New Hazardous Waste Exemption for Airbags

November 26, 2018
EPA has issued an interim final rule exempting the collection of airbag waste from hazardous waste requirements as long as certain conditions are met. With this rule, EPA is facilitating a more expedited removal of defective Takata airbag inflators from vehicles by dealerships, salvage yards and other locations for safe and environmentally sound disposal.
Under this rule, EPA has exempted from the RCRA hazardous waste requirements the generation and accumulation of airbag waste at the airbag waste handler location and during transport to an airbag waste collection facility or designated facility, as long as certain conditions are met. Once collected at the airbag waste collection facility, the airbag waste will be managed as RCRA hazardous waste and must be sent to RCRA disposal or recycling facilities.
In 2015, the DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a Coordinated Remedy Order for the recall of defective Takata airbag inflators, finding that it is imperative to accelerate the rate of the Takata recalls because each airbag inflator had the capacity to rupture when deployed, presenting an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.
The risk with the airbag inflators increases with time and exposure to heat and humidity. In 2018, Takata underwent a restructuring due to bankruptcy and DOT amended its Preservation Order regarding returned inflators. Under the amended order, vehicle manufacturers are no longer required to send recalled inflators to Takata warehouses for long-term storage but may now send them directly for disposal. With this interim final rule, EPA is further facilitating airbag management away from long-term storage and to final disposal.
While the Takata recall is the impetus for the rule, the airbag waste exemption also includes non-Takata airbag waste. Managing all airbag waste under the same protective requirements will avoid confusion, increase efficiency and will help prevent non-Takata airbag waste from being diverted into the municipal waste stream.
EPA is seeking comment on this interim final rule, but the rule will become effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. The comment period will be open for 60 days from the time the interim final rule is published in the Federal Register. EPA will consider these comments in determining whether any additional revisions to the regulation of airbag waste are necessary in the future.
Some of the changes adopted in the new rule include:
  • Properly managed airbags will not count toward hazardous waste generator status
  • Airbag waste handlers will be allowed to accumulate up to 250 airbag modules or airbag inflators for up to 180 days, whichever comes first
  • Airbag waste must be packaged in a container designed to address the risk posed by the airbag waste and must be labeled “Airbag Waste – Do Not Reuse.”
  • Airbags must be sent to either a hazardous waste TSDF, or waste collection facility in the US under the control of a vehicle manufacturer or their authorized representative, or under the control of an authorized party administering a remedy program in response to a recall under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Airbag waste handlers must maintain records that document off-site shipments and confirmations of delivery of airbag waste for 3 years (a hazardous waste manifest is not required)
  • Recalled airbags man not be recycled for reuse as airbags
  • State regulations that have not adopted this exemption will remain in force, until adoption by the state
EPA will hold a webinar about this interim final rule on December 6, 2018. Find out more and register here.
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Washington Proposal to Revise Dangerous Waste Regulations
The Washington Department of Ecology has proposed to amend Chapter 173-303 WAC, Dangerous Waste Regulations. These regulations set standards for the safe management of dangerous wastes. Ecology plans to amend specific sections of the dangerous waste regulations to incorporate new federal hazardous waste rules. The proposal will restructure the regulations for easier use and improved compliance. The proposed changes in the dangerous waste regulations will affect most dangerous waste generators.
These changes may affect how generators manage their dangerous waste, adding regulations for solvent-contaminated wipes, recycling of dangerous waste, electronic manifests and dangerous waste import and export. Other amendments include several minor state-initiated technical changes, editorial corrections, and clarifications.
Revisions that adopt recent federal EPA changes in the regulations:
  1. Conditional Exclusions for Solvent-Contaminated Wipes
  2. Definition of Solid Waste: Revisions to Solid Waste Variances and to the Definition of Legitimacy
  3. Revisions to the Export Provisions of the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Rule
  4. Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule
  5. Hazardous Waste Export-Import Revisions
  6. Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Rule
State-initiated changes include, but are not limited to:
  1. Changes to the PCB waste exclusion reducing duplicative regulation of state-only PCB wastes also regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act 40 CFR 760
  2. Above-ground signage requirements for underground dangerous waste tanks
Ecology is planning on to adopt new rules around January 30th, 2019, with an effective date of April 30th, 2019.   
Oklahoma DEQ Offers Funding Opportunities for Local Emergency Planning Committees
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) expects to be able to help local emergency planning committees (LEPCs) with equipment reimbursement opportunities. The funding will be available during the current fiscal year, which began on July 1, 2018, and ends on June 30, 2019.
The Hazardous Waste Fund affords DEQ resources for the protection of public health and safety that includes providing basic emergency response training and protective equipment. Funding must be for projects that directly benefit the local population served by the LEPC and first responders. Equipment reimbursement agreements will be provided on a first come, first serve basis with priority given to those that have not previously received funding. Each LEPC should limit their request to a maximum of $3,000. Agreements are contingent on the availability of funds. The funds are derived from fines collected through the Hazardous Waste Program.
LEPCs interested in these opportunities or individuals interested in communicating with their local LEPC can contact DEQ’s Clifton Hoyle at 405-702-5215, via email at or Kristen Bliss at 405-702-5158, via email at
Revisions to NSPS for Wood Heaters
EPA has taken steps toward ensuring that the Agency’s new source performance standards (NSPS) for new residential wood heaters are based on what the Agency calls real-world conditions. The proposed amendments would provide relief for consumers, retailers and manufacturers by allowing the sale of wood heaters that meet the latest emissions limits through May 2022. Over 90% of wood heating device manufacturers and retailers are small businesses. This action is expected to save approximately $33 million in regulatory costs from 2019 – 2022.
“Extending the sale of new, Step 1-compliant wood heaters will provide manufacturers and retailers with much-needed certainty and will incentivize more Americans to purchase newer, cleaner heaters, which supports rural economies and improves air quality,” said EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler. “We are also taking comments on the testing methods underlying the Step 2 limit to ensure the standards are based on real-world conditions and do not deprive many rural Americans of affordable access to their primary source of heat.”
“Maine applauds the EPA’s efforts to revise the 2015 Residential Wood Heater NSPS. We support the improvement of Step 2 wood heater emission standards to ensure they are based on reproducible testing methods using cord wood, which better represents real-life operations,said Marc A. R. Cone P.E., Director, Bureau of Air Quality, Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “This provides opportunity to establish the most appropriate emission standards for each residential wood heater technology based on representative data and sound scientific methods.”
EPA’s proposed amendments to the 2015 NSPS for Residential Wood Heaters would provide consumers additional time to purchase already-manufactured wood-fired hydronic heaters and forced-air furnaces that meet the latest emissions limits before they are required to sell units that meet tighter limits due to take effect in 2020. The proposal would not change the effective date of the tighter emissions limits; however, it would allow retailers to “sell-through” or sell existing inventory of heaters meeting current emissions limits through May 2022.
In a separate action, known as an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), EPA is seeking comments on several aspects of the 2015 rule, including the testing that is used to determine whether wood heaters meet EPA requirements. Since the 2015 rule was issued, EPA believes that current testing requirements may lead wood heater manufacturers to design appliances that do not reflect their actual use – and that may not achieve the environmental benefits contemplated in the rule. The 2015 rule is based on tests that burn standardized configurations of lumber, rather than tests that burn logs – the type of wood a typical homeowner would burn for heat.
The Agency is seeking comments on the existing testing method, along with comments on the 2020 compliance deadline for the tighter emission limits for forced-air furnaces, hydronic heaters, and wood stoves. EPA will review the comments on the ANPRM as it develops a second proposal covering these additional issues. Comments on the ANPRM will also help EPA as it develops test methods for wood heaters that are based on the type of firewood a typical homeowner burns.
This action does not apply to wood heaters that are currently in use in people’s homes, or to fireplaces, backyard barbecues, chimineas, or fire pits. The proposed amendments would help ensure that, in the future, customers buying wood heaters anywhere in the United States will be able to choose from cleaner-burning models that operate in real-world conditions.
EPA will take public comment on the proposed rule for 45 days and the ANPRM for 75 days after they are published in the Federal Register. The Agency will hold a public hearing on the proposed amendments to the 2015 rule in mid-December. 
Ohio Public Hearing on Access to EPCRA Data
On behalf of the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Division of Air Pollution Control (DAPC) has proposed a new rule Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) rule 3750-90-01, “Applying for Access to Information.” The rule is being proposed to establish the framework for public information requests made to the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) and county Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) regarding information submitted and/or collected under ORC Chapter 3750, Emergency Planning.
Pursuant to Section 121.39 of the Ohio Revised Code, DAPC was required to consult with interested parties affected by the rule before the Division formally adopts it. On April 26, 2018, these rules went out for a 30-day review by interested parties. One set of comments was received. Responses to comments can be seen on Ohio EPA's website, linked below.
A public hearing on this new rule will be conducted on Thursday, December 20, 2018 at 10:30 AM at Ohio EPA, Lazarus Government Center, 50 W. Town Street, Suite 700, Columbus, Ohio. All visitors to Ohio EPA must register at the Security desk in the lobby upon arrival. Please bring photo identification (such as a valid driver's license). For security reasons, visitor's are required to wear their badge at all times while in the building. Please arrive early to complete these procedures.
All interested persons are entitled to attend or be represented at the hearing and give written or oral comments on these rule changes. Oral comments presented at the hearing, and written statements submitted at the hearing or by the close of business on December 20, 2018, will be considered by Ohio EPA prior to final action on this rule. Written statements submitted after December 20, 2018, may be considered as time and circumstances permit, but will not be part of the official record of the hearing.
These rules are available on DAPC's Web page for electronic downloading. The URL is: and see the information under the "proposed rules" tab. Questions or comments about these rules may be directed to Jeff Beattie at Ohio EPA, (614) or mailed to Jeff Beattie, Ohio EPA, Division Air Pollution Control, Lazarus Government Center, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049.
Seven Companies Cited for Anhydrous Ammonia Violations
EPA announced seven settlements with companies in four New England states for alleged violations of chemical accident prevention and reporting laws. All the cases address the safe use of anhydrous ammonia in refrigeration and cooling units. Collectively, the seven companies have spent more than $750,000 to comply with the laws and will pay more than $580,000 in penalties to settle EPA's claims of alleged violations.
"These settlements reflect EPA's commitment to protect New Englanders from exposures to hazardous chemicals in the places they live, play and work," said EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn. "These agreements will improve compliance with important laws that help protect communities and provide critical resources for local emergency responders and communities."
Anhydrous ammonia is an efficient but toxic refrigerant. EPA is working to prevent ammonia releases from industrial refrigeration systems by helping companies comply, enforcing violations of chemical accident prevention and reporting laws, and hosting workshops to help emergency responders safely address ammonia leaks.
Anhydrous ammonia is used at a variety of businesses, such as cold storage warehouses, food processing, dairies, ice-makers, and skating rinks. It does not deplete the ozone layer as some other refrigerants do, but ammonia has some dangerous properties and must be handled with care. The chemical is highly corrosive, and inhaling ammonia gas can be fatal. It is also flammable at certain concentrations in the air, which is one reason why refrigeration machinery rooms must have proper ventilation.
More information on the settlements:
  • Finicky Pet Food, Inc. of New Bedford, Mass., in September agreed to certify to EPA it was in compliance with federal clean air laws, pay a $89,140 penalty, and provide almost $100,000 worth of protective clothing to the New Bedford fire department. EPA alleges that the company failed to annually report the presence of hazardous chemicals to emergency response and planning agencies, as required by the federal Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act. The company also allegedly violated "General Duty Clause" requirements of the Clean Air Act that apply to ammonia refrigeration systems that have less than 10,000 pounds of ammonia, by failing to properly assess the refrigeration system for hazards; maintain and label piping and equipment; appropriately store combustible materials; and have adequate ventilation and ammonia alarms.
  • McCain Foods USA, Inc., Easton, Maine agreed to pay a $225,000 penalty for alleged violations of the Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act and the Clean Air Act's Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions, commonly known as the risk management planning rule. McCain, which produces frozen potato products, uses anhydrous ammonia in two refrigeration processes at the facility and stores more than 10,000 pounds of ammonia, the threshold for the risk management planning rule. The settlement also requires McCain to work with local emergency responders on a plan to notify local Amish residents in the event of an ammonia release, as Amish families may not have modern communications equipment.
  • Twenty-Five Commerce, Inc of Norwalk, Conn.agreed to correct alleged violations and pay a $27,095 penalty for failing to notify the National Response Center of an ammonia release under the Superfund law and failing to submit required reports to emergency response and planning agencies under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. EPA inspected the facility after a 2016 ammonia release was detected by employees of a neighboring company. The company also was not meeting standards of care expected under the Clean Air Act's General Duty Clause.
  • Guida-Seibert Dairy Company of New Britain, Conn., agreed to pay a $157,214 penalty to settle allegations the company violated the risk management planning rule of the Clean Air Act and chemical release reporting requirements of the Superfund law. After EPA inspected the New Britain dairy, a clamp truck accidentally ran into an ammonia feed line, causing an ammonia release.
  • The Maine Wild Blueberry Company of Machias, Maine, a subsidiary of Oxford Frozen Foods, agreed to pay a $53,000 penalty to settle allegations it had violated the risk management planning rule at its blueberry processing plant and cold storage warehouse in Machias. One of EPA's concerns was that the nearest team of emergency responders with the training needed to enter buildings during an ammonia release was located hours away. After the inspection, the company made changes to ensure local fire fighters would never have to enter the facility to turn off key equipment and ventilate ammonia.
  • New England Sports Management Corporation of Marlborough, Mass., which runs a large ice skating rink complex in Marlborough, agreed to pay a $24,263 penalty to settle claims that the company had not completed a required hazard review nor submitted reports notifying emergency responders about the presence of ammonia at its ice rink. The company uses anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant to keep the ice frozen.
  • High Liner Foods (USA), Inc., of Portsmouth, N.H.agreed to pay $7,200 for alleged violations of the risk management planning rule at its cold storage warehouse.
The companies all cooperated with EPA's New England regional office. Two of these settlements were with companies that EPA inspected after ammonia releases occurred, and five cases were undertaken to prevent such releases.
These settlements are part of an EPA National Compliance Initiative to reduce risk to human health and the environment by preventing chemical accidents.
EPA Has Updated Its Information Collection Policies
EPA’s Office of Water and Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance have each issued a memorandum clarifying the processes each office will use for collecting information from the regulated community. Through these updates, EPA has committed to engaging with the regulated community, working to reduce unnecessary burden, and ensuring that the agency’s own internal processes are clear and consistent.
“EPA is changing the way we do business,” said EPA Office of Water Assistant Administrator David Ross. “One of my top priorities is to enhance the way we work with all of our stakeholders, including the regulated community, to generate more effective environmental management. The updates we are making today will help ensure that our internal processes support the exchange of information and the development of common sense and cost-effective regulations that protect our nation’s waters.”
“Information collection is an important tool to assist our efforts to improve compliance with environmental laws,” said EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine. “This memo captures best practices that will help us collect information consistently and efficiently, while providing recipients with clarity and reduced costs.”
The Office of Water’s memorandum updates the process for requesting information under Section 308 of the Clean Water Act. The memorandum provides guidelines for narrowly defining the information the agency is requesting. It updates the senior management approval process for initiating the information collection request process. It also puts an emphasis on engaging with the regulated community early in the process so that information can be exchanged in a clear and concise way, with the goal of reducing the need for formal information request letters. 
The Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance memorandum focuses on the use of information requests for all compliance and enforcement related activities including Section 114 of the Clean Air Act and Section 3007 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as well as Section 308 of the Clean Water Act. It does not address information requests for developing regulations. The memo includes best practices on using the most efficient methods for obtaining information for compliance and enforcement, including gathering information informally; providing clarity to recipients on requests and the process to respond; and reducing transaction costs for both the recipients and the government.
Through both memoranda, EPA is working to reduce the burdens the agency’s information collection request processes pose on the agency and the regulated community, while ensuring that the agency continues to receive the information it needs to protect public health and the environment.
New Tools to Test and Treat Additional PFAS, Including GenX, in Drinking Water
EPA announced an updated and validated way to test for an additional four per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water, including the GenX chemical, hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA). PFAS are man-made chemicals used in a wide range of products because of their ability to repel water, grease, and oil. They are found in everyday items such as food packaging and non-stick, stain repellent, and waterproof products including clothing and other products used by outdoor enthusiasts. The updated tools are part of EPA’s efforts to increase the amount of research and information that is publicly available for chemicals in the PFAS family.
”EPA’s validated method, EPA Method 537.1, will ensure that both government and private laboratories can accurately and consistently measure 18 PFAS in their drinking water, which is a critical step for estimating people’s exposure and potential risk to PFAS," said EPA Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science, Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta. “This affirms EPA’s commitment to providing ways for states and tribes to address PFAS in their communities.”
Additionally, EPA has provided information that will help states, tribes, and local communities make the best choices about how to treat PFAS contaminated drinking water based on their specific needs. EPA has evaluated the effectiveness of several drinking water treatment technologies to remove a variety of PFAS. EPA has also evaluated costs associated with the drinking water technologies based on the type of PFAS that need to be treated.
EPA is continuing to work to develop a PFAS Management Plan that will provide the Agency’s approach to addressing PFAS challenges and will be released as soon as possible. While the updated methods are part of the management plan, the Agency is releasing them now to ensure that communities across the country have access to this information as soon as it is available.
EPA will host a free webinar on November 28, 2018 at 2:00 pm EDT to provide an update on Agency efforts to develop and validate analytical methods, as well as information specifically on this updated and validated method. To register, please visit
PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries since the 1940s. They are found in everyday items such as food packaging and non-stick, stain repellent, and waterproof products including clothing and other products used by outdoor enthusiasts. EPA’s drinking water treatability database includes treatment options for PFAS, including GenX chemicals.
EPA Method 537, which was first published in 2009 to initially determine 14 different PFAS in drinking water, has been updated to include 4 more PFAS. This includes the GenX chemical HFPO-DA, as well as three additional PFAS [11-chloroeicosafluoro-3-oxaundecane-1-sulfonic acid (11Cl-PF3OUdS), 9-chlorohexadecafluoro-3-oxanone-1-sulfonic acid (9Cl-PF3ONS), and 4,8-dioxa-3H-perfluorononanoic acid (ADONA)].
Mercury May Reach Orbit Through Regulatory Blindspot
Federal regulators have turned a blind eye to the massive risks of using mercury as the propellant in thousands of communication satellites slated for launch in the next few years, according to a complaint filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The complaint charges that unregulated orbital mercury emissions could reverse global progress in reducing mercury in the environment.
The complaint concerns a plan by an American company, Apollo Fusion, to use elemental mercury as a propellant in thrusters for satellites to be launched by communications companies taking advantage of the coming boom in satellite “mega-constellations” designed to provide global Internet broadband service starting in 2019. Under these plans, the approximately 1,500 satellites currently orbiting the planet will soon be increased nearly ten-fold.
Due to its high density, mercury is an excellent propellant. Apollo Fusion has developed thrusters using liquid mercury as the onboard propulsion to maintain altitude and adjust orbits. The liquid mercury is vaporized into a gas, ionized, and accelerated out of the thruster. Those mercury atoms will then drift down through the stratosphere to the earth’s surface, mostly onto the world’s oceans.
“Using mercury as a satellite propellant is a cosmically bad idea,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Kevin Bell, noting that while relatively cheap, commercial use of mercury is increasingly avoided due to its major adverse environmental effects. “Unfortunately, the FCC is focused solely on the satellite payload and bandwidth while ignoring the emissions and downstream consequences of what is launched.”
The complaint takes FCC to task for its decision to let satellite operators self-certify their technology will have no significant impact on human health or the environment, a practice contrary to federal law and treaty obligations. Currently, the FCC only examines satellite payload and its electromagnetic frequency.
By contrast, U.S. law requires any federal agency to assess the full environmental impact of its actions.
Mercury is a potent bio-accumulative neurotoxin. A global treaty, The Minamata Convention, obligates its 128 signatories to take steps to reduce mercury releases. The U.S. was the first signatory. However, large-scale orbital discharge of mercury could reverse planetary progress in reducing mercury emissions. In addition, a launch pad explosion of a satellite carrying liquid mercury would, among other problems, severely contaminate the local area under a cloud of mercury mist.
“Federal regulators need to take steps now to prevent this nightmare scenario,” Bell added, pointing out that mercury emissions in low orbit are effectively equivalent to mercury emissions from a powerplant. “The U.S. has both treaty and moral obligations to prevent this eco-catastrophe from occurring.”
Federal Climate Report Confirms Climate Change Threat
A new federal report finds that climate change is affecting the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, and human health and welfare across the U.S. and its territories.
Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), released by the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), focuses on climate change impacts, risks and adaptations occurring in the U.S. The report contains supporting evidence from 16 national-level topic chapters (e.g., water, oceans, energy, and human health), 10 regional chapters and two chapters that focus on societal responses to climate change. USGCRP also released the Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR2).
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is one of 13 federal agencies that contributed significantly to the Fourth National Climate Assessment.  The following are some key findings of the report:
  • Human health and safety, our quality of life, and the rate of economic growth in communities across the U.S. are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.  
  • The cascading impacts of climate change threaten the natural, built and social systems we rely on, both within and beyond the nation’s borders.
  • Societal efforts to respond to climate change have expanded in the last five years, but not at the scale needed to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.
  • Without substantial and sustained global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and regional initiatives to prepare for anticipated changes, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.
Agriculture and food production
  • Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly challenge the quality and quantity of U.S. crop yields, livestock health, price stability and rural livelihoods.
  • Continued changes to Earth’s climate will cause major disruptions in some ecosystems. Some coral reef and sea ice ecosystems are already experiencing transformational changes, affecting communities and economies that rely upon them.
Water and the coasts
  • Changes in the quality and quantity of fresh water available for people and the environment  are increasing risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry and recreation.
  • Climate change will transform coastal regions by the latter part of this century, with ripple effects on other regions and sectors. Many communities should expect higher costs and lower property values from sea level rise.
  • Climate change threatens the health and well-being of the American people by causing increasing extreme weather, changes to air quality, the spread of new diseases by insects and pests, and changes to the availability of food and water.
The consensus of 13 federal agencies, as released last week in the 4th National Climate Assessment is that the US is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, on average, than it was a century ago and will warm at least another 3 degrees, and perhaps much more, by 2100, unless the world moves swiftly to cut its use of coal, oil and gas.
Brenda Ekwurzel, the director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists and one of the NCA4 report authors said, “this report makes it clear that climate change is not some problem in the distant future. It’s happening right now in every part of the country. When people say the wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves they’re experiencing are unlike anything they’ve seen before, there’s a reason for that, and it’s called climate change.”
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