Sustainable Development

USDA Biofuel Production Grants to Sustain Jobs at Renewable Energy Facilities in 39 States

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced $8.8 million in grants to biofuel production facilities in 39 states sustain jobs.

USDA biofuel grants

USDA biofuel grants (Photo –

The funding is being provided through USDA’s Advanced Biofuel Payment Program, established in the 2008 Farm Bill. Grants are made under this program to biofuels producers based on the amount of advanced biofuels produced from renewable biomass.

To date, USDA has made $308 million in payments to 382 producers in 47 states and territories. These payments have produced enough biofuel to provide more than 391 billion kilowatt hours of electric energy.

The latest round of $8.8 million in funding is going to renewable energy facilities in 39 states. Most of the recipients are producers of advanced biofuels using wood pellets, biodiesel transesterification, ethanol, and some anaerobic digester facilities.

For example, Scott Petroleum Corporation in Itta Bena, MS, is receiving a $13,165 payment to produce more than 2.6 million gallons of biodiesel from three million gallons of waste, non-food grade corn and catfish oil and poultry fat. The biodiesel produced is distributed throughout Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Quad County Corn Processors Co-Op of Galva, IA is likewise receiving a $2,011 payment to convert more than 39 million gallons of corn kernel fiber into 660,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol. The company converts the fiber into ethanol and other products using a process developed by their own researchers.

Investments in renewable energy and the biobased economy are a leading part of USDA’s commitment to mitigating climate change and promoting a clean-energy economy. All told, USDA has invested $332 million since Jan 2009 to accelerate research on renewable energy ranging from genomic research on bioenergy feedstock crops, to development of biofuel conversion processes and costs/benefit estimates of renewable energy production.

Also since 2009, USDA has developed new markets for rural-made products, including more than 2,500 biobased products through the BioPreferred program.

USDA’s Rural Development agency has been driving U.S economic development through $11 billion worth of investments since 2009 to start or expand 103,000 rural businesses, along with financing for 185,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines; and support for projects that have helped bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses.

Also during this period, USDA has helped 1.1 million rural residents buy homes, and funded nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities.

UN Launches Initiative to Promote Use of ICTs to Support Transition to Smart Sustainable Cities

Two United Nations entities have teamed up to launch a new global initiative to advocate for public policy that will promote the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a catalyst for the transition to smart sustainable cities.

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

UN Sustainable Development Goals (photo –

The new initiative, led by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), has been named the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) program.

U4SSC will assist the response to Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” The new initiative will focus on the integration of ICTs in urban operations and build on existing international standards and key performance indicators.

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said in a UN news release that “ICTs have become central to innovation in almost every sphere of social and economic activity, making collaboration essential in maximizing the contribution of ICTs to sustainable development.”

ECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach likewise noted that “The digital revolution can help us create intelligent transport, smart energy systems, resource efficiency and transparent and open societies. It can help us create sustainable development.”

Bach added that to achieve this we need trust and predictability, and we need common and neutral standards that can work across borders and technologies.

U4SSC was launched at the ITU-ECE Forum held in Rome earlier this month. The forum resulted in the Rome Declaration, which presents a 10-point manifesto for the transition to smart sustainable cities. The declaration promotes the use of internationally agreed key performance indicators and technical standards in service of sustainable development objectives in the urban context.

As a start, ITU and ECE presented a set of key performance indicators they have developed to measure the “smartness” and “sustainability” of cities, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Many cities, including Dubai, Singapore, Manizales, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Valencia, Rimini and others, have already agreed to trial these key performance indicators.

As of now, U4SSC is open to all UN agencies, municipalities, industry, academia and other relevant stakeholders.

On September 25th 2015, countries adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each of the 17 SDGs has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. You can see the full list of the 17 sustainable development goals and summaries of their targets at

Green Omni Terminal at Port of Los Angeles to Demonstrate Zero Emission Technologies

The Port of Los Angeles, in partnership with Pasha Stevedoring and Terminals L.P., is launching the Green Omni Terminal Demonstration Project, a full-scale, real-time demonstration of zero and near-zero emission technologies at a working marine terminal.

Green Omni Terminal at Port of Los Angeles

Green Omni Terminal at Port of Los Angeles (photo –

Funded in part by a $14.5 million California Air Resources Board (CARB) grant for reducing greenhouse gases and other pollutants, this will be the world’s first marine terminal able to generate all of its energy needs from renewable sources.

The clean energy technologies being implemented on this project are expected to reduce more than 3,200 tons per year of greenhouse gases and nearly 28 tons annually of diesel particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and other harmful emissions – equivalent to taking 14,100 cars a day off the road in the South Coast Air Basin.

The highlight of the project is a 1.03 megawatt photovoltaic rooftop array and a 2.6 megawatt-hour battery storage system, along with bi-directional charging equipment that can receive as well as supply power, and an energy management control system.

In addition to integrating zero-emission vehicles and cargo-handling equipment, the project’s goals are to reduce emissions at berth from non-regulated ships, and accelerate the development of commercially viable zero and near-zero emission equipment and solutions.

Jeffrey Burgin, Senior Vice President of Pasha, said in a statement that “We’re going to be the proving ground to change the paradigm of how large industrial facilities can run on clean energy. We’re confident we can show this is absolutely attainable.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti likewise noted that “The Port of Los Angeles is leading the world toward a sustainable future, and today we’re raising the bar again.”

CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols added that “It is exciting to see a project with so many emerging zero or near-zero emission solutions for handling and moving freight.”

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka focused on the how the project will impact the surrounding community. “The Green Omni Terminal Demonstration Project is a great example of moving forward to achieve greater emission reductions from port-related sources and improving air quality for those who live in the neighborhoods next to the port,” said Seroka.

The Green Omni Terminal is located adjacent to Wilmington, a community recognized by the state as disproportionately impacted by industrial pollution.

The total cost of the project is $26.6 million. The $14.5 million CARB grant accounts for more than 60 percent of the total available funding out of nearly $24 million in state grants available to reduce greenhouse gases and pollutants from facilities with multiple emissions sources. This program is part of the California Climate Investments, which use proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while providing a variety of additional benefits to California communities.

Sustainability is a key focus for the Port of Los Angeles, which facilitated $270 billion in trade last year, making it North America’s leading seaport by container volume and cargo value. Port operations and commerce have an outsize impact on Los Angeles economic development, facilitating more than 133,000 jobs (about one in 14) in the City of Los Angeles and 479,000 jobs (one in 18) in the five-county Southern California region.

Intergrow Sustainable Greenhouses in Webster, NY to Create 100 New Jobs

Intergrow Greenhouses, Inc. is expanding its greenhouse operations in New York State with plans for two new, 25-acre state-of-the-art commercial greenhouses in Webster, NY.


Intergrow (photo –

The produce grown will be local, year-round, hydroponically-grown tomatoes, a produce that typically requires warmer, distant climates.

The greenhouses will utilize state-of-the-art and sustainable growing practices, and product packaging will be performed on site. The Webster economic development benefits include the creation of 100 new green jobs, in addition to a steady supply of fresh and locally grown healthy vegetables for residents in the region.

The project also advances a key component of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council’s strategic plan by increasing the region’s agriculture and food production.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement that “By expanding its operations in the Finger Lakes, Intergrow is driving job growth in a vital sector of our economy while offering New Yorkers greater access to high-quality, locally grown produce.”

Dirk Biemans, CEO of Intergrow Holdings, added that “We continue to see a growing demand for locally grown, year-round produce from our customers and are excited to stay in Western New York where we have found an opportunity in Webster for a greenhouse project to produce this product.”

The company already has an existing greenhouse in Albion, NY. In order to secure this expansion for Webster, state and local agencies are offering an array of tax incentives, grants and loans. New York economic development agency Empire State Development is providing up to $750,000 in Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits, along with a $750,000 capital grant in return for job creation commitments.

The County of Monroe IDA has offered mortgage and sales tax abatements, as well as a 10-year standard PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes). The company is also getting a $400,000 economic development grant from Rochester Gas & Electric to help offset electric infrastructure costs, and Farm Credit East is providing a farm credit loan.

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said that “With these two new greenhouses, Intergrow will be able to expand its successful tomato production in New York State, create new jobs and supply fresh, healthy vegetables to residents of the region.”

Greater Rochester Enterprise President and CEO Mark S. Peterson noted that “Past positive experiences in our region as well as a qualified site with the necessary gas and electric supply helped insure Intergrow expanded in our community.”

NYSEG and RG&E President and CEO Mark S. Lynch added that “This project is also attractive to us from another perspective: its design incorporates sustainability and that aligns with our focus on environmental stewardship.”

DTE Huron Renewable Energy Center Opening Brings 25 Green Jobs to Bad Axe, Michigan

DTE Energy has announced the grand opening of their new Huron Renewable Energy Center in Bad Axe, MI.

DTE Huron Renewable Energy Center in Bad Axe, MI

DTE Huron Renewable Energy Center in Bad Axe, MI (photo –

The facility is creating 25 renewable energy operations and maintenance jobs for Bad Axe and Huron County, and has also put to good use a historic building that has been lying vacant for a few years.

DTE’s renovations of the building, which dates back to 1952 and has been the site of the M-53 Drive-In Theater and a Normans Warehouse, have transformed the space into a fully-functioning renewable energy operations headquarters with new offices, garage facilities, warehousing and a maintenance shop area.

David Harwood, director of Renewable Energy for DTE Energy, highlighted the Huron County and Bad Axe economic development benefits of the project. “We are excited to breathe new life into a building located on a site that has been a landmark in Bad Axe for years, and to provide yet another example of how renewable energy provides economic benefits to the local community,” said Harwood.

Furthermore, the renovations also include an as yet incomplete 3,000-square-foot space that DTE plans to develop into a community space to serve as an area for renewable energy education and hosting wind park tours, meetings and other community activities.

The location of the new Renewable Energy Center is ideal for DTE because they currently own and operate four wind parks and three solar arrays in Huron County alone. Harwood noted that the opening of the Huron Renewable Energy Center deepens their commitment of service to this region as both an energy provider and corporate citizen for many years to come.

Detroit-based DTE Energy (NYSE: DTE) is Michigan’s largest investor in clean energy, including wind and solar, having driven investments of more than $2 billion since 2008. Their entire renewable energy portfolio is capable of providing enough clean energy to power more than 400,000 homes – equivalent to a city three times the size of Ann Arbor.

In addition to the aforementioned Huron County wind and solar projects, DTE also owns two wind parks and 23 solar arrays in other areas of the state. What’s more, some of these projects have significant economic development benefits aside from the investments and job creation.

For example, DTE Energy recently announced that they are developing one of the largest urban solar power arrays in the United States on a 10-acre parcel of blighted and unused land in Detroit at the former O’Shea Park. The project will generate more than $1 million in tax revenue for the City over the life of the 20-year lease.

David Meador, vice chairman and chief administrative officer, DTE Energy, said in a statement at that time that “Not only will this new solar array enable DTE to deliver more clean energy to our customers, it is also a part of our efforts to help spur economic growth and prosperity in the neighborhoods we serve.”

Austin Gets EPA Report Under Federal Assistance Program to Green State Capitals

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given the City of Austin, TX a much-awaited report that provides recommendations for greenspace development along the city’s South Central Waterfront.

Austin SCW Vision Framework

Austin SCW Vision Framework (photo –

The EPA’s “Greening America’s Capitals” program helps state capitals develop an implementable vision of environmentally friendly neighborhoods that incorporate innovative green infrastructure strategies.

Specifically, EPA funds a team of designers to visit each city to produce schematic designs and illustrations intended to catalyze or complement a larger planning process for the pilot neighborhood.

These pilots are often the testing ground for citywide actions, such as changes to local codes and ordinances to better support environmentally sustainable growth and green infrastructure.

EPA works on this program in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The design team and EPA, HUD, and DOT staff also help city staff develop specific implementation strategies.

Back in Sept 2014, Austin was one of five cities selected to receive technical assistance from the EPA Greening America’s Capitals Program.

At that time, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement that “EPA is excited about the opportunity to work with five new capital cities as they pursue their vision of a more sustainable future through the Greening America’s Capitals program.”

In Austin, the assistance will help create design options for Austin’s South Central Waterfront (SCW), a 97-acre district on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake. The goal of the EPA assistance is to achieve green infrastructure that reduces stormwater runoff and localized flooding; improves pedestrian and bike connections; improves water quality; and provides more shade.

The South Central Waterfront Vision Framework Plan will guide public and private development, ensuring that park spaces, public gathering places, green streets and affordable housing are central to the future redevelopment of the area.

The EPA funded a design team, CMG Landscape Architecture, to work with City staff, residents, business owners, property owners and other stakeholders to develop elements to improve the public space.

The EPA report recommendations include an expanded waterfront park that provides better access from the street to the trail along Lady Bird Lake. Some sections from the EPA report will now be incorporated into the official Framework Plan, which the City Council will consider adopting on the ninth of next month.

The city is also working to develop a financial framework that will outline strategies to pay for the Austin economic development projects initiated under the Framework Plan. It will include recommendations for strategic capital investments, development incentives, value-capture strategies, and public-private partnerships to fund the Vision.

Read the full EPA Greening America’s Capitals report for Austin – Download (pdf)

Boston Economic Development Initiative to Create Green Jobs Through Urban Agriculture

Mayor Martin J. Walsh has announced $100,000 in funding for an innovative Boston economic development initiative called Urban Farming Pathways.

Urban farming in Boston

Urban farming in Boston (photo – Daquella manera/flickr)

As a start, this re-entry jobs training program is expected to create approximately 25 green jobs in its first year, and will provide local healthy food for underserved communities.

Specifically, twenty-five participants will be trained in urban agriculture practices during the program’s first year, and will help grow and distribute 5,000 pounds of healthy produce to 1,000 residents through five farmers’ markets in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan.

Mayor Walsh said in a statement that “In Boston we believe in second chances, and this grant will give young people in our community a unique skill set that will allow them to pursue meaning careers that positively impact our neighborhoods.”

Subject to a successful first year, the program aims to create a long-term partnership between re-entry workforce development and sustainable urban agriculture in the region, and will increase food access to jointly address the missions of all partnering organizations.

Youth Options Unlimited Boston (YOU) will house a program coordinator to oversee the initiative and work with City Soil, the Urban Farming Institute and other community partners to develop programming.

Partners for Places, a project of the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities, is providing half of the funding announced, with a matching contribution by The Boston Foundation (TBF). The Urban Farming Pathways program will cost approximately $320,000 during its first year. The rest of the funding will be covered by the Neighborhood Jobs Trust and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA).

Partners for Places creates opportunities for cities and counties in the United States and Canada to improve communities by building partnerships between local government sustainability offices and place-based foundations.

The Neighborhood Jobs Trust is a Massachusetts public charitable trust created to ensure that large-scale real estate development in Boston brings a direct benefit to Boston neighborhood residents in the form of jobs, job training and related services. BRA is the official urban planning and economic development agency for the City of Boston.

Trinh Nguyen, director of the City of Boston Office of Workforce Development (OWD), added that “Green industry is growing in Boston, and the Urban Farming Pathways Initiative is yet another pipeline that demonstrates this commitment to ensure that all residents are able to take part of the growth.”

Paul S. Grogan, president and chief executive officer of TBF, said in the release that “The Boston Foundation is pleased to partner with the City of Boston and a national funder like Partners for Places on this important issue.”

Grogan noted that sustainability is crucial to workforce development in general, particularly the development of inner city jobs.  “In fostering a strengthened and green-thinking workforce, this program drives home the point that the responsibility of sustainable development is shared by everyone in our community,” said Grogan.

Better Buildings Challenge Update – Over $1.3B in Energy Cost Savings, Three New Accelerators

At the third Better Buildings Summit, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and the U.S. Secretary for Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro shared progress updates and new commitments by Better Buildings partners, along with the announcement of three new Accelerators.

Better Buildings

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The increase in the number of Better Buildings Challenge partners and energy efficiency commitments have tripled since 2011, resulting in energy cost savings that now exceed the $1.3 billion mark and the avoidance of 100 million tons of harmful carbon emissions. Not to mention 2.1 billion gallons of water saved last year alone.

In 2011, 60 organizations representing almost two billion square feet of commercial and industrial building space took up the Better Buildings Challenge to improve the efficiency of their building portfolios by 20 percent or more. The financial community committed to almost $2 billion in energy efficiency financing.

There are now 310 Better Buildings Challenge partners who are set to achieve goals of at least 20 percent energy reduction within 10 years. Together, the amount of real estate and U.S. economic development investments and clean energy job creation they represent is massive. This includes 34,000 buildings and facilities covering 4.2 billion square feet (equivalent to 73,000 football fields), along with thousands of jobs and $5.5 billion dollars in energy efficiency investment.

Since the Better Buildings Challenge was launched, it has catalyzed more than $10 billion in public and private sector financing commitments to improve energy efficiency. The program has also enabled the creation of proven approaches, with over 400 solutions shared online in the Better Buildings Solutions Center.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement that “Thanks to a dedicated drive to actively create and share the best energy efficiency solutions, Better Buildings partners have dramatically cut their energy waste and saved more than a billion dollars since the Better Buildings initiative was launched five years ago.”

HUD Secretary Julian Castro likewise noted that housing can play a vital role in addressing the realities of climate change.

To complement Better Buildings Challenge partners, organizations engaging in Better Buildings Accelerators are part of unique collaborative networks designed to advance specific innovative policies and approaches as a way to accelerate investment in energy efficiency.

Already, more than 150 organizations in ten Better Buildings Accelerators have focused on distinct market challenges from outdoor lighting, energy performance savings contracting, and data centers.

To build on this, Sec. Moniz and Sec. Castro announced three new Better Buildings Accelerators.

One is the Clean Energy in Low Income Communities Accelerator that will work with local, state, and national partners to lower energy costs in low to moderate income communities.

The second one is the Combined Heat and Power for Resiliency Accelerator that will work with states, communities, utilities, and other stakeholders to support and expand the utilization of combined heat and power technologies for improved efficiency and enhanced resiliency.

The third one is the Wastewater Infrastructure Accelerator that will work with state, regional, and local agencies to strive toward a 30 percent reduction in their participating energy efficiency water resource recovery facilities and integrate at least one water resource recovery measure into their practices.

Salt Lake City Aims to Double Renewable Energy Powered Municipal Operations

Powered by the Rocky Mountain Power-sponsored Subscriber Solar initiative, Salt Lake City, UT is doubling down on its use of renewable energy for municipal operations.

Subscriber Solar

Subscriber Solar (photo –

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski was joined by Rocky Mountain Power CEO Cindy Crane for an announcement that the City’s use of Subscriber Solar will ramp up the amount of sustainable energy powering government operations from six percent to 12 percent by the end of the year.

In the State of the City address given earlier this year, Mayor Biskupski had said that “Salt Lake City’s request for a commitment from our energy provider to increase the use of renewable energy is achievable and sound policy to combat the effects of climate change.”

In the address, the Mayor also announced that the City has set a goal to have 50 percent of municipal operations powered by renewable energy such as solar, wind, and geothermal sources by 2020, and pledged to make the city’s utility sources carbon free by 2032.

Salt Lake City currently has more than 4,000 solar panels installed on its government properties. The new Subscriber Solar initiative will go a long way towards meeting the city’s sustainability goals by providing more renewable energy output than all municipal projects completed to date.

Specifically, Salt Lake City has committed to a subscription of three megawatts of solar power, or roughly 9,000 solar panels worth of clean energy. In addition, the City is planning new solar installations on multiple fire stations later this year.

Mayor Biskupski said in a statement that “We are thrilled to align with Subscriber Solar and invest in clean, carbon-free energy to better serve our community.”

Rocky Mountain Power CEO Crane likewise noted that Salt Lake City is once again showing its pioneering spirit by being the one of the first to sign up for the Subscriber Solar program and make a substantial commitment to renewable energy.

“It is our hope other communities, businesses and residents will follow Salt Lake City’s lead on Subscriber Solar,” added Crane.

Rocky Mountain Power’s innovative Subscriber Solar program allows customers to subscribe to some or all of their electricity to be sourced from clean solar power. Even customers who cannot afford rooftop solar panels or do not want them on their home can subscribe.

The solar power needed for this initiative is being generated from a new 20-megawatt solar farm in Holden, UT, located about two hours south of Salt Lake City. The farm project is scheduled to be operational by December, and enrolled customers will be switched over to the Subscriber Solar rate schedule starting in January next year.

Coalition for Urban Transitions to Make a Global Case For Sustainable Urban Development

The New Climate Economy, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) and the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities have announced the launch of the Coalition for Urban Transitions, an international initiative to make the economic case for better urban development globally.

Coalition for Urban Transitions

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The announcement was made by Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo during a breakfast briefing organized by C40 and the Compact of Mayors at the Climate Action Summit in Washington, D.C.

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group connects more than 80 of the world’s greatest cities, representing more than 600 million people and one quarter of the global economy. The current chair of the C40 is Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, and former NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg serves as President of the Board.

The New Climate Economy is the flagship project of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. The Ross Center, with a focus on urban sustainability, has more than 200 dedicated experts working in over 50 cities globally to affect sustainable urban change.

Managing urban development better can provide significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions and energy savings. Recent research has found that investing in compact, connected, and efficient cities could generate global energy savings with a current value of $17 trillion by 2050.

Aniruddha Dasgupta, Global Director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, the managing partner of the Coalition, said in a statement that just investing in sustainable transport offers not only social and environmental advantages but can also deliver savings of as much as $300 billion per year.

“Getting this kind of information – about the clear economic benefits of building better cities – into the hands of decision makers can help set us on a path where each country can start to reap the benefits of an urban dividend,” said Dasgupta.

C40 Chair and Mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes noted that the scale of the urbanization challenge is so large that even mayors who know about the economic and wider benefits of sustainable cities can’t do it alone. “We need national-level policy makers and economic planning to complement city-level efforts. That’s where the Coalition for Urban Transitions will play a big role,” said Mayor Paes.

The new Coalition’s work will be overseen and championed by an Urban Leadership Group comprising leading members of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate as well as other prominent individuals as Ambassadors.

Supporting the Coalition will be a Steering Group comprising leaders from a range of research institutions, think tanks, city networks, global organizations and strategic advisory companies. This includes, among others, the OECD, Bloomberg Philanthropies, McKinsey Centre for Business and Environment, the Urban Land Institute, LSE Cities at the London School of Economics and Political Science, PWC, Siemens, and the Global Green Growth Institute.

Find out more about the Coalition for Urban Transitions at

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