good stewards of the environment.

“Beginning its third year of operation, the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps certainly is emerging as a ‘win-win’ effort for all involved,” Dunn said. “You young men and women who will accomplish so much here at Locust Lake are indicative of the corps’ spirit and commitment I’ve seen in state parks and forests across the state.”

Dunn joined other participants at the state park event in meeting members of the Hazleton-based youth corps and visiting one of their project sites, where they are rebuilding trails and repairing fencing.

The DCNR group then traveled to Clarks Summit, Lackawanna County, where Wilkes-Barre-based youth corps members are helping the local shade tree commission inventory trees.

Employed across the state in paid positions, corps members have contributed to public lands by undertaking light construction, invasive species management, and the rehabilitation of green space, shorelines, nature trails, and park and forest structures.

Initial roll-out of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps in July 2016 was financed through the Department of Labor & Industry’s Reemployment Fund. The Department of Labor & Industry remains a program co-sponsor.

The corps is based in state park and forest locations in rural and urban areas, particularly those areas close to disadvantaged communities and school districts.

Crews are dispatched within the region, working on public lands with resource and infrastructure project needs.

The Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps consists of two components: a seven-week, summer program for youth between the ages of 15-18; and a 10-month program for young adults ages 18-25.

Locations were set up across the state to help facilitate participation by youth and young adults in disadvantaged communities. Crew bases include:

  • Altoona
  • Erie
  • Greensburg
  • Harrisburg
  • Hazleton
  • McConnellsburg
  • Meadville
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Reading
  • Renovo
  • Saint Marys
  • Uniontown
  • Wellsboro
  • Wilkes-Barre
  • Williamsport
  • York

To oversee the program, DCNR recently appointed Michael D. Piaskowski as manager of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps. Statewide efforts are overseen by the Student Conservation Association (SCA), America’s oldest and largest youth conservation organization. For more information, visit www.thesca.org.

For more details on the Pennsylvania Outdoors Corps, visit DCNR’s website.

DEP Reminds Homeowners to Check for Mine Subsidence Risks

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Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania homeowners have new tools at their disposal to identify risks and insure their property from underground mine subsidence, thanks to a newly revamped website from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The new website – www.pamsi.org  – contains information for residents about known underground mine locations and possible risks for subsidence. Recently updated maps show historic mining and known coal-bearing areas that could be affected by mine subsidence from old and abandoned mines.

“Underground mining has a long history in Pennsylvania, and historic mines can still cause subsidence today,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “I encourage all Pennsylvanians to log on and see what their risk is, and to sign up for mine subsidence insurance if needed.”

Cracked foundations, collapsed walls, and even homes sinking into the ground are all possible impacts of underground mine subsidence, which is not typically covered by homeowner’s insurance policies. A subsidence event can occur at any time and cause sudden, significant damage, often exceeding $100,000 or total loss of the structure. Mine subsidence occurs when the ground above an old or abandoned mine cavity collapses.

“DEP is continuously improving our maps and data for underground mining,” said McDonnell. “Our goal is to have the best underground mine mapping easily accessible to anyone who wants to view it, so that residents can know if they could be affected and can easily sign up for mine subsidence insurance if they need it.”

DEP administers low-cost mine subsidence insurance (MSI) coverage through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The average policy of $160,000 costs about $7 a month, and senior citizens are eligible for discounted rates.

Homeowners should visit www.pamsi.org or call 1-800-922-1678 to check if their home is over an abandoned mine and for more information on the Mine Subsidence Insurance Program.

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