Stop Trump’s Dirty Energy Agenda; The Change Starts Here

We need a big showing at FERC’s September meeting! We’ll have a rally before the meeting begins and then we’ll be inside the meeting, in overflow rooms, outside chanting, and some of us will even go to Capitol Hill to lobby. We’ll be chanting, disrupting, showing solidarity, and lobbying.

thumbnail_September 20 meme_final FERC

Here’s why!

FERC is set to reconvene on September 20th with Trump’s Senate-approved commissioners Robert Powelson and Neil Chatterjee eager to use their newly minted rubber stamps.

All of this is happening as the Senate and House are moving bills that would expand FERC’s authority. One of the House bills actually strips the president of the border crossing authority used to stop Keystone XL and gives it to FERC. But the worst of the bills is the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, S. 1460. It expands FERC’s authority by requiring other permitting agencies to “give deference” to FERC and it limits FERC’s review of LNG facilities to 45 days.

Haven’t they been reading the headlines? The same problems we’ve been telling them about for more than a year are starting to get some notice.

Pallone & Cantwell Request Expanded FERC Investigation of Rover Pipeline & Its Parent Company

Court Rejects Pipeline Rubber-Stamp, Orders Climate Impact Review

Federal court rejects Constitution Pipeline’s lawsuit against NY

Rushed approvals, refusal to consider climate impacts, approvals with insufficient information. And Congress wants to expand FERC’s authority?

No way! Unacceptable!

Will you help us send that message to FERC and Congress on September 20th?

Here’s how YOU can help!

Organizations – please endorse our action here

Individuals – sign up to attend the rally and the other actions on the 20th here

Everyone – share the Facebook event here

RALLY, 8:30 a.m. at FERC, 888 First St NE, Washington, DC 20426

Program TBA – Stay Tuned!

FERC Meeting,10 a.m.

Lobbying on the Hill, meetings being scheduled – Be sure to indicate that you’re interested in lobbying on the sign-up form.

BXE’s Statement on the Restoration of FERC’s Quorum

Standing alone in the Well of the Senate on Thursday night, just after 6pm and moments before the Senate adjourned for August recess, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski committed a deft coup d’etat on behalf of the oil and gas industry. The vote to confirm Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was anything but un-controversial, and was a serious breach of regular order.

Just hours earlier, seven activists were arrested in front of Senator Chuck Schumer’s office. They had refused to leave until the Minority Leader spoke out about the dangers of FERC nominees and an energy bill that would dramatically expand FERC’s powers. The activists, including several of Schumer’s constituents, had delivered a letter backed by more than 30,000 comments of support asking him to vote no on FERC nominees and no on the energy bill. Hours later, Schumer and every member of the Democratic Caucus, including 3 senators who had previously voted against the nominees in committee, stood silent as Murkowski rammed through the nominations on a voice vote with no other members present, no accountability, and no opportunity for citizens to call or contact their senators to voice concerns.

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For years, we’ve worked to expose and fight FERC’s corruption, the harms it inflicts on communities and the climate,  its ties to the gas industry,  and its arcane procedures that shut out the public and empower corporations. Senators like Schumer, Cardin, Warner, Whitehouse, Sanders, Hirono and Merkley have sympathized and offered statements of support. On Thursday night, August 3rd, when it actually mattered, they stood aside and let violence be done on our communities. As we warned Senator Schumer, they must now expect our growing rebellion. We cannot forgive and will not forget this utter betrayal, and pledge outright resistance in every way we can peacefully muster it to stop FERC from meeting, rubber stamping permits and engaging in further communicide.

–Drew Hudson and the Beyond Extreme Energy crew

RESISTANCE GROWING AS 180 GROUPS CALL FOR A “NO” VOTE ON TRUMP’S FERC NOMINEES

RESISTANCE GROWING AS 180 GROUPS CALL FOR A “NO” VOTE ON TRUMP’S FERC NOMINEES

FERC’s Industry Bias Puts Communities at Risk From Pipeline Explosions. Over 200 Groups Call for Senate Hearings on FERC Rubber Stamping of Pipelines

Washington DC//June 28, 2017 – Faced with the growing scourge of pipeline expansion nationwide, 180 groups — including Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, Green America, the Center for Biological Diversity, and community-level organizations — are calling for the full Senate to vote “no” on President Trump’s nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  The full list of 180 groups is available online at http://bit.ly/2r1xSSk.

The coalition of organizations is opposing the nominations of Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson because both nominees would increase FERC’s bias towards the fossil fuel industry and further marginalize communities that oppose pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure that damage people’s homes, livelihoods and communities.

Natural gas pipelines and infrastructure represent a clear danger to communities nationwide, and in just the past two years, explosions at transmission pipelines have caused 12 deaths and 10 injuries, as well as extensive property damage (http://bit.ly/2tSeI0h). In addition, the construction process puts communities at risk. Recently, the Rover pipeline, under construction and approved by FERC, resulted in two million gallons of drilling fluids leaking into Ohio wetlands.

Community opposition to pipelines, based on data documenting the real risks, is regularly rejected by FERC, which has approved all but one pipeline under review in the past 30 years. FERC’s rubber stamping of industry pipelines has been documented in a People’s Dossier: FERC’s Abuses of Power and Law created by Delaware Riverkeeper Network that has been presented to all US Senators (http://bit.ly/DossierofFERCAbuse).

In a related development, over 200 groups nationwide are calling on senators to hold hearings into FERC’s rubber stamping of natural gas pipelines and infrastructure nationwide and the need for reforms (http://bit.ly/2sOmUQN).  With the White House designating this week as Energy Week, including a renewed call for US “energy dominance” in fossil fuels, and increased fracking and natural gas exports, communities nationwide face increased threats to their lives and livelihoods. Members of these groups, representing millions of people nationwide, have been calling their senators and took part in two days of lobbying in May to raise awareness of FERC’s failure to regulate pipelines.

“While Democrats and Republicans in the Senate bemoan the lack of a quorum at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Beyond Extreme Energy joins with frontline communities across the nation that are fighting fracked gas pipelines, compressor stations and gas export terminals [CUT to celebrate] [ADD in relief] that no new infrastructure can be approved without that quorum,” said Melinda Tuhus of Beyond Extreme Energy.  “We carried out non-violent direct action every month at FERC for more than two years, interrupting its rubber stamping meetings, and we did it again at both the Senate hearing and the committee vote for Trump’s two nominees. This is a climate crisis and a health and safety crisis for frontline communities and we will not accept the status quo.”

“Communities in the crosshairs of natural gas infrastructure projects get educated very fast about the potential adverse impacts, yet their valid concerns are ignored by FERC,” said Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth.  “When disasters occur like the Texas Eastern pipeline explosion in Pennsylvania last year that nearly killed a man, they are reflections of not only problems with the infrastructure itself, but of problems with the process that allowed the infrastructure to be built in the first place. It is that broken process that has brought hundreds of organizations together to pressure Congress to vote no on two FERC nominees who will make one of the worst Commissions much worse.”

“FERC is a regulator in name only,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Green America. “The reality is that FERC routinely ignores the very real risks of pipelines to communities and approves pipelines and infrastructure that can cause death, injury, and millions of dollars in property damage, all while accelerating fracking in the [ADD periods U.S.] and contributing to the climate crisis. That is why the Senate needs to vote “no” on FERC nominees and instead hold hearings into FERC’s abuses.”

Media Contacts:  

Natalie Watson, (703) 276-3256 or nwatson@hastingsgroup.com.

About the Groups:

Paul Gierosky is a successful businessman and homeowner in Medina, OH, who is a leader of the Coalition to Reroute Nexus (CoRN), a group focused on re-routing the Nexus pipeline away from vulnerable homes.

Marvin Winstead is a farmer in NC whose farm is bisected by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) is a nonprofit membership organization working throughout the four states of the Delaware River Watershed including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York. DRN provides effective environmental advocacy, volunteer monitoring programs, stream restoration projects, public education, and legal enforcement of environmental protection laws. http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/.  

Green America is the nation’s leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America (formerly Co-op America) provides economic strategies and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today’s social and environmental problems. http://www.GreenAmerica.org.

Beyond Extreme Energy is an activist network of organizations and individuals that came together in the summer of 2014 to organize a successful, week-long nonviolent direct action campaign in Washington DC from November 1-7. Through those campaigns and other actions, we can build the people power that leads to a political tipping point that seriously sets back the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to keep the world dependent on fracking, nuclear reactors, mountaintop removal coal extraction, tar sands oil and other dirty and dangerous forms of energy. https://beyondextremeenergy.org/.

Berks Gas Truth is a grassroots citizens’ group fighting to bring an end to unconventional natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

Call-Out for LTE’s on Upcoming FERC Vote in the Senate!

The more we can throw FERC into the limelight and put our senators on the spot for their unacceptable acceptance of business as usual, the better. To that end, please take a few moments this week to submit a Letter to the Editor (LTE) to your local paper regarding the FERC Vacancies Campaign.

Todd Larsen from Green America provided the FERC Vacancies Coalition with advice and a template for writing an LTE in opposition to Trump’s FERC nominations. Please take a look at the below material, and consider sending in your own LTE to local press outlets.

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This advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists is helpful:  http://www.ucsusa.org/action/writing-an-lte.html#.WNfI-jvyvIU

It is best to write in response to an article that was run in the paper/new source and reference that article in the first sentence, keep the LTE short (200 words is ideal and no more than 300), and provide full contact info at the end.

TEMPLATE LETTER

[Insert leading sentence or two regarding a previous article or connecting your letter to local interests/recent events]. As early as next week, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources could vote to approve climate denier Neil Chatterjee and friend of the industry Robert Powelson to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the most powerful agency many people are likely to know little or nothing about. This agency is responsible for rubber stamping fracked gas pipelines and infrastructure projects that damage the land, air, and drinking water of communities nationwide, as well as the global climate. In the past 30 years, FERC has sided with the fossil fuel industry repeatedly and has rejected only one pipeline. Currently, FERC only has two commissioners and thus lacks a quorum, preventing the agency from approving new projects. That’s why nearly 170 organizations nationwide are using this moment to demand that the Senate reject both Chatterjee and Powelson, and thereby prevent FERC’s approval of any more pipelines until Congress holds hearings on the agency’s pro-industry bias and refusal to listen to the legitimate concerns of communities. Congress needs to take steps to replace FERC with an agency dedicated to a just transition off fossil fuels. Holding hearings would be a first step. Senators [XX and XX – of your state] need to take a strong stand to oppose Chatterjee and Powelson. Let’s call our senators and make sure they know we want them to vote no!

FULL NAME
ADDRESS
CONTACT EMAIL
CONTACT PHONE

(Newspapers will need to contact you to ensure that you actually wrote the LTE and approve of publication.  They may also want to edit the piece and run edits by you)

Post ‘jihad’ kerfuffle, regulator aims to step into spotlight

Sam Mintz, E&E News reporter
Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2017
https://www.eenews.net/greenwire/2017/05/17/stories/1060054674

President Trump has nominated National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners President Robert Powelson to serve as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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Photo courtesy of @NARUC via Twitter.

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner Robert Powelson has a similar style to President Trump.

Powelson, who last week was nominated by Trump to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is not afraid to speak his mind, even if it means veering into politically incorrect territory, like when he said in March that pipeline opponents were engaged in a “jihad.”

He’s also OK with standing up to (and putting down) more established political figures, such as when he criticized New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) for his state’s cautious approach on pipeline permitting or Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) for his support of a hydraulic fracturing ban.

But under the brash approach is an intelligent, well-qualified regulator who has aspired to leadership roles at every step in his career, say friends and supporters.

Powelson got his start working at chambers of commerce in Pennsylvania, first the Delaware County Chamber and then Chester County’s. After 14 years as president and CEO at the latter, he was nominated by Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell to the Public Utility Commission in 2008. He led the PUC as chairman for four years under Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

He is also the current president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, a position that has served as a pipeline to the federal commission in recent years. If confirmed, Powelson would be the third NARUC president to move to FERC since 2012.

Powelson is not a fan of the Clean Power Plan and instead favors “market-based decarbonization,” which he says has been responsible for power plant emission reductions in Pennsylvania. He is an advocate for states’ rights and supports an “all of the above,” hybrid approach to energy generation.

Another area of similarity between Powelson and Trump is that Powelson is willing to talk about and advocate for less popular approaches that might challenge conventional wisdom.

An example is when he expressed support in 2015 for decoupling, or separating utilities’ electricity sales from their revenues. The idea is to remove disincentives for utilities to encourage conservation and energy efficiency measures, which under the traditional system would decrease sales — and revenues. In a decoupled system, utilities could structure their rates to reflect the actual cost of maintaining infrastructure, rather than on how much electricity customers take from the grid.

The practice has been supported by environmentalists but is generally opposed by consumer advocates and utilities and has been adopted in some form in 23 states — but not Pennsylvania.

“Personally, I think PA needs to come out of the stone ages here,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2015.

‘Extremely pro-natural gas’

Despite his openness to innovation, Powelson is seen by some in Pennsylvania, which one observer called a “very pro-industry state when it comes to the regulatory system,” as overly friendly to the companies he has been tasked with regulating.

“He is extremely pro-natural gas, to the point where I have to question whether he would be objective enough to really sort of look at the harm that is done by various natural gas infrastructure proposals,” said Joe Minott, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council.

“His jihadist comment, I think, is an excellent reflection of how he sees any opposition to moving ahead with natural gas. He’s the epitome of Sarah Palin’s ‘drill, baby, drill,'” Minott said.

Speaking to gas industry representatives at Pennsylvania’s Upstream PA conference March 21, Powelson made the “jihad” comment in reference to anti-pipeline activists who had picketed the homes of FERC commissioners in 2016, according to StateImpact.

“The jihad has begun,” he said. “At the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, groups actually show up at commissioners’ homes to make sure we don’t get this gas to market. How irresponsible is that?”

Powelson later acknowledged his choice of words was inappropriate.

But the incident remains a jarring symbol for people like Lynda Farrell, who directs the Pipeline Safety Coalition in Pennsylvania.

“I would say anyone who characterizes landowners and civilians seeking to protect their rights and their quality of life as jihadists should not serve in public office,” she said. “You don’t make that kind of a statement as a slip of the tongue.”

Supporters of Powelson disagree with that characterization.

“Looking at one flash in time I don’t think is a fair analysis of Rob. There are plenty of times where he has spoken out clearly and candidly and critically of industry, the people that we’re regulating,” said John Coleman, who has served with Powelson on the Pennsylvania PUC since 2010.

“In his view, if you’re violating what he sees as the rules of engagement, you’re going to hear from him,” Coleman said.

From NARUC to FERC

Unlike Kevin McIntyre, a likely pick to lead the energy regulatory agency whose Jones Day colleague Don McGahn worked on the Trump campaign and landed a key job as White House counsel, Powelson does not appear to have concrete personal ties to the president.

He also does not have the congressional connections that fellow nominee Neil Chatterjee, a longtime energy aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), can use as the confirmation process advances.

It’s possible Powelson caught the attention of the White House during the transition. NARUC leaders had what he called an “intense dialogue” with the administration’s transition team, in the form of a call with Trump’s energy transition leader, American Energy Alliance President Thomas Pyle (Energywire, Feb 1).

In the call and a follow-up letter to Pyle, Powelson emphasized updates to infrastructure and called on the president to reduce “federal overreach” on energy issues including generation resource allocation, net metering and electric transmission siting authority.

The emphasis on states’ rights is an important one to Powelson and others he has worked with, some of whom are celebrating the potential addition of a state regulator to the federal body.

“We always want to make sure that FERC appreciates what we believe as a policy matter are firmly within our purview as state officials and state regulators,” said Richard Mroz, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

“Sometimes a particular state perspective can get lost in very complex issues, with a lot of intervenors, a lot of parties. I just think it’s good to know that someone there, a commissioner, will still be mindful of what is important to state commissions and ultimately to the consumers in our states,” Mroz said.

Kevin Hughes, chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission, said Powelson has “a keen appreciation for the role and responsibility of states to ensure that their citizens have access to reliable and affordable power.”

Powelson said in February that he thought state regulators would take leadership roles as Trump appointees in agencies. In one case, at least, that prediction was prescient.

In another interview, Powelson said he saw a “very clear edict” in his dealings with the Trump administration. “We’re going to invest in infrastructure, and we are going to do it in a very efficient manner, and with respect to environmental protection, obviously,” he said.

The overlap between his priorities and Trump’s is likely not coincidental, some observers say.

“I had heard that he was lobbying pretty hard for this. I think he was able to persuade the Trump administration that he was able to reflect their values when it comes to regulating,” said Minott.

Twitter: @samjmintz Email: smintz@eenews.net

Coalition urges confirmation delay, Trump investigation

Hannah Northey, E&E News reporter
Published: Monday, May 15, 2017
https://www.eenews.net/eenewspm/2017/05/15/stories/1060054570

Environmentalists want the Senate to delay confirmation hearings for vacant Federal Energy Regulatory Commission posts until President Trump’s business ties and former FBI Director James Comey’s firing are investigated.

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Photo by Ryan McKnight, courtesy of Flickr.

More than 160 groups opposing President Trump’s nominations for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission called today for delaying Senate confirmation hearings while lawmakers probe the president’s potential conflicts of interest and ties to foreign governments.

“President Trump’s unknown personal and professional ties with foreign leaders and foreign corporations raise serious and legitimate concerns for those he would seek to install in these highly consequential positions,” a number of groups, including the newly formed “FERC Vacancies Campaign,” wrote to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Also signing the letter were Green America, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Beyond Extreme Energy.

The groups, which are also meeting with members of the Senate panel next week, argue that Trump’s FERC picks — Neil Chatterjee, a top energy aide for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Pennsylvania regulator Robert Powelson — could be subject to “behind-the-scenes pressure” from the president.

FERC is led by acting Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur and Colette Honorable, both Democrats, who have been unable to make high-profile decisions since former FERC Chairman Norman Bay abruptly left in February, depriving the five-seat commission of a quorum.

“FERC’s role in protecting the U.S. energy grid is essential to our national security,” the groups told Murkowski. “Recent events regarding President Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey, including his apparent demand for loyalty in how the Director carried out his decision making and activities as head of the FBI, heightens our alarm and concern.”

Their letter is part of a broader effort to align FERC critics with bipartisan fallout Trump is facing after the firing last week of FBI Director James Comey. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) urged the president to stop talking or tweeting about the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and allow the inquiry to move forward.

In their letter, the groups demanded Chatterjee and Powelson’s confirmation hearing be delayed until a hearing is held to investigate “multiple and documented reports” of what they say amounts to FERC misusing its authority to block challenges to federal pipeline approvals, rushing environmental assessments and unfairly granting eminent domain.

Delaware Riverkeeper has made similar arguments in court. In April, the group filed an appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, challenging a lower court’s decision to toss a lawsuit against FERC for its alleged bias toward approving pipelines (Energywire, April 21).

Despite calls for a delay in FERC confirmations, Murkowski last week said she’ll move “as quick as possible” to restore FERC’s quorum.

And Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the panel’s ranking member, said last week that she was unfamiliar with Powelson but planned to research his background. Cantwell also said she’d already had a brief conversation about “market manipulation” with Chatterjee. The FERC nominee had also helped Cantwell and Murkowski navigate energy conference talks with the House last year, the senator said.

Ted Glick, a member of Beyond Extreme Energy, acknowledged calls for a delay may not stick given the bipartisan push to re-establish FERC’s quorum and the agency’s ability to make high-profile decisions.

“We know it’s a long shot, we’re not stupid,” Glick said. “We also know it’s the right thing to do. Sooner or later, you start winning victories.”

Reporter Geof Koss contributed.

Twitter: @HMNorthey Email: hnorthey@eenews.net

The Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources Needs Your Phone Call Now!

Urgent – the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources Needs Your Phone Call …Now!

They are planning to schedule hearings that would install Donald Trump Nominees at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

FERC is notorious for abusing its legal authority and peoples’ rights.

e.g. FERC routinely strips people of their legal right to challenge pipeline projects until it is too late – until property rights have been stripped, forests cut, and people are forced to live next to explosive fracked gas pipelines and compressors.

Right Now, FERC Can’t Approve Any Fracked Gas Pipelines or LNG Export Facilities Because they Don’t have the Legal Quorum Necessary to Cast Binding Votes. We need to keep it that way.

And we certainly don’t want a Donald Trump appointee, with a 5 year term, who will be expected to be loyal to a President with unknown business ties to nations and companies around the world.

Remember – this is not a political issue – this is a people issue.

Don’t’ let anyone suggest to you otherwise.

Call Your Two Senators & Then 3 Members of the Senate Committee

Simply Say:

  1. I am calling to urge the Senator to oppose hearings on the President’s nominations for the vacant FERC Commissioner Seats.
  2. Instead I want the Senator to make it his/her/their top priority to hold hearings into the abuses of power and law being experienced by communities across this nation at the hands of FERC and to identify needed reforms.
  3. Without hearings and reforms FERC will continue to abuse its power and the health, safety and welfare of all decent people here in America.
  4. Installing Commissioners advanced by a President with business interests around the world that conflict with good decision-making and energy policy here in the U.S., particularly one that demands loyalty to himself from his agency heads, is a serious national security risk.

Don’t know your Senators phone number? Find it here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/senators_cfm.cfm?State=MA

The Members of the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources are:

Democrats:

Senator Maria Cantwell, Minority Ranking Member: 202 224 3441

Senator Bernie Sanders: 202 224 5141

Senator Al Franken: 202 224 5641

Senator Ron Wyden: 202 224 5244

Senator Debbie Stabenow: 202 224 4822

Senator Angus King: 202 224 5344

Senator Mazie Hirono: 202 224 6361

Senator Tammy Duckworth: 202 224 2854

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto: 202 224 3542

Senator Joe Manchin: 202 224 3954

Senator Martin Heinrich: 202 224 5521

Republicans:

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Chair: 202 224 6665

Senator Rob Portman: 202 224 3353

Senator John Barrasso: 202 224 6441

Senator James Risch: 202 224 2752

Senator Mike Lee: 202 224 5444

Senator Jeff Flake: 202 224 4521

Senator Steve Daines: 202 224 2651

Senator Cory Gardner: 202 224 5941

Senator Lamar Alexander: 202 224 4944

Senator John Hoeven: 202 224 2551

Senator Bill Cassidy: 202 224 5824

Senator Luther Strange: 202 224 4124

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Thanks to Maya van Rossum and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network for putting together this call-in.