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People Places Planet Podcast

Welcome to People Places Planet Podcast, the official podcast of the Environmental Law Institute. Here, listeners can gain insight on some of the thinking behind ELI's work. Be sure to tune into our special series on Environmental Disruptors.

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After millennia of humankind exploiting terrestrial resources, national governments and private enterprises alike are eyeing the skies. There’s evidence of asteroids containing precious metals. Ice on the Moon can be extracted to generate drinking water, oxygen, hydrogen, and helium-3. And Mars has useful minerals, ice, and perhaps even liquid water. All of this requires mining—a pollution-heavy industry. But if activities impacting the environment are being carried out in outer space, what law applies? Or is it all just a . . . legal void? In this episode, ELI’s Cynthia Harris talks to Scot Anderson and Julia La Manna, attorneys with Hogan Lovells in Denver, Colorado, to help us navigate the uncertain terrain of space mining.


Migration—the temporary or permanent movement of people from one place of residence to another, within a country or across an international border—occurs for myriad reasons. It also involves a host of dangers, complications, and risks. “Migration with Dignity” is a new concept increasingly being used to promote voluntary migration in the pursuit of life with dignity. In this episode, we hear from Carl Bruch, ELI’s Director of International Programs, and Dr. Shanna McClain, Visiting Scientist at ELI and Global Partnerships Manager for NASA’s Earth Sciences Division. The two speak with ELI Staff Attorney Kristine Perry about the legal and policy framework they have been developing to help people migrate with dignity.


In the first few weeks of the Biden-Harris Administration, we’ve seen an unprecedented environmental justice (EJ) campaign platform develop into far-reaching executive actions. But even before the Biden-Harris campaign brought EJ to the federal spotlight, states were starting to implement ambitious, history-making EJ-focused legislation, a trend that appears to be continuing into 2021.  In this episode, Hilary Jacobs, an attorney at Beveridge & Diamond, speaks with Dr. Karla Drenner, a State Representative from Georgia, and Rebecca Saldaña, a State Senator from Washington State, about pending EJ legislation in their states. This episode is part of the Groundtruth series created in partnership with Beveridge & Diamond, one of the nation’s leading environmental law firms.


Since 1989, ELI has honored over 200 champions of wetlands protection through the National Wetlands Awards program, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated exceptional effort, innovation, and excellence in protecting these critical ecosystems. In this episode, hear from our five 2021 awardees, who share their perspectives and insight on a variety of wetlands-related matters.


On May 18, 1971, Pennsylvania’s voters ratified an Environmental Rights Amendment to its state constitution. Fifty years later, with climate change now the overriding threat to the health of the planet, the architect of that amendment makes the case for an environmental amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In this episode, we talk to Franklin L. Kury, who served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1966 to 1972 and the Pennsylvania Senate from 1972 to 1980, about his new book, The Constitutional Question to Save the Planet: The Peoples' Right to a Healthy Environment.


There are many benefits to offshore wind, but what about its impacts on birds, bats, and other wildlife? In this episode, we "engage the experts” and listen in on a conversation between two experts in the field of environmental law and policy, Brooke Marcus Wahlberg, a Partner at Nossaman LLP, and Ed Roggenkamp, an associate. The two offer background on offshore wind, discuss obstacles and opportunities, and share recent developments, including what we might expect under the Biden Administration.


For over 60 years, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and its predecessor agencies have been a national and global leader on a wide range of environmental issues, from air quality to water quality to remediation. In this episode, Heather Palmer, a Partner at Sidley Austin LLP, talks with Toby Baker, Executive Director of the TCEQ. The two discuss a wide range of issues, including COVID-19, severe weather and power outages, and the Biden Administration.


In the first few weeks of the Biden-Harris Administration, we’ve seen an unprecedented environmental justice (EJ) campaign platform develop into far-reaching executive actions. But even before the Biden-Harris campaign brought EJ to the federal spotlight, states were starting to implement ambitious, history-making EJ-focused legislation, a trend that appears to be continuing into 2021.  In this episode, Julius M. Redd, an attorney at Beveridge & Diamond, speaks with New Jersey Senator Troy Singleton and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, about New Jersey’s landmark 2020 environmental justice law. This episode is the first of a series, Groundtruth, created in partnership with Beveridge & Diamond.


As we approach one year of remote work here at ELI, we were curious about the working-from-home experiences of our own staff. In this episode, we talk to three members of ELI’s Research and Policy Department: Linda Breggin, a Senior Attorney; Akielly Hu, a Research Associate; and Jarryd Page, our Public Interest Law Fellow. The trio talk about their own working-at-home experiences and the challenges and unexpected opportunities of this new era of work.


Earthjustice is the nation’s largest environmental nonprofit dedicated to litigation, employing more environmental litigators than any organization in the United States except for the U.S. Department of Justice. Earthjustice uses the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. In this episode, Justin Savage, a Partner at Sidley Austin LLP, speaks with Earthjustice’s Sam Sankar, the Senior Vice President for Programs, and Stacey Geis, Managing Attorney for Earthjustice’s California Regional Office, on a wide range of topics including environmental justice, the future of climate change litigation, and prioritization of environmental enforcement in the new administration.


Data gathering by members of the public—often called “citizen science” or “community science”—is gaining traction in the field of environmental protection. In this episode, Jay Benforado, Chief Innovation Officer at EPA’s Office of Research and Development, talks about the recent revolution of citizen science brought about by emerging technologies and what it means for environmental agencies. Joining him are Graeme Carvlin, an official at Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, and Meghan Smart, an official at the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.


Gas stations are America’s largest carbon spigot, a leading source of neighborhood-based pollution, and a sacred cow. Today, four emerging issues—the climate crisis, the rise of electric vehicles, the aging of underground storage tanks, and new research establishing the dangers of gas station pollution—are challenging the gas station status quo and intensifying the need for tighter governance. In this episode, Hunter Jones, Associate Editor for ELR—The Environmental Law Reporter, talks to Matthew Metz and Janelle London, co-executive directors at Coltura, about an article they wrote for the January 2021 issue of ELR. In it, they posit that state and local governments should regulate gas stations to advance their climate goals, reduce pollution, improve public health, and save taxpayers money.


Founded on the first Earth Day in 1970, the New Jersey DEP protects the Garden State’s air, lands, water, and natural and historic resources. In the latest episode of People Places Planet Podcast, Justin Savage, a Partner at Sidley Austin LLP who co-leads the firm’ global environmental practice, talks to NJ DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe. The two discuss a wide range of issues, including the incoming Biden Administration, PFAS, and environmental justice.


For decades, there has been a bipartisan consensus that federal agencies should base their decisions on evidence, expertise, and analysis. But under the Trump Administration, inconvenient evidence has often been ignored, experts have been sidelined, and analysis has been misused to intentionally obscure important truths. In this episode, we talk to Prof. Michael Livermore (University of Virginia School of Law) and Prof. Richard Revesz (New York University School of Law) to discuss current challenges as well as considerations for the road ahead. Their new book, Reviving Rationality: Saving Cost-Benefit Analysis for the Sake of the Environment and Our Health, offers analysis on critical aspects of the regulatory process and calls for the reinstatement of expertise, sound cost-benefit analysis, and the rule of law in public administration.


No matter their practice area, today’s lawyers should have a basic understanding of climate change. Yet, most law courses do not include climate-related cases and other materials, even when such resources would be useful in teaching fundamental competencies and skills. In this episode, we hear from Prof. Warren G. Lavey about his article, Toolkit for Integrating Climate Change into Ten High-Enrollment Law School Courses (2019). Tune in to learn why an understanding of climate change needs to be integrated into the law school curriculum and how we might overcome the climate competency shortfall in legal education.


The United States has created an intricate system of laws, regulations, policies, and programs to respond to environmental and public health concerns. Enforcement is vital to the system’s effectiveness. In the latest episode of People Places Planet Podcast, Justin Savage, a Partner at Sidley Austin LLP who co-leads the firm’ global environmental practice, talks with Todd Sax, Section Chief of CARB’s Enforcement Division. The two discuss a wide range of issues, including COVID-19, wildfires, and environmental justice.


The United States has created an intricate system of laws, regulations, policies, and programs to respond to environmental and public health concerns. Enforcement is vital to the system’s effectiveness. In the latest episode of People Places Planet Podcast, Justin Savage, a Partner at Sidley Austin LLP who co-leads the firm’ global environmental practice, talks to Susan Bodine, the Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. This episode is the first of a year-long series, The Enforcement Angle, created in partnership with Sidley Austin LLP.


Hurricane season is in full swing, and this year is unlike any before. What is driving this year’s record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season? And what implications is it having on coastal communities in the Gulf of Mexico states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida? In this podcast, we talk to Amy Reed, Director of ELI’s Gulf of Mexico program, to discuss the 2020 hurricane season and what it means for those who call the Gulf home.


Compensatory mitigation offers a viable way to protect the long-term health of the nation’s watersheds, and its success relies on a robust review and approval process that ensures that the protections in federal regulations are implemented in practice on the ground and that compensation projects effectively offset permitted impacts. However, the review and approval process can often be lengthy, sometimes greatly exceeding the regulatory timelines. In this episode, Rebecca Kihslinger, Director of ELI’s Wetlands Program, discusses a new ELI research report that aims to identify some of the main impediments to efficiency in compensatory mitigation project review, as well as best practices to improve the process and ensure timely, ecologically viable mitigation outcomes.


As renewable energy development is happening throughout the country, changes in environmental regulations and related court decisions are impacting project development. What does this shifting terrain mean for the development, expansion and maintenance of renewable energy technologies? In this episode, we hear from Brooke Marcus Wahlberg, a Partner at Nossaman LLP, and her colleague Rebecca Barho as they unpack changes to environmental regulations and their related court decisions. Tune in to learn about what recent regulatory and judicial developments mean for renewables.


International environmental law is often characterized as fragmented and heterogeneous; there is currently no single, overarching framework that outlines a set of rules and criteria of general application in international environmental law. In the latest episode of People Places Planet Podcast, we explore the recent push for a set of globally recognized principles on environmental law—called the Global Pact for the Environment—under the United Nations. In this podcast, Dominic Scicchitano, a Research Associate at ELI, talks to two individuals who have been following the issue closely: Prof. Nicholas A. Robinson and Maria Antonia Tigre. Together, they discuss the Pact’s history, its present status and future outlook, as well as its broader implications for international environmental law.


What tried and true environmental law strategies are animal rights and welfare advocates using in their efforts to protect animals? How does the exploitation of meatpacking and slaughterhouse workers in the age of COVID-19 highlight the interconnectedness between animal, environmental, and human rights issues? In this episode, we talk to Prof. Randall S. Abate about his forthcoming book, What Can Animal Law Learn from Environmental Law? (2d ed. ELI Press 2020). Tune in to learn about what animal law can learn from environmental law and how the two movements can better coordinate their common objectives.


There are many benefits to solar energy, but what about its impacts on wildlife? In this episode, we "engage the experts” and listen in on a conversation between two experts in the field of environmental law and policy, Brooke Marcus Wahlberg, a Partner at Nossaman LLP, and Dr. Karl Kosciuch, a senior biologist at Western Ecosystems Technology, Inc. Brooke and Karl will discuss their work at the nexus of solar energy development and wildlife conservation.


Towns and cities all across America are increasingly finding themselves at the front lines in protecting their citizens from the impacts of climate change. Fortunately, a number of tools just waiting to be used can already be found in many local communities’ toolbox. In this episode, we talk to Prof. Jonathan Rosenbloom about his new book, Remarkable Cities and the Fight Against Climate Change: 43 Recommendations to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and the Communities That Adopted Them (ELI Press 2020). Tune in to learn about the range of ways in which local communities can use enacted ordinances to mitigate climate change while increasing their capacity to respond and adapt to its most harmful consequences.


Since 1989, ELI has honored over 200 champions of wetlands protection through the National Wetlands Awards program, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated exceptional effort, innovation, and excellence in protecting the nation’s wetlands. In this episode, we invite our 2020 National Wetlands Awardees to share their thoughts on the same question: What is the importance of wetlands protection now and in the future?


There are many benefits to wind energy, but what about its impacts on wildlife? In this episode, we "engage the experts” and listen in on a conversation between two experts in the field of environmental law, Brooke Marcus Wahlberg, a Partner at Nossaman LLP, and Joy Page, Director of the Renewable Energy and Wildlife team at the Defenders of Wildlife. Brooke and Joy will discuss their work at the nexus of wind energy development and wildlife conservation.


Climate change and climate science have been the subject of a great deal of discussion and political controversy here in the United States. In this era of information and disinformation, wouldn’t it be great if we had a vehicle for separating fact from fiction in this important area? A new report from ELI reveals that we already have a mechanism for crunching truth – the judicial system. In this special Earth Day episode, ELI President Scott Fulton talks to the lead author of the report, Dr. Maria Banda, to learn more.


Drinking water contamination in Flint, Michigan, has garnered nationwide attention, but it is neither isolated, nor a primarily urban problem. As Madeline Kane explains in the April issue of ELR—The Environmental Law Reporter, a hidden water crisis is straining thousands of smaller communities that share Flint’s risk factors—shrinking populations, social marginalization, and deficient funds. In this episode, ELR’s Hunter Jones talk to Madeline Kane, a J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School, to learn more about the problem, its causes, and potential solutions.


EPA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) is the Agency’s chief legal advisor, providing counsel to EPA policymakers and providing critical input to Agency rules, regulations, and guidance documents. In this episode, Kevin Minoli, a partner at Alston & Bird who worked within EPA’s OGC for 18 years, talks to former EPA General Counsel Gary Guzy, who served as General Counsel from July 1999 to January 2001. This episode is part of a year-long series of conversations with former EPA General Counsels, allowing listeners to hear first-hand accounts of their experiences at EPA.


What do everyday practices like streaming a movie online, purchasing a new pair of jeans, or eating a burger have to do with climate change? Sadly, it turns out almost everything we do, use, and eat has a significant impact on climate change because of the way we use resources, create waste, and emit greenhouse gases without even thinking about it. In this episode, Senior Attorney Linda Breggin sits down with Tatiana Schlossberg, author of Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have, to learn more..


On January 10, 2020, CEQ proposed a comprehensive rewrite of the NEPA regulations that govern how federal agencies identify, analyze, and mitigate for the anticipated environmental impacts of proposed major federal actions. To help listeners better understand the proposal, ELI Senior Attorney Jim McElfish talks to Nick Yost, one of the nation’s most experienced NEPA lawyers and the primary drafter of the original 1978 regulations. For more on the proposal, check out Practitioners’ Guide to the Proposed NEPA Regulations.


EPA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) is the Agency’s chief legal advisor, providing counsel to EPA policymakers and providing critical input to Agency rules, regulations, and guidance documents. In this episode, Kevin Minoli, a partner at Alston & Bird who worked within EPA’s OGC for 18 years, talks to former EPA General Counsel Ann Klee, who served as General Counsel from June 2004 to July 2006. This episode is part of a year-long series of conversations with former EPA General Counsels, allowing listeners to hear first-hand accounts of their experiences at EPA.


Last October, policymakers, lawmakers, technologists, NGOs, and leaders from some of the world’s most innovative companies joined ELI in Seattle, Washington, at its inaugural GreenTech conference to explore environmental protection in an era of transformative technological change. In this episode, ELI’s Dominic Scicchitano speaks to Kasantha Moodley, ELI’s Manager of Innovation and Governance, and ELI President Scott Fulton, both of whom played an integral role in orchestrating the conference. They discuss the conference’s origins, highlights from the event, and plans for GreenTech 2020. Additional information about GreenTech, including a summary from the 2019 conference, are available at https://www.greentechconference.org/.


Extreme heat kills more people than any other natural disaster, and heat waves are growing longer, hotter, and more frequent, due to climate change. Cities are particularly impacted because climate change exacerbates the urban heat island effect. In this episode, ELI’s Cynthia Harris chats with Rachel Licker, Senior Climate Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists; Michael Gerrard, Professor at Columbia Law School and Faculty Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law; and Councilmember Tom Hucker, from Montgomery County, MD, to learn about one possible tool cities can bring to bear on this public health crisis: air conditioning mandates.


EPA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) is the Agency’s chief legal advisor, providing counsel to EPA policymakers and providing critical input to Agency rules, regulations, and guidance documents. In this episode—the third in a series of podcasts in which we talk to former EPA General Counsels—Kevin Minoli, a partner at Alston & Bird who worked within EPA’s OGC for 18 years, talks to former EPA General Counsel Roger Martella, who now serves as Director and General Counsel for General Electric’s Environment, Health and Safety operations worldwide.


Local governments often require developers to bear the costs of new infrastructure. Known as “exactions,” the funds help localities address the burdens that growth places on schools, transportation, water, and sewers. But Professors Jim Rossi and Christopher Serkin, both with Vanderbilt University Law School, have proposed imposing “energy exactions” to address the energy impacts of new residential or commercial growth. In this episode, Linda Breggin, a senior attorney at ELI, and students from the law school talk to Professors Rossi and Serkin to learn more about this novel idea.


EPA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) is the Agency’s chief legal advisor, providing counsel to EPA policymakers and providing critical input to Agency rules, regulations, and guidance documents. In this episode—the second in a series of podcasts in which we talk to former EPA General Counsels—Kevin Minoli, a partner at Alston & Bird who worked within EPA’s OGC for 18 years, talks to former EPA General Counsel Scott Fulton, who now serves as President of ELI.


EPA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) is the Agency’s chief legal advisor, providing counsel to EPA policymakers and providing critical input to Agency rules, regulations, and guidance documents. In this episode, Kevin Minoli, a partner at Alston & Bird who worked within EPA’s OGC for 18 years, talks to former EPA General Counsel Avi Garbow, the longest serving General Counsel in EPA’s history. This episode is the first in a year-long series of conversations with former EPA General Counsels, allowing listeners to hear first-hand accounts of their experiences at EPA.


The Amazon Rainforest is a hotbed of biodiversity and—perhaps most crucial to our current climate crisis—stores approximately 120 billion tons of carbon. But deforestation is threatening the Amazon at an alarming rate. Given the vast size and numerous stakeholders that rely on the rainforest, innovative and cooperative methods are needed to combat deforestation. In this episode, we talk to Professor Mark Ungar to learn more.


Do-It-Yourself biology, 3D printing, and the sharing economy are equipping ordinary people with new powers to shape their biological, physical, and social environments. This phenomenon of distributed innovation is yielding new goods and services, greater economic productivity, and new opportunities for fulfillment. Distributed innovation also brings new environmental, health, and security risks that demand oversight, yet conventional government regulation may be poorly suited to address these risks. Dispersed and dynamic, distributed innovation requires the development of more flexible tools for oversight and government collaboration with private partners in governance. In this episode, Linda Breggin, Director of ELI’s Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs, and Anna Beeman, Research Associate, sit down with Prof. Albert C. Lin of the University of California, Davis, School of Law to discuss some of the responses to the challenges raised by distributed innovation.


In this episode of People Places Planet Podcast, we listen in on a casual conversation between Special Agent Andrea Abat, a criminal investigator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Tracy Hester, a Professor at the University of Houston Law Center, on the field of environmental enforcement. Andrea Abat discusses her illustrious career investigating oils spills on the North Slopes of Alaska and anthrax in Washington D.C. She also provides valuable career advice for those looking to enter the environmental enforcement field. Professor Hester discusses advancements in environmental enforcement and the best advice he has received as a lawyer looking to enter the environmental field.


For more than a century, energy rate setting has been used to promote public good and redistributive goals, akin to general financial taxation. Various non-tax subsidies in customer energy rates have enormous untapped potential for promoting low-carbon sources of energy, while also balancing broader economic and social welfare goals. In Carbon Taxation by Regulation, 102 Minn. L. Rev. 277 (2017), Prof. Jim Rossi of Vanderbilt University Law School (VULS) argues that even though a carbon tax remains politically elusive, “carbon taxation by regulation” has begun to flourish as a way of financing carbon reduction. His article received Honorable Mention in the special “Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review” edition of ELR’s News & Analysis. In this episode, Linda Breggin, Director of ELI’s Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs, and Elizabeth Holden, a student at VULS, sit down with Prof. Jim Rossi to learn more.


At least 150 large companies have set goals to rely exclusively on renewable energy. These voluntary pledges can boost a company’s environmental image and can have a significant impact on the amount of generated renewable energy. But there are many different ways to get to 100% renewable power, all of which differ in the impact they have on the energy market. ELI recently published Corporate Statements About the Use of Renewable Energy: What Does the “100% Renewable” Goal Really Mean? In this episode, we talk to lead author Sofia Yazykova, a staff attorney at ELI, and Priya Barua, a Senior Manager with the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (formerly with the World Resources Institute), to learn what it really means when a company pledges to go 100% renewable. ELI created a handy terminology guide to help listeners follow along. Listeners may also be interested in this report from WRI. 


When it comes to the 573 federally recognized tribes in the United States, agriculture represents not just a source of food security, but an opportunity to express tribal sovereignty, drive economic development, and reclaim the cultivation of plants and animals central to a tribe’s culture across generations. Join Cynthia R. Harris, ELI’s Director of Tribal Programs, as she explores how tribes are taking on challenges, reclaiming traditional practices, and innovating in agriculture and food production with special guests  Zach Ducheneaux, Executive Director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council; Chris Roper with the Quapaw Services Authority; Pat Gwin, Environmental Resources Senior Director for the Cherokee Nation; and Colby Duren, director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law.


Since 2010, ELI has been supporting Gulf communities as they navigate the Deepwater Horizon restoration process. In this episode, Taylor Lilley, Public Interest Law Fellow, and Christina Libre, a Research Associate, speak with residents of coastal Mississippi to hear about the challenges and successes they have encountered engaging with the recovery process in the nine years since the spill, as well as their hopes for the future.


Last March, ELI Press released Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States, a "legal playbook" for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. With 35 peer-reviewed chapters and over 50 contributing authors, the book offers more than 1,000 legal pathways involving federal, state, and local law, as well as private governance. In this episode, we talk to the lead editors of the project, Professors Michael B. Gerrard and John C. Dernbach, and to some of the book's contributing authors, to get an inside look.


On average, Americans waste about 40% of their food. In this episode, we sit down with Linda Breggin, Director of ELI’s Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs and Project Coordinator for the Nashville Food Waste Initiative (NFWI), and Sam Koenig, a research associate at ELI. A project of the Natural Resources Defense Council, NFWI seeks to develop high-impact policies, strategies, and practical tools to serve as models for cities around the country. Linda and Sam discuss the scale and impact of food waste and the actions that are being taken to address it.


There have been a number of changes – or attempted changes – to the environmental legal landscape since President Trump took office on January 20, 2017. In this podcast, Ethan Shenkman, former Deputy General Counsel of EPA and current partner of Arnold & Porter, and Stacey Sublett, a shareholder with Beveridge & Diamond, discuss environmental law and policy in the Trump era and, more specifically, the limits of executive branch authority. The episode was brought to you in partnership with the American Bar Association Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice.


An increasingly fast-paced technological world requires a restructuring in environmental protection strategy. In our first episode, ELI President Scott Fulton and Dave Rejeski, Director of ELI's Technology, Innovation and Environment Project, discuss how environmental protection could be organized and implemented in the future. Their conversation stems from a recent paper they wrote on the topic, available free for download.


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