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Last week, Gov. Dayton announced that he’s finally supporting the PolyMet precious metals project. In this post, I wrote “Why should Rangers tolerate a regulatory system that’s this convoluted? How many studies are enough? How many hearings need to be held? Chip Cravaack tried getting this pushed through when he was in office. He was elected in 2010, the same election that gave us Gov. Dayton. It’s clear that Gov. Dayton hasn’t jettisoned the environmentalists. He’s still siding with the environmentalists on Twin Metals and the Line 3 Pipeline project.”

Speaking of the Line 3 Pipeline project, Rep. Matt Grossell, Rep. Sandy Layman, Rep. Matt Bliss, Rep. Dale Lueck, Rep. Debra Kiel, Sen. Justin Eichorn and Sen. Paul Utke wrote a letter to Gov. Dayton. Their letter’s opening paragraph says “The proposed Line 3 Replacement Project (L3R) is a vital energy infrastructure project for Minnesota and the region that will generate more than $3 billion in private investment. It will create thousands of good-paying construction jobs and provide millions in much-needed tax revenue to local governments in our districts and our region.” Follow this link to read the entire letter.

It isn’t likely that Gov. Dayton will back off. His Commerce Department testified that (a) the L3R isn’t required and (b) the existing pipeline should be shut down. That’s the public part of Gov. Dayton’s policy. That doesn’t mean, though, that he doesn’t see the political difficulties and complexities this might cause the DFL.

Yesterday on @Issue with Tom Hauser, former DFL Chair Brian Melendez said that Gov. Dayton allegedly told environmentalists ‘Good luck with the Republican governor in 2019′, implying that the environmental activists’ demands will hurt the DFL in 2018.

This video is part of the reason why Gov. Dayton won’t abandon environmental activists:

The truth is that Gov. Dayton and the DFL aren’t consistent with their beliefs. First, they’re constantly talking about the importance of infrastructure projects. When this infrastructure project was proposed, though, they ran from it like it was toxic waste. Finally, the DFL is constantly pushing bonding bills as their annual “jobs bill”. This pipeline project is the size of three bonding bills.

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After last week’s fiasco in Duluth, in which protestors shut down public testimony on the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline project, St. Cloud officials exercised caution for Thursday’s planned testimony for the Public Utilities Commission. In the end, Mayor Kleis opted to not hold the hearing. That means the anti-pipeline protestors have won a victory just by threatening a hearing.

St. Cloud Mayor Kleis explained his thinking for shutting down the event, saying “Based on the size of the event and some of the challenges at previous meetings, there’s a cost. The costs have to be met and a plan needs to be in place that meets the public safety needs based on the assessment that our police give us. For Thursday night, based on the crowd (expected) and other use of the facility, the venue would be problematic unless they can meet those demands. It’s their choice to make, but we need to make sure the public and taxpayers are safe.”

Minnesota Petroleum Council Executive Director Erin Roth issued a statement Wednesday night, saying “There’s no doubt that today’s decision to cancel the public meeting on Line 3 is disappointing. What’s worse is that communities are put in this position by highly coordinated protest activities that actively obstruct civil discourse, stifle free speech, and disrespect those in attendance who are there to respectfully voice their opinion. Minnesotans deserve an open and transparent process that examines this important infrastructure project and the benefits that would come from it.”

Last week, anti-pipeline thugs stopped a public hearing in Duluth’s Entertainment & Convention Center, aka the DECC. (I wrote about that event here.) These thugs’ intent is to silence anyone who doesn’t agree with them. This paragraph sums everything up perfectly:

Proponents say the line is an essential piece of infrastructure for petroleum shippers and refineries in the region. Opponents say the pipeline won’t benefit Minnesota, and that it threatens Minnesota’s watershed and the Mississippi River headwaters.

I’ve heard the environmental terrorists’ predictions for 40+ years. They’ve been off by incredible amounts each time they’ve made a prediction. When the Sierra Club opposed the Alaskan Pipeline, the Sierra Club said that North Slope and Prudhoe Bay would pump oil for 4-5 years. The pipeline opened in 1977. It’s still transporting oil in 2017.

Here’s what the approval process has looked like for Enbridge:

Everything is wrong with that picture.

One of the things that I can’t shake in reading this article is whether the Public Utilities Commission will destroy the DFL for the 2018 election. Bear with me while I make the case for why I think it hurts the DFL.

Right now, the Public Utilities Commission is holding hearings on whether to approve the replacement of Enbridge’s Line 3 Pipeline. The reason why this is potentially devastating is because “the state Public Utilities Commission is expected to decide whether to approve the Line 3 project next spring.” The only thing that might derail the building of the replacement pipeline is the Dayton administration. If this pipeline isn’t built soon, farmers, construction workers and small towns will be upset with the Dayton administration.

Farmers will be especially upset because rejecting this pipeline project will trigger more oil to be transported via oil trains. That limits rail capacity for getting farmers’ crops to market. Whoever the DFL candidate for governor is, they’ll be pressed on whether they’ll support building the pipeline. Anything except enthusiastically supporting the building of the pipeline will be greeted with anger by rural Minnesota.

That, in turn, will spike turnout in rural Minnesota because they can’t afford to have environmental do-gooders destroying farmers’ operations. Based on the information on the PUC’s commissioners page, it’s virtually certain that the PUC will vote against replacing the pipeline. Three of the commissioners are DFL environmental activists. The lone Republican is a former DFL politician who worked as a lobbyist for Conservation Minnesota.

Republican gubernatorial candidates should lay this situation out in rural Minnesota. When they’re campaigning, they should ask farmers if they can afford 4 more years of DFL environmental policies. I’m betting the response will be an overwhelming no!

Look at the results from rural Minnesota the last 2 elections. In 2014, Minnesota Republicans rode a wave from rural Minnesota to recapture the Minnesota House. In 2016, Minnesota Republicans rode anti-DFL sentiment in rural Minnesota to flip the Minnesota Senate.

As I wrote at the time, many of those races were blowouts. In northern Minnesota, Paul Utke defeated DFL Sen. Rod Skoe by a 57%-43% margin. Many of the races weren’t particularly close, in fact. I’d recommend GOP gubernatorial candidates highlight this graphic when campaigning in rural Minnesota:

That graphic will get everyone’s attention because it’s a display of how dysfunctional Minnesota’s permitting process is under DFL control. That won’t get better if Erin Murphy, Tim Walz or Paul Thissen gets elected governor.

When the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department testified that there wasn’t a need to replace the Line 3 Pipeline, we knew they weren’t being totally honest. This week, Enbridge fired back, saying in their official statement “The suggestion that Line 3 can be shut down without any impact on Minnesota is simply not true. Apportionment and property tax reductions would have an immediate effect on Minnesota. Reduced pipeline capacity would increase rail shipments, with as many as 32 additional mile-long trains every day crossing Minnesota. Additional rail facilities would also be required for refineries to utilize rail shipments. The impact on Minnesota’s agricultural economy would be costly and disruptive as evidenced by the agricultural commerce curtailed in 2013-2014 due to increased crude by rail movements.”

The Dayton-DFL-Rothman Commerce Department insisted that “In light of the serious risks and effects on the natural and socioeconomic environments of the existing Line 3 and the limited benefit that the existing Line 3 provides to Minnesota refineries, it is reasonable to conclude that Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built.”

Later, in its testimony, Enbridge replied “Contrary to the DOC testimony, the Enbridge system, which includes Line 3, is currently full and in apportionment. This means demand for capacity exceeds what’s available, and refineries in Minnesota and the Midwest cannot obtain all the crude supply they request. When refiners can’t get the supply they need, they are either forced to produce less or source it through other more costly modes of transportation, like rail, which drives up costs and impacts their competitiveness. Line 3 will ensure an adequate supply for refiners and enable them to continue to provide the energy Minnesotans need.”

In other words, Enbridge’s statement all but officially accuses the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department of telling whoppers. This graphic speaks volumes:

“Denial of the Line 3 replacement program does not change the supply of crude oil in Canada or anywhere else … or demand for crude oil in the Minnesota or in the U.S.,” said Neil Earnest, president of energy market consultants Muse, Stancil & Co. “What it does do is shift it off pipelines and onto rail.'” The demand for Canadian crude oil is there, officials reasoned, and supply is only growing.

The indisputable truth is that demand for oil won’t decrease anytime soon. Whenever environmental activists predict something, it’s best to figure that it’s wildly inaccurate. The first time I heard an environmental activist predict something was about the Alaskan Pipeline in the mid-1970s. The president of the Sierra Club argued against its construction, saying that it would disrupt “the migration pattern of the Barrows Caribou. And for what? Maybe 4-5 years worth of oil?” That pipeline opened in the late 1970s. It’s still transporting oil 40 years later.

Enbridge is right to fight the Dayton administration’s environmental activists because their predictions are frequently wrong.

This LTE might be the most informative LTE written on the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline I’ve seen.

It’s the first place I’ve read that “Some opponents of the project are concerned that pipelines pose a risk to the waters of Minnesota due to a leak. Any method of transporting crude oil (pipeline, rail, or truck) has a risk of a leak or spill. To transport the equivalent amount of crude oil on Line 3 will require either 10,000 rail cars/day or 24,000 tanker trucks/day.”

The Gov. Dayton/Commissioner Rothman Commerce Department testified that the existing pipeline should be shut down in addition to not building the new pipeline. Obviously, the pipeline will get built. The only question is whether it’ll get built in Minnesota or through another state. Metaphorically speaking, that ship’s already sailed. The question facing environmental activists is whether they want oil trains endangering cities multiple times a day or whether they want semis clogging highways.

What other LTE or Our View editorial has laid things out this succinctly? I’ll tell you how many. Since getting back into blogging last May, I’ve searched virtually daily for articles on this subject. The answer is exactly 0. Here’s another interesting, important, piece of information in making this decision:

The project will be constructed with modern high-grade steel pipe and use construction techniques that minimize the impact to the environment. In environmentally sensitive areas, Enbridge utilizes Horizontal Directional Drilling, which places the pipe deep below the environmentally sensitive area and utilizes double thickness pipe-wall.

TRANSLATION: It’s the safest way of getting oil from Alberta to Superior, WI. Enbridge wouldn’t have gotten a permit for the first pipeline if it hadn’t met Minnesota’s strict environmental standards.

Think of it this way. If Enbridge hadn’t done things right the past 20+ years, the Public Utilities Commission would’ve shit-canned this project in a heartbeat. This graphic shows how many hoops Enbridge, or any pipeline project, would have to jump through for permitting approval:

Think of each of those dots as another delay that environmental activists exploit. The simplest question to ask is whether Minnesota wants a petroleum-free state that relies heavily on transit? I’m betting that transit is totally impractical for most of Minnesota, especially in rural Minnesota. BTW, did you know that “Enbridge provides over 80 percent of the crude oil to the two refineries in Minnesota and one in Superior Wisconsin”? Did you know that “these refineries provide fuel for the agricultural, forest products, shipping, and mining industries, not to mention the majority of the fuel used for transportation in the state of Minnesota”?

Frankly, the testimony given by the Commerce Department to the Public Utilities Commission is dishonest. Whoever prepared the Commerce Department’s testimony should be prosecuted for perjury. Saying that the Line 3 Pipeline isn’t needed is like saying that highways aren’t needed to get people and products from one part of Minnesota to another part of Minnesota.

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Citing research into sage grouse habitat, the Bureau of Land Management “canceled its Sagebrush Focal Area withdrawal application and the Department’s proposed withdrawal of 10 million acres of federal lands from location and entry under the mining law in Greater Sage-grouse habitat in six Western States.”

Acting BLM Director Mike Nedd said “The proposal to withdraw 10 million acres to prevent 10,000 from potential mineral development was a complete overreach. Secretary Zinke has said from the beginning that by working closely with the states, who are on the front lines and a valued partner in protecting the health of these lands, we can be successful in conserving greater sage grouse habitat without stifling economic development and job growth. And that’s what we intend to do—protect important habitat while also being a good neighbor to states and local communities.”

According to the BLM’s statement, “The BLM determined the proposal to withdraw 10 million acres was unreasonable in light of the data that showed that mining affected less than .1 percent of sage-grouse-occupied range.” The statement included this paragraph:

The recommendation to withdraw nearly 10 million acres from location and entry under the mining law was one of many land use restrictions proposed for a new management area designated as the Sagebrush Focal Area (SFA). However, that recommendation was unreasonable in light of the data available. In particular, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2005 “Not Warranted” decision, the 2010 “Warranted But Precluded” Decision and the 2015 “Not Warranted” decision all showed that mining—including locatable mining—was not a significant threat to sage-grouse.

The lands will continue to be managed in accordance with existing plans, programs, policies and regulations in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. They had been temporarily segregated, or closed to new mining claims for 2 years when the Department originally proposed the lands for withdrawal in 2015, while the agency studied whether locatable mineral exploration and mining projects would adversely affect habitat important to the greater sage grouse. That temporary segregation period expired September 24, 2017.

During the Obama administration, the Bureau of Land Management antagonized mining companies during its war on fossil fuels.

This article explains the BLM’s original intent:

The Bureau of Land Management, part of the Department of the Interior, was established in 1946 to administer grazing and mineral rights when the U.S. Grazing Service was merged with the General Land Office. Today it manages 246 million acres of land, mostly in the Western U.S., ranging from lush Northwestern forests to arid, oil-rich sage grouse habitat. The BLM leases federal public lands for mineral mining, oil and gas extraction, grazing, timber production and solar and wind energy development. In 2016, the agency had a budget of $1.2 billion and about 11,000 employees, including 200 rangers and 70 special agents who enforce federal laws on public lands, plus about 25,000 volunteers.

The Trump administration has taken a different approach:

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any federal agency. This land is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield.

The Obama administration’s days of mismanagement of federal lands are over. Thanks to the Trump administration’s approach, the United States has become a net exporter of fossil fuels. That approach has also super-charged that portion of the economy.

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Anyone thinking that this isn’t proof that politics doesn’t make for strange bedfellows doesn’t have much of an imagination. Tom Steward reports that “The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council joined forces to make the case for the vital Enbridge infrastructure and thousands of well-paying jobs to build it.” Steward quotes this Minneapolis Star-Tribune op-ed, written by Harry Melander and Bill Blazar.

Steward quotes Melander and Blazar as saying “But in Minnesota we’re fortunate to have a well-advanced alternative, an entirely private infrastructure project that would put 6,500 Minnesotans to work over two years, with an economic impact of more than $2 billion for the state, including outstate areas that sorely need it. We’re talking about Enbridge Energy’s 1,097-mile, Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement from Alberta stretching southeast across central Minnesota from the North Dakota border near Hallock to a terminal in Superior, Wis.”

Later in their op-ed, Melander and Blazar write “Contrary to recent testimony from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the project is necessary and prudent. Last month, the American Petroleum Institute reported that total domestic petroleum deliveries, a measure of U.S. petroleum demand, showed the highest July demand since 2007. Enbridge says its project is the safest alternative for replacing the 50-year-old existing line that operates at approximately 50 percent capacity and faces increasing maintenance requirements.”

This isn’t a fight the DFL wants to fight. Even if they win, they’ll lose, meaning the DFL loses more rural voters in 2018 to the GOP. That virtually guarantees Republicans maintaining or increasing their majority in the House in 2018. It puts pressure on the DFL to pick a moderate for their gubernatorial candidate that their base won’t be excited about, too. If they pick a Metrocrat (think Paul Thissen or Erin Murphy), they’ll lose the governor’s mansion, too.

Bit by bit, the DFL is losing unions and farmers, the F and L in DFL, because the DFL consistently sides with environmental activists. If that continues, Minnesota’s chances of becoming a red state get better.

The environmentalists’ newest dog-and-pony show, aka the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Project, hearings start this week. It’s guaranteed that environmental activists will turn out in big numbers, thanks to the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department’s gift.

When the Commerce Department provided testimony to the Public Utilities Commission, they said that “the project isn’t needed and won’t benefit Minnesota.” I question the validity of that testimony since it closely resembles the statements made by Steve Morse, the executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, about the Pipeline project. That’s basis enough to question whether the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department is essentially being run by special interest organizations opposed ideologically, not scientifically, to the project.

In their testimony, the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department states that refineries are running near capacity, which, in their opinion, is proof that another pipeline isn’t needed. Why doesn’t the Commerce Department and the Minnesota Environmental Partnership think that that’s proof that we need to increase refining capacity, not reduce pipeline capacity?

The testimony is short-sighted in another way. Does anyone think that this oil won’t get shipped via a different pipeline if this pipeline project is rejected? If the PUC rejects this pipeline project, will the oil company simply shut down their operations in Alberta? Or will they simply start working with a different state to build a different pipeline? I’d submit that the latter scenario is most likely.

If that’s the case, why would the DFL shortchange construction unions and Minnesota’s small towns in northern Minnesota? Should this man essentially have a 1-man veto over infrastructure projects?

The DFL frequently accuses Republicans of ignoring science. Isn’t that what the DFL is doing in opposing this project? After all, Republicans aren’t foolish enough that fossil fuel usage has leveled off and will start declining. That’s what Gov. Dayton’s Commerce Department and the MEP argue. The chances of that happening are remote. The chances of the MEP’s predictions being accurate are even more unlikely.

In the first 4 parts of this series (found here, here, here and here), I focused on different facets of the inadequacies of the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department. I categorized each of the shortcomings and culprits. Most importantly, I identified the opportunities that the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department missed and why.

This article will pull everything together so we can put together a less hostile, more business-friendly set of policies that doesn’t sacrifice the environment. First, we’ll need to streamline the regulatory review process so hostile environmental activists don’t have multiple opportunities to throttle key infrastructure projects. Whether we’re talking about killing the Sandpiper Pipeline project, the constant attempts by the Sierra Club, Conservation Minnesota and Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness to kill both the Twin Metals and the PolyMet projects or the Public Utilities Commission and the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department, it’s clear that the DFL is openly hostile to major infrastructure projects.

It’s long past time to get the PUC out of the public safety/transportation business. Similarly, it’s time to get the Commerce Department out of the environmental regulatory industry. Public safety and transportation belong in MnDOT’s purview, not the PUC’s. Environmental regulations need to be significantly streamlined, then shipped over to the DNR. There should be a period for fact-finding and public comment. There should be the submitting and approval/disapproval of an Environmental Impact Statement and the submitting and approval/disapproval of an Economic Impact Statement.

Further, laws should be changed so that there’s no longer a requirement to submit an application for a “certificate of need.” In effect, that’s a bureaucratic regulatory veto of major infrastructure projects. That isn’t acceptable. There should be a time limit placed on the bureaucrats, too. They should have to accept or reject applications within a reasonable period of time. That’s because regulators have sometimes used delaying tactics to throttle projects without leaving a paper trail. It’s also been used to deny companies the right to appeal rulings. (If there isn’t a ruling, there isn’t an appeal.)

Third, streamlining the review process limits the opportunities for environmental activists to kill projects like those mentioned above. There’s a reason why it’s called the Commerce Department, not the Department of Endless Delays and Excessive Costs, which is what it’s become. Eliminating the PUC’s oversight responsibilities, especially in terms of approving certificates of need, will eliminate the impact that environmental activists serving on that Board can have in killing or at least delaying major infrastructure projects.

Fourth, it’s important that we bring clarity and consistency to this state’s regulatory regime. The system Minnesota has now breeds uncertainty. That steals jobs from Minnesota because companies attempt to avoid Minnesota entirely whenever possible. While we want to preserve our lakes, rivers and streams, we want to preserve our middle class, too. The environment shouldn’t be put on a pedestal while communities die thanks to a dying middle class.

I’ve seen too often how once-proud parts of Minnesota that have a heavy regulatory burden have seen their middle class essentially disappear. Cities like Virginia and Eveleth come to mind. It’s immoral to give a Twin Cities agency the authority to kill Iron Range communities. That’s literally what’s happening right now.

For the last 7 years, Gov. Dayton has run an administration that’s of, by and for the environmental activist wing of the DFL. If you work in a construction union, you haven’t had a great run. That isn’t right. People who work hard and play by the rules should be able to put a roof over their family’s head, set money aside for their kids’ college education and save for their retirement. For far too many people, that hasn’t happened recently.

The next Republican governor should implement these changes ASAP. It’s time to destroy the Dayton ‘Hostile to business’ sign and replace it with an ‘Open for business’ sign. It’s time to get Minnesota government working for everyone once again.

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When the Minnesota Department of Commerce testified that Enbridge hadn’t shown a need for replacing their Line 3 Pipeline, people scratched their heads. That project is a $7,500,000,000 infrastructure project. It’s difficult to picture a pro-commerce Commerce Department rejecting that type of project. There’s an old saying that I learned during the Watergate investigation. It’s called ‘follow the money’.

According to Mike Rothman’s official bio, “Rothman’s top priorities include consumer protection, a clean energy future, and strong financial and energy sectors for Minnesota’s economy.” In an interview with the Clean Energy Resource Team, Rothman made clear that he wasn’t a disinterested bystander in terms of the government financing clean energy projects. CERT started the interview by asking Rothman “Have the tax credits been important for getting Minnesota to where we are today with wind and solar?” Commissioner Rothman replied “From the vantage point of the Commerce Department, we believe these tax credits have really been central pillars supporting wind and solar development in our state. The ITC enabled solar manufacturers to produce at scale and dramatically cut the costs of modules and other components. It also encouraged a growing base of Minnesota solar installation companies to invest in training and certification while expanding their businesses and creating new jobs.”

In other words, without crony capitalism, wind and solar wouldn’t offer competitive prices. The question I’d ask Commissioner Rothman is whether his prioritizing clean energy had anything to do with his department’s heavy-handed testimony against Enbridge. It isn’t a stretch to think that a person that supports tax credits for wind and solar certainly might support eliminating fossil fuels, too.

This is part of the Commerce Department’s website:

Solar Industry Resources

The state of Minnesota is interested in helping Minnesota-based solar businesses expand and attracting new solar businesses to the state.

From solar manufacturers and system developers and installers to the agencies that help finance solar projects, the Minnesota Department of Commerce is here to help build a strong clean energy economy. The solar industry is booming in Minnesota, and it is positioned for continued growth. With solar policies such as the solar electricity standard and programs like the $15 million a year Made in Minnesota Solar incentive Program, Minnesota is committed to the solar industry.

Based on the Commerce Department’s pro-clean energy statements and their hostility towards fossil fuels, I think it’s entirely reasonable to think that Gov. Dayton’s Commerce Department isn’t a neutral arbiter in this fight.

In Part I of this series, I quoted Kate O’Connell, manager of the Energy Regulation and Planning Unit of the Department of Commerce, as saying “In light of the serious risks and effects on the natural and socioeconomic environments of the existing Line 3 and the limited benefit that the existing Line 3 provides to Minnesota refineries, it is reasonable to conclude that Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built,’ the agency wrote in testimony submitted to the Public Utilities Commission on Monday, Sept. 11.”

It isn’t a stretch to think that environmental activists had a special place in Gov. Dayton’s Commerce Department. The Department’s testimony to the PUC was tilted. The Commerce Department’s personnel indicate a strong pro-clean energy preference. Thanks to the Commerce Department’s anti-pipeline bias, Minnesota is missing out on a major infrastructure project.

Shouldn’t we insist that these types of infrastructure projects get a higher priority? This project would’ve created thousands of jobs. The negative economic impact this rejection will have is disgusting. Stop back Tuesday for more on that aspect of the pipeline.

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