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EPA, Colorado target oil and gas company HighPoint in federal court, accusing company of failing to control air pollution at storage tanks [The Denver Post]

April 22– Apr. 22Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado attorneys have filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking millions in damages and a court order to stop polluting against an oil and gas company they accuse of violating requirements to minimize toxic emissions from storage tanks.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment air pollution control inspectors equipped with infrared cameras allegedly detected the emissions at multiple clusters of storage tanks.

The 27-page lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court accuses the HighPoint Operating Corporation of failing to control volatile organic compounds (VOCs), precursors of ozone smog, as well as benzene, toluene, xylene and other pollutants identified under the Clean Air Act as hazardous.

Storage tanks at more than a dozen sites north of Denver in Adams and Weld counties — including many that HighPoint’s predecessor the Bill Barrett Corporation had certified to the CDPHE as “controlled” — have emitted excessive pollutants since April 2014, according to the lawsuit.

This happened in a Front Range area where air quality for years has flunked federal air quality health standards, worsening the problem, the EPA and state attorneys said. HighPoint failed to design, run and maintain pollution control systems as required by the state to minimize leakage of the volatile organic and other chemicals to the maximum extent “practicable,” the attorneys said.

“HighPoint’s failure to comply with these requirements has resulted in excess VOC emissions, a precursor to ground-level ozone. … HighPoint’s unlawful emissions of VOC into the atmosphere contribute to this exceedance of the ozone NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standards) in this area,” the lawsuit says.

The EPA and CDPHE have asked a federal judge to block HighPoint from further violations of Colorado regulations, order action to fix and offset harm to public health and the environment, and assess civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day for violations between January 2009 and November 2015 and up to $97,229 per day for violations after November 2015.

Colorado’s oil and gas industry inspection program, relying on nine CDPHE air pollution control inspectors equipped with infrared cameras, is designed to spur quick compliance. When inspectors detect leaks, they notify companies that same day. Companies are required to initiate fixes within five days, unless they fill out forms justifying delays. But inspections also can reveal violations of state rules and lead eventually to imposition of penalties.

The inspectors drop in unannounced at about 2,000 sites a year and aim the infrared devices at storage tanks, flares and other equipment to determine whether hydrocarbons are leaking.

They can’t get to every site. Oil and gas companies have drilled more than 53,000 wells statewide, producing a record 177 million barrels of oil last year. Colorado rules require controls to minimize pollution. While the EPA provides oversight, state officials also have issued companies permits required under the federal Clean Air Act at roughly 11,000 sites — permits that set limits on pollution.

During the early stages of production — when companies typically drill and conduct hydraulic fracturing to stimulate production — state inspectors let companies produce for 90 days without the required permits and generally do not visit sites unless they receive a specific compliant, relying on a controversial 27-year-old state exemption. However, CDPHE officials — spurred by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette and the environmental advocacy group WildEarth Guardians — are reviewing the legality of that exemption.

Gov. Jared Polis has signaled intentions to reduce pollution. Tougher enforcement, including the air pollution inspections, has emerged as an option as he and state lawmakers re-focus state oversight of the industry. The latest CDPHE data show that inspectors in 2013 detected leaks at 28 percent of the sites they visited. In 2018, records show leaks were detected at 13 percent of sites visited.

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Lower hydraulic fracturing prices continue to sting Halliburton in first quarter [Houston Chronicle]

April 22– Apr. 22–Lower prices for hydraulic fracturing services in North America continue to sting Houston-based Halliburton, the second largest oilfield service company in the world.

Halliburton posted a $152 million profit and earnings per share of 17 cents on $5.7 billion of revenue during the first quarter, the company reported early Monday morning.

The company’s first quarter earnings fell in line with Wall Street expectations of earnings per share of 22 cents and beat expectations of $5.52 billion of revenue

First quarter figures also marked a dramatic improvement over the $46 million profit and earnings per share of 5 cents on $5.7 billion of revenue during the first quarter of 2018.

With 58 percent of its revenue coming from onshore activities in the United States, Halliburton has high risk exposure to fluctuations in demand for horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing services in U.S. shale basins.

Crude oil prices fell dramatically during the fourth quarter of 2018 sending demand and prices for hydraulic fracturing services falling through most of the first quarter.

Halliburton CEO Jeff Miller believes that the worst pricing declines are over. Earlier this year, Miller predicted that new pipelines coming into service in the Permian Basin of West Texas during the second half of this year would eventually result in higher demand and prices for drilling and completion activities.

“As expected, the first quarter activity levels in North America were modestly higher compared to the first quarter of 2018, and we experienced pricing headwinds throughout the quarter,” Miller said. “We believe the worst in the pricing deterioration is now behind us. For the next couple of quarters, I see demand for our services progressing modestly.”

Founded in 1919 and headquartered in Houston, Halliburton employs more than 60,000 people in 80 nations — making it the second largest oilfield company in the world just behind Schlumberger.

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Paccar names Preston Feight new CEO [The Seattle Times]

April 19– Apr. 19–Truck manufacturer Paccar has named Preston Feight as chief executive officer, effective July 1. Feight, currently the Bellevue-based company’s executive vice president, succeeds Ron Armstrong, who is retiring after five years as CEO.

The company said Feight, 51, has been at Paccar for 21 years in roles including president of its DAF Trucks unit in Europe and vice president and general manager of Kenworth Truck Co., as well as chief engineer at Kenworth.

Seattle Times business staff

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Truck builder to add 100 jobs as part of $139M Chillicothe expansion [The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio]

April 18– Apr. 18–Truck manufacturer PACCAR will add 100 jobs to its assembly plant near Chillicothe as part of a $139 million expansion.

The Bellevue, Washington, company officially will break ground on the project at its Kenworth Chillicothe plant during ceremonies set for Wednesday.

The project received approval for state tax incentives this past December in a package with an estimated value of $500,000.

The company now has about 2,200 workers with a payroll of $155.4 million. The 100 additional jobs will add $6.6 million to the payroll.

PACCAR designs and manufactures light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks under the Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF names, according to its website. It also designs and manufactures diesel engines and distributes truck parts related to its principal business.

The company declined to comment about the project in advance of next week’s ceremony.

The project involves the construction of a 120,000-square-foot building where truck cabs will be painted, which is scheduled to open in January 2021.

Ohio beat out Texas and international locations for the project, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.

The company’s $139 million investment will go toward expanding an existing building and new machinery and equipment.

mawilliams@dispatch.com

@BizMarkWilliams

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(c)2019 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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Kinder Morgan in discussions to build third natural gas pipeline in Permian Basin [Houston Chronicle]

Oil and Gas PipelineApril 18– Apr. 18–Houston pipeline operator Kinder Morgan is in the middle of building two projects to move natural gas from the Permian Basin to the Gulf Coast but has confirmed discussions to develop a third.

Kinder Morgan is the lead developer for the Gulf Coast Express Pipeline and the Permian Highway Pipeline — two projects that will move natural gas from the Permian Basin of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico to Corpus Christi and Houston.

Gulf Coast Express is expected to come into service in October and the Permian Highway project is expected to be in service by October 2020 but Kinder Morgan CEO Steve Kean told investors during a Wednesday afternoon earnings call that the company is in talks to build a third natural gas pipeline in the West Texas shale play.

“The demand to get out of the Permian continues to grow and the desire to be able to unlock the value that’s in oil, natural gas liquids and natural gas continues to put pressure on the need for additional takeaway capacity,” Kean said.

The discussions for the company to build a third natural gas pipeline come at a time of record production in the Permian Basin of and other U.S. shale plays. A byproduct of drilling for oil, the Permian Basin produces more than 14.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows.

During the Wednesday afternoon earnings call, Kean told investors that at the current rate of production growth, the Permian Basin would require adding one pipeline per year capable of moving at least 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

“I don’t know that it’s going to be at that pace but there is certainly interest in pipeline three,” Kean said.

Developed at a cost of $1.75 billion, Kinder Morgan’s Gulf Coast Express Pipeline is a 42-inch pipeline that will move 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Waha Hub in the Permian Basin to the Agua Dulce hub near Corpus Christi.

The $2.1 billion Permian Highway Pipeline is a 42-inch pipeline that will move 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Waha Hub to the Katy Hub near Houston.

Founded in 1997 and headquartered in Houston, Kinder Morgan has more than 11,000 employees across the United States. The company reported making a $556 million profit on $3.4 billion of revenue during the first quarter.

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Kinder Morgan sets service date for Elba Island LNG, moves forward on Gulf LNG [Houston Chronicle]

April 18– Apr. 18Houston pipeline operator Kinder Morgan has set a target date of May 1 to begin operations at its Elba Island LNG export terminal in Georgia and moved one step forward on obtaining a permit to build another liquefied natural gas export terminal in Mississippi.

As part of the company’s first quarter earnings released on Wednesday afternoon, Kinder Morgan revealed that the first of 10 production units at its $2 billion LNG export terminal in Savannah, Georgia is expected to be placed into service by May 1.

The remaining nine units will be placed into service sequentially at a rate of one per month. Once all of them are in operation, the Georgia facility will be able to make up to 2.5 million metrics tons of LNG per year.

Officials with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have meanwhile given Kinder Morgan’s proposed Gulf LNG export terminal in Pascagoula, Mississippi the green light in a final environmental impact statement released on Wednesday morning.

FERC officials are expected to make a final permit decision about the project in July. Aside from traffic during construction, the report stated that the proposed project is not expected have any significant impacts on the environment or surrounding communities.

Located off State Highway 611 in Pascagoula, Gulf LNG is expected to be built on a 230-acre site that includes more than 38 acres of wetlands. However, Kinder Morgan has pledge to create 50 acres of tidal salt marsh to mitigate those impacts.

“We conclude that the potential impacts of the project, when combined with the impacts from the

other projects considered in the geographic scope, would not result in a significant impact on resources,” FERC officials wrote in the report

Kinder Morgan originally developed the Gulf LNG site as a liquefied natural gas import terminal in 2009. But with record production from U.S. shale plays creating a surplus of natural gas, the Houston company filed an application with FERC in July 2015 seeking permission to redevelop part of the site as an export terminal.

Dave Conover, a spokesman for Kinder Morgan, said the company was pleased that the proposed project export terminal received a positive final environmental impact statement.

“While this brings us one step closer, reaching a final investment decision remains contingent on the resolution of various other commercial and financing factors and agreements that must be achieved,” Conover said.

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Watertown fire engine off the road for repairs for 12 months [Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.]

April 17– Apr. 17WATERTOWN — A crucial piece of city fire department equipment, a pumper truck out of the Mill Street fire station, is out of commission for about a year, thanks to a small hole in its frame.

Fire Engine 3 has already been off the road since early November when a dime-sized hole and some corrosion in the frame rail near the exhaust system were discovered during some routine maintenance.

It will be between five and six months before the 2007 Pierce truck can be sent to Wisconsin for the $184,015 in repairs and then take another six months to get fixed.

Pierce Manufacturing will only pick up the $8,330 tab for the replacing the failed galvanized frame rail, but not the $82,020 cost to remove and replace the part, Chief Dale C. Herman said. The 12-year-old truck is no longer under warranty.

But the city has learned many cities with Pierce trucks are in the same boat and are having the exact same corrosion problem, Chief Herman said. A class action lawsuit has been filed against the fire truck manufacturer by the communities.

City Manager Rick Finn said that it’s frustrating that Pierce Manufacturing “is not standing behind its product,” causing hardship for the city.

“We really do not have any other choices,” Mr. Finn said.

The 13-year-old Engine 2, out of the State Street station, is showing signs of the same kind of corrosion and is currently in Syracuse getting treatment, so the condition doesn’t get worse, Chief Herman said.

While Engine 3 is away, the fire truck also will undergo refurbishing at a cost of $110,325 and will come back like new and keep the truck on the road for another 10 years. The work includes fixing worn seats, running boards, exterior corrosion and other items.

Chief Herman said the situation is worrisome if a major event occurs without the full fleet. Other pieces of equipment will fill in until Engine 3 returns.

“It’s like going into battle with one boot on,” he said. “That’s the hand we’re dealt with.”

Mr. Finn said the city will explore any possible legal recourse it might have against Pierce.

The city will pay the $115,000 for the refurbishment by taking funds out of the capital reserve and transfer it to the capital projects fund. The remainder of the funding will be taken from unused funding within the budget.

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(c)2019 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)

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Commission approves another rate hike in annual landfill fee [The Hutchinson News, Kan.]

April 17– Apr. 17–Another rate hike in the Solid Waste User Fee charged to all Reno County property owners was approved on Tuesday by the Reno County Commission.

The annual assessment will climb from $92 to $96 per year per household, effective on the November property tax statement.

It’s the second consecutive year that the commission has approved a $4 jump in the annual assessment, with a third, similar hike, also is planned for next year, bringing the fee to $100 by 2021.

The additional funding is necessary, according to the landfill staff and an outside consultant advised the commission, to start an expansion project in 2021 that will extend the landfill’s life out some 50 years.

It will also allow the county to maintain current operations at levels that meet state and federal landfill regulations.

The commission Tuesday also approved an annual update to the South-Central Solid Waste Management Plan, which covers trash disposal for Reno, Rice, and Kingman counties, as well as retaining SCS Engineers of Wichita as a consultant for another year.

Besides the 4.3 percent rate increase for Reno County users, the commission approved a $1.25 hike — from $31.75 to $33 per ton — for out-of-county landfill users and an increase from $39 to $40 per ton for contaminated soil and special waste.

Even following the hike, the estimated cost per ton to Reno County residents for operating the landfill is just under $25 per ton, compared to a statewide average for landfill cost of $47, landfill office manager Megan Davidson advised. The cost for other landfills in the state run from $24 to $75 per ton.

The expansion project includes moving all of the existing landfill structures, such as the scale house and offices, to the opposite side of the street, out of the existing landfill footprint, and then converting that space into a landfill disposal cell.

Preliminary estimates of those costs are about $800,000 to prepare Cell D and $3 million for the facilities.

By implementing a vertical expansion going up 100 to 120 feet over the existing landfill, it will allow the county to extend the life of the landfill into the 2070s. Otherwise, the county would need to find additional land to expand onto starting in the next eight to 10 years, consultant Monte Markley with SCS Engineers advised the commission.

Elements of the new landfill office will include improving traffic flow, installing scales for vehicles both entering and exiting, and consolidating structures, now spread out across the property, into one place.

The engineering proposal from SCS Engineers, for seven specific tasks during 2019, totals just over $205,000.

The most significant chunk of that is $175,000 for “60 percent design” of the proposed new landfill facilities.

Last year SCS completed a 30 percent conceptual design. The additional step will provide greater detail on grading, utilities, materials, drainage, etc., which will then be delivered to Mann & Co., to develop 60 percent drawings, Markley said.

Additional tasks are an annual landfill volume calculation, an operating plan update, organic compounds sampling, programming landfill equipment with GPS data for proper site grading in the construction and demolition debris cell, and stormwater management training.

The only changes to the annual regional solid waste management plan are that Reno County is no longer operating an e-waste recycling program, though it will take e-waste that is buried in the lined pits. The program ended when TECH ended its e-cycle program earlier this year.

Also, Kingman County will no longer accept appliances, Davidson said.

In other business Tuesday: — The commission approved awarding a bid to GW Van Keppel of Wichita for purchase of a new Kenworth truck and mounted “asphalt distributor unit” for $154,644. The equipment is used to lay down oil for paving projects. It will replace equipment that is 16 years old, Public Works Director Dave McComb said.

It was unclear, however, how quickly the equipment will be delivered because of a backup for truck manufacturers. He hoped to get it before the end of the paving season, McComb said. — The commission tabled a request by Ade Enterprise LLC of Wichita, doing business as Wifco Steel, for tax and job incentives for a new 5,400 square-foot office building at its site near Medora.

County Administrator Gary Meagher advised the company wished to table the item, but he didn’t say way.

The preliminary estimate for construction is $1.1 million, according to documents filed with the county. The expansion, along with the purchase of $1.45 million in new equipment and machinery, is projected to add at least 10 jobs next year.

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(c)2019 The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kan.)

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Here Comes the Tax Man – Six Tips to Get Ready for the Big Day

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the tax man

Tax Man (Beatles, 1966)

Taxes for small businesses

Few people celebrate April 15. No one sits around the table to carve turkeys and watch football. There aren’t any fireworks displays and ice cream socials. Santa Claus doesn’t come down a chimney and leave any presents.

Quite the opposite happens on April 15… that’s when the Tax Man comes and takes away.

We all know taxes are a necessary part of living in a free and democratic society. You don’t get something for nothing, not even in America. Someone has to pay for the roads, the national parks and the aircraft carriers. And that someone is you and me. But with apologies to the Beatles, the Tax Man doesn’t have to take it all. Just because taxes are necessary, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to lessen your bill when it comes due. 

1) Organization Saves Time… and Often, Money

Here are six helpful tips you may want to consider when preparing your taxes. Of course, Charter Capital is not a tax service and we don’t give tax advice. Consult your tax attorney for information regarding your specific situation.

Believe it or not, throwing receipts and other important documents into a cluttered drawer or file folder and then forgetting about them until April 14 is not a good idea. A better one is to stay organized. Each time you have new receipts or documentation, carefully file them by topic that day rather than waiting for them to pile up. When your tax files are organized, it saves valuable time for the tax preparer (especially if that tax preparer is you). Organized files and complete documentation can also help you better take advantage of eligible tax incentives you may otherwise miss because you can’t find the needed receipts or papers. Finally, it can make tax preparation easier, faster and less frustrating, lessening the possibility of having to file an extension or having to pay late fees because you or your preparer couldn’t complete the task in time.

2) Pick the Right Entity for your Business

Just because you own and operate a small business doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of an entity change. Big businesses aren’t the only ones with the fancy abbreviations at the end of their names. If you currently file as a sole proprietor, consider switching to an LLC. Doing so may enable you to eliminate some of the self-employment tax and several other benefits.

3) New, Larger Equipment Deductions May Cut Your Tax Bill

Recent tax law changes now offer bigger deductions for equipment purchases. Small businesses are now eligible for federal tax deductions of up to $1 million – nearly twice the previous amount. If you’ve purchased new or used equipment for your business and placed it into service before the end of the year, you may be entitled to this deduction. The new tax laws also offer two additional breaks for small businesses. One is a 100 percent bonus depreciation deduction for certain types of equipment bought and placed into service after Sep. 27, 2017. The other is a 40 percent bonus deduction for certain types of equipment purchased before Sep. 28, 2017 and put into service during 2018. To see if you qualify, check with your tax attorney or the IRS. Speaking of that…

4) Don’t Be Afraid to Ask the IRS for Help

Most people would understandably not be thrilled were an IRS agent come knocking on the door. But, believe it or not, the IRS does try to help taxpayers and offers many tax preparation tools of which you may not be aware. The agency has many self-help topics online here. The site also discusses many of the new tax laws and how they may affect your business here. It would certainly be worth a few moments of research to look over these webpages before starting your taxes. You may find information on deductions that could be of great benefit and savings.

5) Donate Unused Inventory – Clean Out the Warehouse and Cut Your Taxes

One often overlooked and easy to take advantage of deduction is to donate unsold and unused inventory. Donating inventory helps two groups at the same time. First, a charitable organization gets free items to help them in their mission. Second, you save money by no longer having to pay to store the items and you can get a tax break. Do note that donations of good worth more than $500 have stringent reporting rules you must follow.  

6) Procrastination Never Pays Off – Don’t Wait to Start Your Taxes

If you’re the type of person who thinks you work best under a tight deadline, you may be doing yourself a disservice by waiting until the last minute to start preparing your taxes. Unless you use the EZ form (and who does that for a business), filling out tax forms takes time, patience and concentration. If you start late, you may learn to your horror you can’t find a needed document and may not find it on short notice. You also may be more prone to mistakes, such as mathematical errors to forgetting to take advantage of a tax benefit for which you qualify. Finally, you may not be able to finish in time, which could lead to late penalties. The best advice is to follow the Boy Scout motto – Be Prepared – and give yourself plenty of time to do the job… and do it right.

Usually on April 15, you’re the one giving. But for this tax season, here’s something just for you: a bonus tax tip to help you ensure you’re getting the maximum benefit for your buck.

7) Get a Handle on Your Cash Flow to Estimate Your Taxes Ahead of Time

One way to better prepare for taxes is to forecast your cash flow. Doing so allows to estimate taxes ahead of time and anticipate eligible deductions. Build a model of your accounts receivable and accounts payable. Factor in your annual budget and anticipated sales. This will help you not only at tax time, but in developing a forecast you may also find it easier to run your business so that it will grow and prosper.

A good way to improve your cash flow, whether at tax time or any time of the year, is invoice factoring. This method of cash flow recovery allows you to “sell” your accounts receivable invoices to a factoring company. This company pays you upfront for the outstanding invoices by giving you the cash you need today and eliminating the worry and hassle of slow paying collections. This leaves you free to run your business.

Invoice factoring is a convenient alternative to a traditional bank loan or fee-laden online loans and risky crowdfunding. Each of these sources require a long-term contract. Factoring, however, gives you the money you need when you need it with no long-term obligations. You can also get cash quicker through invoice factoring – usually within a day or two.

If you would like to learn more about how invoice factoring works, simply call toll-free 1-855-219-6008 or email clientsupport@chartercapitalusa.com.

* Although we are pretty much experts in small business finance, Charter Capital does not provide tax or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax or legal advice. You should consult your own tax and legal advisors before engaging in any transaction.

Milestone lands permit to build second oil & gas waste landfill in Permian Basin [Houston Chronicle]

April 10– Apr. 10–State officials gave Houston-based Milestone Environmental Services the green light to build the company’s second landfill for oilfield waste the Permian Basin.

The Railroad Commission of Texas gave Milestone a permit to build the landfill in Upton County, company officials reported on Tuesday.

Located off State Highway 349 about 34 miles south of Midland, the 93-acre facility will be able to accept 7.8 million cubic yards of cuttings, contaminated soils and other oilfield waste.

The Midland Basin continues to have some of the highest density of drilling, completion and production activity in the world, and responsible development of this important play requires a world-class oilfield waste management solution,” Milestone President and CEO Gabriel Rio said in a statement.

The Railroad Commission’s permit decision comes following years of engineering, design and planning efforts by Milestone to expand the company’s presence in the prolific Permian Basin.

Last month, the company received a permit to open its first Permian Basin landfill near the Reeves County town of Orla — one of the region’s hotspots for oil and natural gas production.

Co-located with Milestone’s already existing slurry injection facility, the 80-acre Orla landfill will also accept cuttings, contaminated soils and other oilfield waste.

Founded in 1993, Milestone owns and operates seven oilfield waste management sites in the Permian Basin, Eagle Ford Shale and Haynesville Shale.

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