Morning Headlamp — Murkowski meets with industry leaders

March 29, 2016 | Posted in : News

“Welcome to our world.” In the face of Alaska’s multi-billion dollar budget deficit Sen. Lisa Murkowski hosted a panel with oil and gas industry stakeholders in Fairbanks to discuss potential economic solutions for the state. Panelists included ConocoPhillips Alaska president Joe Marushack; Lorali Simon, of Usibelli Coal Mine; Alyeska Pipeline Service Company head Admiral Tom Barrett; AHTNA president Michelle Anderson; Arctic Slope Regional Corporation vice president Richard Glenn; Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce president Lisa Herbert; and others. “Really, our hardest task is not in finding the resources or developing the know-how or recruiting the manpower needed to responsibly produce them,” Murkowski said. “Instead, it’s really overcoming the restrictions that are imposed, oftentimes by our own federal government.” “When there’s success for the explorer there’s success for our communities’ residents,” Arctic Slope Regional Corporation vice president Richard Glenn said. “If we were just victims of development, that’s the opposite end of the spectrum…the way we create alignment is investing in the only industry that’s been around in our region long enough to pay taxes.” Headlamp thanks Sen. Murkowski for discussing the issues being argued in Juneau with the communities and business who will actually be affected by such decisions.

According to a recent study from George Mason University’s Mercatus Center which examines the impact of federal regulations on each state, Alaska ranked as the 2nd most regulated state behind Louisiana—both LNG producing states. In fact, the top states all represented energy producing states.

The state is considering selling an additional 20,000–25,000 barrels per day of its royalty-in-kind oil to Tesoro Refining & Marketing Company as a way to prop up its finances. Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Myers’ office has negotiated a five-year contract with the company to sell some of the state’s North Slope royalty oil to be refined at Tesoro’s facility in Nikiski. The five-year contract is shorter than contracts in the past, giving the state more flexibility to respond to the changing market for North Slope oil. Tesoro will have a choice in how much royalty oil it purchases from the state each month. If Tesoro chooses to purchase the maximum amount from the state, between 45 and 68 percent of the total forecast North Slope royalty oil will go to the company, according to the Best Interest Finding.

Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins recently proposed an idea to create an 800-mile trail parallel to the trans-Alaska pipeline. He hopes that one day the trail will be similar in scope to trails in the Lower 48 like the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail — trails that showcase large swaths of America and are major tourism attractions. However, in a letter sent to Kreiss-Tomkins in February, Alyeska President Tom Barrett wrote there are “significant concerns” about safety to the public and pipeline if a trail were to open. People already have the ability to use the pipeline right-of-way. They can apply through Alyeska for a letter of non-objection or a right-of-way use guideline. That includes limited recreational use, according to Barrett’s letter. “As long as (the trans-Alaska pipeline) is an operating system, we believe that inviting public use of the right-of-way beyond these programs would be ill-advised,” Barrett wrote. Headlamp is concerned that a sitting legislator views the pipeline as a tourist attraction rather than the life-blood of Alaska’s economy.


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First Reads

Sen. Murkowski holds oil and gas development panel in Fairbanks
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Weston Morrow, March 29, 2016

New study names America’s most regulated states
CNBC, Scott Cohn, March 29, 2016

State banks on selling more oil to Tesoro
Peninsula Clarion, Elizabeth Earl, March 28, 2016

Could a ‘trans-Alaska trail’ parallel the pipeline? A state lawmaker hopes so
Alaska Dispatch News, Suzanna Caldwell, March 28, 2016


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Got Milked?

March 28, 2016 | Posted in : News

It’s déjà vu all over again.

If the ad below looks familiar, it should. It’s from 2007 – nearly 10 years ago – yet the message is as relevant and true today as it was then.

Change some of the figures and the chart and you would think this was a brand new 2016 advertising campaign. Back then, we were pointing out the rapid growth of state spending, and how the legislature was trying to “squeeze” more taxes out of the companies and actively discouraging investment through bad policies. Fast forward to present day, and we’re doing the same thing. It wasn’t the right move then and it isn’t the right move now. Treating the industry like a “cash cow” is bad for Alaskan jobs and Alaskan companies. The state needs to reign in its spending rather than trying to use the industry to balance their own checkbook.

This week, we’ll be bringing back a series of 2007 ads like the one below, highlighting the fact that the arguments and the situation in Juneau hasn’t changed. We’re still fighting the same fights. Headlamp doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.




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Morning Headlamp — Oil tax fight continues & EPA still not cooperating

March 28, 2016 | Posted in : News

Media misses the mark. Again. Alaska’s lawmakers continue to wrestle with various tax plans amid ongoing rock bottom oil prices. Critics of the current oil tax system claim that oil companies will be able to convert a portion of their losses into credits that won’t be applied until prices go up—meaning those credits will potentially be paid long into the future. Resources committee member Rep. Craig Johnson, said the new version of the bill still closes some loopholes that could otherwise give individual companies huge tax deductions for new oil development. “We did some of that while protecting our long-term investment and being able to get the oil out of the ground in the future,” Johnson said. “The policy is: We need a healthy industry. And I think the bill we put forward keeps us having a healthy industry while taking away some of the problems that we’ve got with the big fields and potential billion dollars in credits.” In a recent newsletter, the Alaska Support Industry Alliance has asked “should the oil industry remain a vital part of Alaska’s economy, or should the government use it as a slush fund to balance their checkbook?” Many groups have fought any reductions to the credit program, arguing that low oil prices are already causing companies to lose money. BP, for example, reported a $194 million loss for its Alaska operations in 2015. Headlamp Is not surprised, but disappointed that the Alaska Dispatch would intentionally mislead readers about oil tax revenue. Simply put: the state is receiving more in oil tax revenue than they are paying out in credits.

Nice try, EPA. According to the Alaska Dispatch News, the EPA is pushing back in a court fight over the stalled Pebble mine, suggesting that the project’s troubles stem from falling gold and copper prices, not government actions. Pebble filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2014 to secure the documents, but the EPA did not hand over all of what it was looking for. Pebble sued, and Alaska U.S. District Judge Russel Holland ordered the agency to review the documents the company was seeking. The federal agency apparently withheld 10 of the 130 requested documents. Now the EPA is pushing for records from Pebble. The agency is asking U.S. District Judge Russell Holland to force Pebble to provide documents on its mining plan, finances, lost investors and payments to select Pebble advocates and groups connected to the Bristol Bay region. There was nothing ambiguous about Pebble’s request, the agency’s lack of compliance, or Judge Holland’s ruling. The federal agency cannot avoid its misdoings by putting the blame back on Pebble. This will be an ongoing story—stick with Headlamp as we cover the latest.

 AKLNG facing hard times—and opportunity. According to a recent Forbes commentary, Alaska certainly has to tread carefully to not risk the future of the AKLNG megaproject. The ongoing low-price environment and industry pullback present a myriad of hurdles for the megaproject. However the commentary also notes that AKLNG has some advantages over its Lower 48 counterparts. The gas stream coming out of the North Slope will be richer (higher Btu value) than U.S. utility-grade gas out of the Gulf Coast and also higher than coal-seam gas out of Australia, another competitor. This makes Alaska’s gas more attractive to Asian buyers. Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Neil Beveridge said last week that “gas is structurally going to be in demand long term.”


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First Reads

Alaska’s general fund is paying the oil industry more than it’s getting back
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, March 26, 2016

EPA tries to extract wealth of records from stalled Pebble mine
Alaska Dispatch News, Lisa Demer, March 27, 2016

Oil Firms Slow Exploration to Weather Low-Price Era—Energy Journal
Wall Street Journal, Christopher Harder, March 28, 2016

My Turn: When dealing with low oil revenues, Alaskans should come first
Juneau Empire, Jack Rafuse, March 28, 2016

Alaska Has Hard Decisions To Make Amid Oil And Gas Price Plunge
Forbes, Tim Daiss, March 28, 2016

All eyes on Furie as company unveils oil-drilling plans in Cook Inlet
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, March 27, 2016

Alaska offshore oil and gas lease hearings scheduled
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, March 28, 2016


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Friday’s Fast Five

March 25, 2016 | Posted in : News

Headlamp wants our followers to always be up to date with the developments in Alaska’s economy, politics, and industry. Check out this week’s rundown of the stories affecting you.

Top Story of the Week

This week, Gov. Bill Walker’s proposal to increase taxes on oil production and reduce tax credits for the industry as a whole was met with criticism from a House committee. The replacement legislation would equate to roughly $50 million in total savings. The savings and new revenue claimed in the original bill – $400 million in from the elimination of tax credits and $100 million in new taxes – is being questioned by the legislature.  A new fiscal note with more accurate numbers could appear in House Finance next week.

Top Reads of the Week

U.S. top court backs moose hunter in Alaska hovercraft case
Reuters, Lawrence Hurley, March 22, 2016
The Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with an Alaska moose hunter who contended the federal government overstepped its authority in banning hovercraft on National Park Service land in the northernmost U.S. state.

Judge: EPA ‘improperly’ withheld Alaska mining documents
The Hill, Devin Henry, March 22, 2016
A federal judge has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to give the court documents related to its consideration of a controversial mining project in Alaska, ruling he has “no confidence” in the agency’s ability to decide which documents should become public following an open records request.

Alaska fiscal forum focuses on working together
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Robin Wood, March 24, 2016
A majority of participants at a Fairbanks economic forum addressing Alaska’s multi-billion dollar budget deficit seem to support both raising revenue through taxes and using part of the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for state services, potentially putting them at odds with the Alaska Legislature.

Quote of the Week

“It’s a viable project at this point but we’ve got to get to a point where we know whether it’s really economical or not”— Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole


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Fact Check: Trust, but verify.

March 25, 2016 | Posted in : News

Over the past week Governor Walker, multiple Alaska media outlets, Tax Division Director Ken Alper, and Democratic legislators have repeated the same false narrative that in FY2017 the State of Alaska will spend more money on oil and gas credits than it will receive in petroleum revenue. They claim the state will pay out $825 million for oil and gas credits, versus bringing in only $690 million from oil and gas revenues. This is wrong, and misleads the Alaskan public into thinking that we should raise taxes on the industry.

Headlamp is here to set the record straight. According to the Department of Revenue Spring Forecast book, the state is projected to bring in $1.0128 billion in TOTAL PETROLEUM REVENUE in FY2017. It must be stated that the $825 million figure for oil and gas being thrown around is a projection; and in fact is $200 million higher for FY2017 due to Gov. Walker’s “kick the can down the road” veto of oil and gas tax credits last year. Given the low price of oil, and cutbacks in industry activity, Headlamp is doubtful of this large figure.

The Walker administration is focused only on unrestricted general fund petroleum revenue ($690 million) instead of the whole picture which shows, once again, the oil and gas industry providing the overwhelming majority of the state’s revenue. Headlamp is severely disappointed in the statements made by members of the Walker administration, and the media. We hope Governor Walker and the media correct their statements and will tell the Alaskan public the truth.

Healthy public dialogue can only occur when people are given the facts. This seems to be a recurring theme, so maybe it’s the administration’s strategy?

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Morning Headlamp — More letters from Gov. Walker

March 25, 2016 | Posted in : News

According to the Associated Press, in a letter to legislators Wednesday, Walker said three things must happen this year for a sustainable balanced budget: reduced spending; restructuring of Alaska Permanent Fund earnings and the dividend program that provides an annual payout to most Alaskans; and new revenues that include some form of a broad-based tax. House Speaker Mike Chenault said Thursday talks are underway with the chamber’s Democratic-led minority in an effort to craft a spending and revenue package that can garner broad support. Chenault said he told Walker early on he doubts each of the bills in Walker’s revenue package will pass. But he said the bills will be vetted in committee and legislators will look at what level of support there might be for them. Gov. Walker’s letters have said that not agreeing on a plan is “wholly unacceptable.”

“I don’t know if that letter did anything except give you guys something to write about,” House Majority Leader Charisse Millett told reporters Thursday. “He doesn’t need to communicate by press.”

Headlamp would encourage the administration to stop blaming others and start contributing to the solution. The budget introduced by the Governor barely touched the operating budget. The public has demanded significant cuts but those demands have fallen on deaf ears in the administration.  There is no courage in taking money from the private sector to feed an already bloated government. 

Governor Bill Walker will be holding a “fiscal crisis” town hall in Fairbanks today to talk about the budget. The deficit just this week grew by more than $500 million, to about $4 billion, with the release of a revised outlook at new revenues. The event comes a day after Plan4Alaska, a Rasmuson Foundation-funded group, hosted a fiscal policy forum at the Carlson Center.


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First Reads

Talks have begun between Alaska House majority, minority
Associated Press, Becky Bohrer, March 24, 2016

House Majority Responds to Gov. Walker’s Call for New Revenues While Senate Prepares for Special Session
Alaska Commons, Craig Tuten, March 24, 2016

Walker to lawmakers: Putting off sustainable budget is ‘wholly unacceptable’
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Andrew Kitchenman, March 24, 2016

Canadian company seeks to ship oil sands crude through trans-Alaska pipeline
Robert Hannon, KTOO, March 24, 2016


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Morning Headlamp — Tough crowd for Walker’s ‘solution’ & Australia’s LNG megaproject shelved

March 24, 2016 | Posted in : News

In a letter to legislators yesterday Governor Bill Walker said lawmakers must come up with “a complete solution” to the $4 billion budget deficit and that they could find themselves in a special session unless they pass a budget funded in part by a “broad-based tax. “There’s been some tendency on the part of the administration to start throwing around orders to the Legislature, and we just don’t respond to that,” Fairbanks GOP Sen. Pete Kelly, a committee co-chair, said at the time. He added: “I’m not getting into the tax business while I know government is still too big.” If Walker is looking for a ‘complete solution’ why is he consistently turning his back on an industry that touches every part of Alaska’s economy? Headlamp would like Governor Walker to keep his word about reducing the operating budget and include that as part of the “complete solution”. 

Does anyone beyond Headlamp see the irony in Alaskans supporting an income tax on those who earn more than $100,000 at the same time that the industries that pay those type of salaries are laying off thousands of workers? Hundreds of residents attended the Rasmuson Foundation’s Plan4Alaska town hall meeting on state finances at the Carlson Center on Wednesday. Attendees took polls on the state’s fiscal challenges. About 90 percent of participants said budget shortfalls should be addressed by both cuts and new revenues, about 70 percent supported an income tax on people who earn more than $100,000, and almost 100 percent supported smaller dividends from the Alaska Permanent Fund. Plan4Alaska is a $2 million educational campaign funded by the Rasmuson Foundation. Panelists consistently talked about the need to diversify Alaska’s economy, create and invest revenue without hindering businesses and work together on all available options. Similar town hall meetings are planned in Palmer at 5:30 p.m. today and in Kenai at 11:30 p.m. Friday.

Down under. Woodside Petroleum Ltd. has shelved proposals for its $40 billion liquefied-natural-gas project  off Australia’s west coast due to belt-tightening and the slump in oil prices. Last year, an analyst from the International Energy Agency warned that some $200 billion in Australian LNG projects, even at $60-a-barrel oil prices, wouldn’t break even for investors. With other LNG projects faltering around the world, Alaska has to react before it’s too late. We need smart, long-term policies that can help keep AKLNG on track in a low price environment.

And the winner is…..James Brooks of the Juneau Empire for the most misleading headline and gross misrepresentation of the facts by a major news outlet. Under the headline Committee approves bigger subsidy for oil… the Juneau Empire described the actions taken by the House Resources Committee as if they were giving the industry new credits. Headlamp is happy to help the Empire and Brooks understand – the credits were already in place, the Governor introduced a bill to take them away and raise taxes on the industry, the committee modified some of the cash grab to reduce what the Governor was taking.   In plain English; the committee approved more credits than what the Governor proposed, but still cut the amount of credits available for industry. Instead of going with Walker’s plan (that the Alliance fully opposed), members of the House committee decided to emphasize potential future production instead of immediate cost savings that would jeopardize industry investment and activity. Their revised bill saves $45 million to $60 million per year over the next three years and preserves more of the state’s credits which have led to more production and more jobs.


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First Reads

Gov. Walker to lawmakers: We need a new tax this year
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, March 23, 2016

Fiscal forum focuses on working together
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Robin Wood, March 24, 2016

 Big Oil’s Next Big Energy Problem
Wall Street Journal, Spencer Jakab, March 23, 2016

Committee approves bigger subsidy for oil and gas drillers
Juneau Empire, James Brooks, March 23, 2016

Savings on tax credits for oil and gas not as high as proposed
Alaska Public Radio News, Andrew Kitchenman, March 23, 2016

State projects $2B investment loss
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Elwood Brehmer, March 23, 2016


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Headlamp Extra Edition: HB 247 Update

March 24, 2016 | Posted in : News

Should the oil industry remain a vital part of Alaska’s economy or should the government use it as a slush fund to balance their checkbook?

These were the opposing philosophies on display Tuesday night as HB 247, Governor Walker’s oil and gas tax credit legislation was debated. The bill passed out of House Resources late that evening by a vote of 7-2.

Co-chairs Nageak and Talerico were joined by Speaker Chenault and Representatives Olson, Herron and Johnson in their efforts to maintain a tax policy that has led to more investment and more production.  Representatives Tarr, Seaton and Josephson authored the majority of amendments seeking to solve the state’s budget crisis by increasing taxes on the industry. The administration’s claims that the bill would save the state $400 million in FY 2017 and generate $100 million in additional production tax revenue were not convincing and the committee passed the bill with an indeterminate fiscal note, asking the House Finance Committee to work to provide more accurate numbers.

Forty-five amendments were debated by the Committee with 4 passing:

  • Amendment 1 by Co-Chair Nageak was a technical amendment to correct miscellaneous items and clarify aspects of the bill.
  • Amendment 2 by Co-Chair Nageak put the definition of “outstanding liability” back into the bill to define it for both taxpayers and readers of statute. HB 247 as offered by the Governor included this definition, it was removed from the committee substitute and this amendment reinserts it.
  • Amendment 3 by Representative Seaton requires a $250,000 surety bond from exploration and development companies applying for a tax credit to pay unsecured creditors first in the event of bankruptcy. This provision is intended to protect Alaska’s support industry from companies who declare bankruptcy without paying Alaska contractors.
  • Amendment 24 by Representative Tarr requires the newly-created Legislative Working Group, tasked with developing a plan for Cook Inlet, to “include members of the majority and minority caucuses.”

HB 247 will be heard in the House Finance Committee this morning at 9:30am. Headlamp suggests you be aware of two points as this legislation continues through the process:

  • 90,000 Alaskans voted to keep SB 21 in place, and members of the minority are openly stating they are trying change parts of that law. Remember, under SB 21 we are producing 17,500 more barrels per day than previously forecasted. The people’s voice, and the Governor’s promise to leave SB 21 alone, should stand.
  • And most importantly, be very wary of the numbers being used in the HB 247 debate. The fiscal notes were not accepted by the House Resources Committee, and there’s a very good reason for that. The Administration needs to provide accurate numbers that allow people to ponder the real impacts of this Legislation, not throw around inaccurate figures and false promises of savings and new revenue.

Stay tuned to Headlamp…

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Morning Headlamp — Another court win for AK & potential additions to AGDC board

March 23, 2016 | Posted in : News

Sen. Mia Costello and House Speaker Mike Chenault have proposed adding two non-voting lawmakers to the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp as AKLNG megaproject discussions intensify. The state-sanctioned gas line corporation would hold portions of Alaska’s interest in the liquefaction facilities. The Senate is expected to consider Costello’s bill on Wednesday. “It’s a viable project at this point but we’ve got to get to a point where we know whether it’s really economical or not,” said North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill. Adding legislators to the gas line corporation board would give lawmakers better insight into issues facing the board, said Chenault in a statement. Headlamp hopes that adding lawmakers to the board can keep the megaproject aligned and on track. We also hope that if the bill passes, the expanded board will still be efficient. Stick with Headlamp as we follow.

Another court win for Alaska. According to The Hill, a federal judge has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to give the court documents related to its consideration of a mining project in Alaska, ruling he has “no confidence” in the agency’s ability to decide which documents should become public following an open records request. Pebble filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2014 to secure the documents, but the EPA withheld 10 of the 130 requested. EPA’s inspector general ruled in January that it found “no evidence of bias” in its assessment of the gold and copper mine.

Alaskan lawmakers are still waiting on an update from Governor Bill Walker on his plan for AKLNG. His office said more details would be available in early March, though Walker has since adjusted that date to next month. “We have to be very cautious that he just doesn’t go off and do his own thing — or if he does, it’s with the consent and consultation of the Legislature,” Sen. Pete Kelly co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said in an interview. “Clearly, the project is in flux right now. But there remains a surprising amount of confidence by some pretty big players in this project, given the price environment right now. You’d think it would just be coming apart at the seams, and it’s not,” said Kelly. Headlamp strongly encourages the Governor to update lawmakers on his plans for the megaproject as soon as possible. Much of Alaska’s economic future hinges on a major LNG project. The state can’t afford to risk losing more private investment because of bad political decisions.


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First Reads

Bills propose adding legislators to gas line board
Alaska Dispatch News, Rashah McChesney, March 22, 2016

Judge: EPA ‘improperly’ withheld Alaska mining documents
The Hill, Devin Henry, March 22, 2016

Gas line project in flux as lawmakers wait for update from Gov. Walker
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, March 22, 2016

Alaska fiscal policy forum set for Wednesday in Fairbanks
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Robin Wood, March 22, 2016

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Increased Production – An Inconvenient Truth

March 22, 2016 | Posted in : News

The release of the 2016 Spring Revenue preliminary forecast yesterday was used by the Walker administration in an attempt to convince legislators and Alaskans that an additional $300 million reduction in forecasted revenue must be addressed by adopting his budget plan.  The governor even went so far as to threaten a special session if the legislature didn’t adopt his plan.

What the Governor failed to include in the discussion was the revision of the production estimates – an increase of 17,500 barrels per day based on actual daily production levels from the last eight months.

Headlamp doesn’t feel the need to point out the difference between “forecast” and “actual.”

Headlamp will, however, point out that acknowledging increased production is occurring, doesn’t fit with the Walker Administration’s “Keep it in the Ground” resource development plan nor HB 247 – the administration’s bill to remove the incentives that have led to increased production and would change oil taxes for the sixth time in 11 years.

In the coming weeks, as HB 247 makes its way through the process, the legislature, as well as Alaskans, need to decide if we favor this “keep it in the ground” approach or if we prefer to maintain the policies that have led to increased production.

Stay tuned to Headlamp for the impacts HB 247 will have on Alaskan companies, Alaskan jobs and Alaska’s economy.

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