Archive for the ‘Eco News’ Category

Heartland Presentation

Friday, May 28th, 2010

I’ll post up illustrated speaking notes in a day or two, as well as some comments. May 20 – Annotated version online here.

I’ve noticed two incomplete versions online.

One version is on Youtube in three parts here. It misses the last few minutes of the talk, but I prefer this version to the version on the Heartland website (which presently stalls at 20:46) because it includes some of the graphics – which were shown on a large screen to the audience and were an integral part of the presentation – and because it picks up audience reaction to the occasional ironic remark a little better.

Youtube part 1

Youtube part 2

Youtube part 3

Here is the Heartland version.

I’ll comment more on this later, but I’ll pick up on a couple of points that is occasioning blog discussion. These arise out of caveats at the beginning and end of my talk (the latter not online at present). In questions afterwards, people challenged me for not being angry, for discouraging angriness and for criticizing Cuccinelli. I received dozens of compliments from people at the conference.

Some blog characterization of my comments e.g. at Keith Kloor and Pielk Jr- somewhat mischaracterize my comments. Academics tend to be surprisingly poor listeners – all too often they fold people’s comments into their preconceived framework. Lawyers tend to be far better listeners.

CA readers know that I express myself carefully and try to make my opinions as narrow and precise as possible. As I previously stated in several CA posts, I disagree with Cuccinelli for a variety of reasons. Cuccinelli is seeking to establish an offence under section 8.01 -263.1 of Virginia act (here). I discussed this briefly in my speech as follows:

Despite the failures of the inquiries to do their job, I strongly disagree with Cuccinelli’s recent investigation of potential financial abuse. Regardless of what one may think of the quality of Mann’s work, he has published diligently. In my opinion, Cuccinelli’s actions are an abuse of administrative prerogative that on the one hand is unfair to Mann and on the other provides easy fodder for people to avoid dealing with the real issues.

All I’m saying here is that I do not think that there is prima facie evidence of a section 8.01 offence. I realize that Cuccinelli has the “right” to investigate section 8.01 offences, but I do not believe that his present interest in Mann arises out of search criteria arising out of section 8.01 – there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of government expenditures that would be on a short list generated by accounting criteria. This is too much like instigating out a tax audit on political enemies.

There are real issues in this file that should have been investigated by the appropriate inquiries. People who are worried about these things should complain to institutions responsible for the inquiries – not instigate section 8.01 investigations.

Source: Climate Audit

BP and the Climategate Inquiry

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Four weeks ago, how many of you knew that BP was the largest oil and gas producer in the United States – larger than ExxonMobil? Put up your hands. Nobody? I didn’t either.

How many of you had seen BP’s green advertisements – “beyond petroleum”, wind turbines turning lazily in a summer breeze – sort of a corporate equivalent of gambolling in a meadow in slow motion? All of you? Thought so.

Recent events have obviously placed BP into the public eye – with questions now being asked about their green lobbying.

What has this to do with Climategate inquiries?

David Eyton, BP Group Vice President, Research & Technology, is a member of the Muir Russell panel. Only one submission (mine) criticized his presence on the Muir Russell panel. There was total radio silence from climate scientists. Why was this perpetually outraged community so silent? More on this later.

Eyton’s bio is particularly interesting in the present circumstances.

David joined BP in 1982 from Cambridge University with an Engineering degree. During his early career, he held a number of Petroleum Engineering, Commercial and Business Management positions. In 1996, he was named General Manager of BP’s North West Shelf interest in Australia. David later managed Wytch Farm in the UK and then BP’s Gas Businesses in Trinidad. In September 2001, he became Lord John Browne’s Executive Assistant in the company’s London headquarters. Following that assignment, David was Vice President of Deepwater Developments in the Gulf of Mexico and prior to his current role was BP’s Exploration and Production Group Vice President for Technology.

That’s right — Vice President, Deepwater Developments Gulf of Mexico. BP’s Deepwater Gulf of Mexico operations are what make it the largest oil producer in the United States. A big and important job, to say the least. So what’s our David doing making little analyses of CRU emails for the Muir Russell inquiry? See minutes here. Definitely a dig-here.

It’s interesting to re-examine Eyton’s prior publications both in the context of the BP well blow out and the Muir Rusell inquiry.

In 2005, Eyton published The journey to deepwater operatorship, which I’ve placed online here. Eyton’s reflections show a clear awareness of the new and difficult technical problems of operating in the deep and ultra-deep:

Deepwater GoM may be one of the most prolific new basins in the world, but it is still a frontier province. … And in addition, we have to cope with extreme natural environments, the “ultra-deep” in terms of both reservoir and water depths, complex seabed geotechnics and severe metocean conditions in the form of both loop currents and hurricanes.

These are new challenges for the industry, and challenges which are being addressed at an ever-increasing pace. We find ourselves designing floating systems for 10 000 ft of water depth before the lessons of working in 6000 ft have been fully identified. And these new challenges are not just depth-related. Failure mechanisms, such as fatigue, driven by vortex-induced vibration (VIV) and vessel motion, are time-dependent and may take years to become apparent. The same is true of equipment reliability. We know the premium associated with hardware reliability is high, but at this stage, operators still have a limited failure database for forecasting the required levels of intervention in ever-deeper and more remote environments.

Eyton counselled:

In particular, be rigorous in front end loading, and very clear about the scale and nature of the “size of the step” you are seeking to take. Recognize that what may initially appear to be an incremental change can often turn out to be much more profound. Develop multiple contingency plans. And be prepared to work closely with suppliers to drive up reliability and reduce risk.

Eyton’s presentation is noted in a near-contemporary July 2005 conference. The paragraph immediately following Eyton’s presentation described a 1628 design failure arising from the left hand not reconciling with the right hand:

The Swedish warship Vasa, with a fast keel and the finest guns, suffered from design changes that caused the ship to sink within 1 nautical mile of the start of her maiden voyage in 1628. Last-minute design modifications ordered by the king without consulting expert partners caused the costly vessel to go under. Panel Moderator Sandeep Khurana, Senior Specialist with J.P. Kenny Inc., invited operators and contractors to examine oil and gas industry collaboration through lenses of the same color. Deepwater fields are becoming more complex and challenging, and average field size is falling slightly, so there is a real need for innovation in contracting to bring projects through to success. “Investments are high and failure is not an option, so how do we collaborate?” asked Khurana. “Is a commercial arrangement the path to perfect collaboration? Are there inherent conflicts in the way we perceive our roles and rewards? How do operator/contractor objectives mesh?”

Questions that seem timely when BP, Transocean and Haliburton try to blame the other. The author of this analogy, Don Vardeman,
Kerr-McGee Vice President Marine Engineering, pointed out that the same barriers to collaboration on large project developments exist today as they did in 1628, listed these impediments to successful collaboration:

• Imitation rather than real understanding of ideas.
• Goal confusion.
• Obsession with speed.
• Failure to incorporate test feedback.
• Communication barriers.
• Poor organizational memory or knowledge transfer.
• Meddling by top management.

In 2008, as noted above, Eyton was appointed Group Vice President, Research & Technology.

He attended the first meeting of the Muir Russell inquiry on Feb 4, 2010.

A few days later (Feb 9, 2010), he attended the Carbon Mitigation Initiative Ninth Annual Meeting Conference at Princeton – a BP sponsored program – where he presented the BP Review of 2009. Michael Oppenheimer, who appeared opposite me in my CNN appearance on Campbell Brown, is shown as a key figure in the Initiative. A variety of BP executives attended the conference; also in attendance were Daniel Schrag, Director of the Center for the Environment, Harvard University, Steven Hamburg, Chief Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund and a number of other notables.

Due to this prior commitment, Eyton missed the press conference unveiling the Muir Russell inquiry on Feb 11. His attendance at the Muir Russell meeting of Feb 25 is noted, together with the item that UEA had not received money from BP in recent years (though they had contributed generously to Geoffrey Boulton’s Royal Society of Edinburgh, which was conducting the inquiry).

At the March 20 meeting, Eyton was said to have presented an analysis of emails – to be published on completion – I don’t know how someone with as big a job as Eyton would be able to do the sort of thorough job of analyzing the emails that he would expect of an engineer for a BP offshore exploration rig. Eyton attended the April 1 Muir Russell telecon meeting, at which a David Walker materializes as a staffer for the first time (joining Mike Granatt of Luther Pendragon communications and William Hardie of Roy Soc Ediburgh).

On April 19, Eyton was scheduled to deliver a speech in Stanford on governance but was grounded by the Iceland ash. The speech is online here.

Eyton’s speech on governance distilled some important lessons from BP’s operations that Muir Russell (and Eyton) have flouted in their conduct of the Muir Russell inquiry. Eyton discussed the problems of resolving disputes in a community concluding that: unless citizens feel some kind of ownership in the project, you are not going to be successful.

In some instances, the challenges are so great that we form independent advisory committees, also known as ‘blue ribbon’ panels.

For example, in Azerbaijan, we had to build a pipeline from Baku to Tbilisi through Georgia and Turkey at a time when there were quite a few tensions there. We listened to and learned from a wide range of international, national and local stakeholders. The independent panel, under Jan Leschly’s chairmanship, advised us on the things that might not naturally occur to us, including the effects on the local community and political, economic and social conditions. We also sought advice from scientists who had a thorough understanding of that country’s geology. Today the pipeline is carrying one million barrels per day to the Mediterranean.

The same thing happened in West Papua, where we had to move a village in order to be able to build the plant. That is an extremely difficult thing to do well. This time, the independent panel was chaired by former US Senator George Mitchell and included local community leaders. All parties worked together not just to move part of the village, but to rebuild it better. The project is operational today, and the local residents seem happy with the results.

The lesson is: unless citizens feel some kind of ownership in the project, you are not going to be successful.

Unless citizens feel some kind of ownership….

Despite these wise words about governance, the Muir Russell has done exactly the opposite. Despite Muir Russell’s undertaking to exclude panelists with ties to the university or to the climate science debate, Geoffrey Boulton was appointed. Graham Stringer pointed out the panel’s lack of balance, but Muir Russell repudiated the point. Stringer observed: “I think you might find more credibility to your report if you have reputable scientists from both sides. It is a political issue really.” Stringer’s point here is the same point that Eyton had previously made – but ignored in his capacity as a Muir Russell panelist.

The lack of representation is made worse by the failure of the Muir Russell inquiry (or other inquiries) to make the slightest effort to talk to key critics and Climategate targets. The Oxburgh “inquiry” was even worse – breaking every governance rule described in Eyton’s speech.

Given that Eyton is BP Group Vice President for Research & Technology – especially one with prior direct experience in the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater, one would expect Eyton to be visible in the present controversy. But I’ve only seen one mention so far, Platt’s reporting a May 17 statement by Eyton to a conference in Australia. (I guess Eyton was taking a break from analyzing CRU emails.)

In my February submission, I had opposed Eyton’s membership on this panel precisely because of his oil company connections. Now I’m rather looking forward to seeing BP’s position on using a “trick … to hide the decline”. If similar language crops in BP’s correspondence about the Gulf of Mexico deepwater, I doubt whether US regulators would be quite as blase as climate scientists.

Source: Climate Audit

BP Discharge Rate

Friday, May 28th, 2010

I was talking to a friend of mine today who knows about pumps and asked him what he reckoned the velocity of the BP blow out to be from the video feed. He guessed about 3 km/hour (1.88 mph). (In these sorts of things, I value opinions from practical guys – I don’t think that you need to be a professor of fluid mechanics to guess at flow velocities.)

Let’s assume that his guess is right within an order of magnitude/ The diameter of the riser pipe is apparently 21 inches =21*.0254 m= 0.5334 m. The volume of the blow out would therefore be: 3000 (m/hr) *pi *( 0.5334/2)^2 = 670.374 m^3/hour = 670,374 liters/hour.

One bbl oil = 158.987 liters. Thus 670,374/158.987 = 4216 barrels/hour
I.e. 101,184 barrels/day. (Phil Worley of Purdue estimated 70,000 bbl/day.

In order to get 5,000 barrels/day, you would have to have a discharge velocity of 0.1 mph instead of my friend’s guess of 2 mph or a smaller effective pipe diameter. [See update below as this latter seems to be the case, though not down to 5,000 bbl/day. Looks like 15-20,000 is more probable.]

I wonder how they arrived at their estimate of 5,000 barrels/day. Maybe their Group Vice President, Research and Engineering should have spent more time trying to figure this out and less trying to hide the trick to hide the decline.

Updategood news. It appears that the “top kill” was successful and the blow out is sealed. The article contained new estimates of discharge rates by the US Geological Survey about 3-4 times higher than BP’s, but not 10-20 times higher:

Marcia McNutt, the director of the US Geological Survey, estimated that the flow ranged from 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day.

Up to now, BP estimated the leak at 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) per day, but has said that figure is unreliable.

Update: Re-doing these calculations with suggestions made by readers – 9 7/8″ pipe and 50% gas and the same discharge velocity (3 km/hour) yields a bit over 11,000 bbl/day.

Pipe area is pi *(0.250825/2)^2 # 0.0494119 m^2
Volume discharge is 0.0494119* 3000 # 148.2357 m^3/hour
i.e. 148.2357 *1000 /158.987 #932.3762 #bbl/hour
Oil discharge is 24 hours *932.3762 bbl/hour *.5 # 11188.51 bbl/day

Source: Climate Audit

Humpback whale rescue may not be over

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Boaters and shoreside observers along the Washington and British Columbia coasts are being asked to watch for a humpback whale dragging lines with buoys attached.

When the Cascadia team first encountered the humpback whale, it had multiple lines wrapped around it. The line around its head was one of those later cut off. (Click to enlarge)
Photo courtesy of Cascadia Research

John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research in Olympia called me last night to report that his crew had failed to find the whale yesterday after helping to free the animal of several tangled lines attached to multiple crab pots the day before.

Work on Thursday off La Push involved cutting lines to free the head, back and tail of the humpback. Short video segments, which can be downloaded from Cascadia’s website, reveal how difficult this work was for the crew, consisting of Calambokidis, Jeff Foster and Annie Douglas.

As the crew struggled to free the lines Thursday, the wind and seas became rough and hard to deal with, so team returned to shore to get additional tools they would need to free the whale, John said in a report on Cascadia’s website. “They had also sustained self-inflicted damage to their boat during the effort (a puncture of one of the pontoons) that was repaired on the 13th (Thursday),” he wrote.

Even though the whale was not found yesterday, John said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the animal is OK, though it probably still has some lines attached.

He said the whale may have become more mobile as a result of the crew’s success in freeing some of the lines. A fisherman Thursday night apparently saw the animal about a mile from where it had become entangled.

Friday’s search by boat failed to spot the whale or pickup a signal from a VHF transmitter that had been attached to one of the buoys. The transmitter has a range of about 10 miles but does not transmit under water, so either the whale moved a good distance from where it was or else the buoy had somehow become submerged.

The Coast Guard has been transmitting a message up and down the coast asking mariners to watch for the whale.

The Cascadia Team as well as Makah tribal boats are on standby this weekend to rescue the whale if it is sighted. Anybody who spots the animal is asked to report the location but not approach the animal or cut any lines, since the VHF transmitter is probably still attached.

The national Marine Mammal Hotline to call with reports is 1-800-853-1964.

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Source: Watching Our Water Ways

Amusing Monday: Outrageous underwater sex acts

Friday, May 28th, 2010

“Planet 100″ on, with host Sarah Backhouse, features a series of short videos called “Top 5.” They’re mostly fun and informative, including the one shown here on YouTube called “The Top 5 Outrageous Underwater Sex Acts.”

I’m sure the producers of the program realize that the title alone will attract viewers, and these marine organisms really do have some odd mating behaviors. But this was not the most watched of the “Top 5″ videos on YouTube. That honor goes to — wouldn’t you know it? — the Top 5 Superhero Animals, about animals taking unusual steps to save people from peril. One of the animals was a beluga whale in an aquarium, who helped a paralyzed diver get to the surface.

The following are some other “Top 5″ that you may wish to watch. These and more are rounded up on the YouTube site as well as Discovery’s Planet Green site, which includes a text description.

Except for the “Celebrity Websites,” I guess these are fairly serious — especially the top 5 oil spill disasters of all time:

Top 5 Green Celebrity Websites: YouTube, Planet Green

Top 5 Worst Oil Catastrophes: You Tube, Planet Green

Top 5 Fortune Green Predictions for 2010: YouTube

Top 5 Disappearing Glaciers: You Tube, Planet Green

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Source: Watching Our Water Ways

Blowout survivor’s dramatic tale offers new details

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Sunday’s “60 Minutes” program revealed a lot to me about the blowout on the Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

On the technical side, survivor Mike Williams describes a series of human errors in operation and judgment that may have caused the blowout. On the human side, Williams’ dramatic account of his narrow escape from death is riveting.

If you haven’t seen the program, I suggest you go to the website for “Blowout: The Deepwater Horizon Disaster” and play the video segments along the left side of the page. If you have seen the program, the “extras” may interest you. I know I was wondering what happened to the young woman who Williams told to jump from the rig as fire enveloped them. Her fate was not described on television, but her rescue is explained in the “extras.”

I would not be surprised if a movie producer is already scrambling for the right to tell Williams’ story, but that’s another matter.

The imbedded video here is Part 2, which begins with Williams’ escape from the oil rig, then launches into a discussion about the possible cause of the blowout. Reporter Scott Pelley’s explanation, with graphics, puts things in simple terms — including how the blowout preventer may have become damaged during operations, how backup control equipment went unrepaired, and how decisions about managing well pressure during shutdown may have led to the fiery gusher.

I have to remind myself that we have not seen a report of the investigation, though one is under way by the Coast Guard and Mineral Management Service. Over the weekend, President Obama apparently decided to create a commission to look into the incident as well, according to ABC News. and the Associated Press.

At this point, we don’t even have a complete response or description from BP managers who operated the drilling rig. So I will be cautious in drawing conclusions, but it is becoming clear that company personnel made not one but a series of fatal errors likely to be described in detail before this incident is put to rest.

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Source: Watching Our Water Ways

Work ready for summer, as Skok studies go on

Friday, May 28th, 2010

The work of ecosystem restoration is not easy, but does it have to be this hard?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is spending $4.4 million to study the Skokomish River and its ecosystem in enough detail to understand the workings of this complex river system. What was it that turned this river — once narrow, deep and swift — into a river wide, shallow and slow much of the time?

Nobody expects a simple answer for a river that is long and branching with many streams flowing in, as the waters drop out of the mountains and emerge into a flat valley. But the Army Corps of Engineers and many assisting agencies have tackled the job of trying to understand the river in mathematical terms.

The wait for answers is frustrating for many people, particularly farmers in the Skokomish Valley, as I point out in a story I wrote for today’s Kitsap Sun. It’s not the first story I’ve written about this frustration, and it probably won’t be the last.

The Corps has completed some work along the way, and we should start to see some of those studies soon. I’m not sure how many people will be able to understand them, but it would be nice to know for certain that something is getting accomplished. Even those with the most optimism and faith in this process are beginning to wonder what this “general investigation” is all about.

Meanwhile, as the floods continue, an amazing amount of restoration work is scheduled for this summer. As I mentioned in today’s story, there are three sections of the river where people are taking significant steps to improve the natural functions:

— In the upper Skokomish watershed, the U.S. Forest Service continues to decommission old logging roads and replace culverts to reduce sediment loads getting into the river. This summer, more than 30 miles of roads are scheduled to be taken out with other improvements planned along the popular Brown Creek Road.

— In the South Fork of the Skokomish, about 25 engineered logjams will be installed this summer to improve salmon habitat, including spawning riffles, resting pools and hiding areas. The project, a joint effort of the Forest Service and Skokomish Tribe, is expected to cost about $650,000.

— In the Skokomish estuary at Hood Canal, a $3-million restoration of Nalley Island is planned, including the removal of 2.5 miles of dikes and 2 miles of interior roads. Tide channels will be restored through the property, connecting with Hood Canal. The project is expected to improve habitat for all species of salmon and shellfish, reduce flooding upstream and possibly improve the low-oxygen problem plaguing Lower Hood Canal.

I will provide more details on these projects when they get under way. If you haven’t read my series on the Skokomish River, you can find it on its own web page.

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Source: Watching Our Water Ways

Studies examine effects of drugs on ecosystems

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Investigations are under way throughout the world to determine if drugs that people take for various medical conditions are getting into the environment and affecting other species.

So far, the answers are not entirely clear, but studies have shown that pharmaceutical compounds are getting into the water through sewers and septic systems. A story I wrote for today’s Kitsap Sun involves water samples taken in Poulsbo’s Liberty Bay, where extremely low levels of several compounds were found.

Despite intensive studies, effects on the environment remain uncertain. Part of the problem is the vast number of pharmaceutical compounds being consumed by people, while the compounds themselves are often found in very low levels in our waterways.

A good number of studies are focusing on the effects of synthetic estrogen, because there is growing evidence that the sex ratios of fish are being altered near some sewage-treatment plants by constant exposure to such compounds. Elsewhere, laboratory studies are exposing fish and other organisms to a wide array of medical compounds at various levels to see if effects can be observed.

It is a complex field of inquiry, according to researchers I’ve interviewed. Sometimes effects are not observed in fish exposed to the chemicals, but show up in their offspring. Some changes may be too slight to notice at first but may be observed after several generations.

The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Check out the main page for general information or review the various areas of investigation.

The U.S. Geological Survey also is focusing studies on environmental effects of pharmaceuticals.

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Source: Watching Our Water Ways

Amusing Monday: When kids control the flow

Friday, May 28th, 2010

If you wish to see an impishness rise up in a young child, hand him or her a running water hose, offer a simple instruction and stand back.

Dozens of parents have tried this, as you find out if you go to YouTube and search the site for “kids” and “water hose.”

Before choosing these specific videos for your amusement, I watched dozens of clips showing wet kids holding a hose. My wife Sue, who suggested the idea, helped me pick the finalists.

Now, Sue is looking forward to when the weather turns warm enough for us to hand our 2-year-old granddaughter a water hose in our backyard and videotape the results.

By the way, the Kitsap Sun has a great community gallery for people to upload photos and videos and share them with the Kitsap community.

Here are a few of the videos showing kids with a hose, with an extra surprise thrown in at the end.

His first drink from a hose

Her steady hand

He’s a fine little helper

Firefighters get in on the fun

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Source: Watching Our Water Ways

Cuccinelli v Mann

Friday, May 28th, 2010

This is a repugnant piece of over-zealousness by the Virginia Attorney General, that I condemn.

Obviously, I think that Mannian effusions have negligible scientific value. However, the people in the field think otherwise and organizations like NSF seem ready and willing to lavishly fund analysis that seems to me to be little more than paleo-phrenology. Cuccinelli’s complaint lies with NSF rather than Mann.

To the extent that Virginia citizens are concerned about public money being misappropriated, Cuccinelli’s own expenditures on this adventure should be under equal scrutiny. There will be no value for dollar in this enterprise.

It’s hard to think of ways to resuscitate the public image of a guy who, only last week, was threatening to sue Minnesotans For Global Warming. Many people, including me, were relishing the prospect of discoveries back and forth between Mann and Chicken Little. Instead, Cuccinelli has become an even bigger bully.

I intend to write Cuccinelli expressing my disdain for his actions.

I might add that this is not the first time that I’ve volunteered support to Mann in this sort of nonsense. I was copied on one of Keenan’s attempts to instigate a fraud investigation against Mann and immediately made it clear that I did not support or endorse the request, strongly disapproved of it and even offered Mann my support.

To the extent that there are issues with Mann or Jones or any of these guys, they are at most academic misconduct and should be dealt with under those regimes. It is unfortunate that the inquiries at Penn State and UEA have not been even minimally diligent, but complaints on that account rest with the universities or their supervising institutions and the substitution of inappropriate investigations by zealots like Cuccinelli are not an alternative.

Cuccinelli interviewed here

Source: Climate Audit


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