The following report provides a brief summary of the most recent action; an overview of the budget process; final versions of appropriations legislation of interest to geoscientists, including Int erior and Related Agencies, VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies (NASA, EPA, NSF), Energy and Water, Agriculture, Labor, HHS (includes the Department of Education), Department of Defense, and Commerce; and updated information on tax cut legislation.
Most Recent Action
Congress adjourned on November 13 after passing the last of the appropriations bills. The President has signed all relevant geoscience bills, effectively ending the FY1998 appropriations process. This year marks the first time that the President has line -item veto authority, which he has already exercised on the Military Construction bill, excising tens of millions of dollars worth of military construction projects not included in his budget request.
Budget Process Summary
The Fiscal Year 1998 (FY98) congressional budget process began with President Clinton's release of the Administration request on February 6, 1997. The budget includes spending figures through FY2002. Both the April Political Scene column and a special Government Affairs Update provide more information on the President's budget requests for science agencies. On June 6, the Pre sident joined with Congress in a historic budget agreement which provides a broad framework to balance the budget by 2002. Congress incorporated the agreement into its budget resolution, off icially named the House Concurrent Resolution 84. While not law, the resolution guides the congressional appropriations process as well as a separate budget reconciliation process for changes in mandatory spending and tax cuts. The House Republican Conference created a web site to provide the public with detailed balanced budget information.
Once the budget resolution was reached, the House and later the Senate Appropriations Committee allocated funds, known as 602(b) allocations, to each of their 13 subcommittees to draft appropriations bills. Technically, funding levels in these bills are based on authorization bills. Authorizing legislation both creates or continues a program and specifies funding levels. This process, however, is not always followed, and the Senate rarel y drafts authorization legislation, instead waiting until the House has passed bills and sent them to the Senate. Once these appropriations bills are completed, they must be passed by the subcommittee, Appropriations Committee, and appropriate chamber of Congress respectively. The Appropriations Committee releases an accompanying report following the full committee vote of each bill. Although technically not binding, report language generally carries the full force of law, and agencies disregard it at t heir risk. Once a bill has passed both Houses of Congress, the House and Senate will conference to reach agreement on differences in their bills. The final version will be presented to the President for his signature or veto.
In a separate process of developing an omnibus reconciliation bill, the House and Senate Budget Committees draft legislation to make changes in mandatory spending, such as entitlements and sales of government property. The House Ways and Means Committe e and the Senate Finance Committee draft tax cut legislation. Once differences between the houses are reconciled, the bills are presented to the President.
Interior and Related Agencies
The President signed the Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill into Public Law 105-83 on November 14. Although Clinton expressed his discontent with several provisions relating to forest management, the only recessions were for provisions reg arding a dam in Mississippi and the transfer of mineral rights to the state of Montana. The House passed the conference version of H.R. 2107, the Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill, by a vote of 233-171 on October 24. The Senate followed soon after, passing the bill by a 84-14 margin on October 27. The bill provides $759.1 million for the U.S. Geological Survey, an amount $0.9 million more than provided by the Senate bill, $3.3 million more than provided by the House bill, $13.7 more than requested by the President, and $19 million more than the agency received in FY97. The agreement inclu des the President's request of $3.8 million for the Global Seismographic Network, and $22.2 million for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping program, $1.7 million more than requested (and the same as FY97). The amount does not include requested fund transfers in the Water Resources Division to pay for the President's Kalamazoo Initiative on water quality.
The agreement funds the Minerals Management Service at $143.6 million, down from $163.4 million in FY97. The National Park Service will receive $1.647 billion, up from $1.571 billion in FY97. The Bureau of Land Management will receive $1.136 billion, down from $1.386 billion in FY97. Outside the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service will receive $2.506 billion. The Department of Energy Fossil Energy R&D Program will be funded at $362.4 million, down $2.3 million from FY97 but $16 million mo re than the President's request.
The contentious "priority" land acquisitions issue was resolved and appropriated $699 million, a portion of which would go to purchase the Headwaters Forest of ancient redwoods in California for up to $250 million and the halted New World Mine in Montana outside Yellow National Park for $65 million. The administration negotiated both purchases to protect the areas from development, but the deals stirred resistance from some legislators who felt the negotiations should have involved Congress.
The conference agreement includes a House provision to sell $207.5 million worth of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to pay for its operations and maintenance. The Senate had removed the provision, which was opposed by the Independent Petroleum As sociation of America and other groups.
A small but interesting item in the agreement is a $400,000 appropriation to fund marine minerals research centers in Mississippi, Hawaii, and Alaska. These were authorized by legislation sponsored by Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Trent Lott (R-MS), wh ich was enacted into law in the last Congress (S. 1194; Public Law 104-325) after an agreement was made with Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) to include his state.
On July 15, the House passed H.R. 2107, the House Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill, by a vote of 222-203. The bill has been threatened with a Presidential veto due to provisions that slash National Endowment for the Arts funding from $99 million in FY97 to $10 million for close out costs in FY98.
The report directs the USGS to fund the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program at the same level as FY97 and indicates that the Global Seismographic Network should continue to be funded by the Department of Defense rather than by USGS as requested. The report denies funding for the President's Kalamazoo Initiative out of the Water Resources Division's NAWQA program, arguing that such a significant departure from the original program should only be done if the need is substantiated by a National Academy of Sciences review. The bill contains language to sell $209 million worth of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) succeeded in amending the bill so that none of the funds appropriated can be used for the Biosphere Reserves or World Heritage programs. Of the $750,000 currently being spent on these programs, most goes to international environmental research at the designated sites . In response to geoscience concern over to the threat of reduced funding for the USGS library, the report also included the following statement:
"The Committee is concerned with the viability of the USGS library, which serves many users and purposes, and expects the USGS to maintain in fiscal years 1997 and 1998 funding for the library (including acquisitions) at no less than the library's fiscal year 1996 level." (p. 47)
On September 18, the Senate passed the Interior and Related Agencies spending bill with minor changes from the bill passed by the Appropriations Committee. The Senate recommended $758.2 million for the U.S. Geological Survey, an amount $12.8 million abov e the President's request, $18.1 million above FY97 levels, and $2.4 million more than provided by the House. The bill includes the balanced budget provision that was left out of the House bill to allocate $700 million for "priority federal land exchange s and acquisitions." The Senate spending measure breaks down the $700 million by distributing $315 million for two land purchases, the New World Mine near Yellowstone and the privately owned Headwaters ancient redwood forest in California, $100 million f or the state-side, matching grant portion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the remaining $285 million to be used at the Agriculture and Interior departments' discretion.
The Senate did, however, make several changes to the bill. Sen. Bingaman (D-NM) and Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) successfully proposed an amendment to find an alternate source of funding for the operation and maintenance of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) , omitting a provision to sell $207 million worth of oil from the SPR in the committee bill. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-AR) were able to compromise on Reid's provision to require consensus from the governors of the 12 western states before the Dept. of the Interior can issue new mining rules. The final version of the amendment, passed by voice vote, would allow mining rules to proceed when Interior certified with Congress that all western governors had been consulted.
The Geologic Division would receive $235.2 million, up $7.5 million from the President's request. Included in that amount is a $3 million increase for the Global Seismographic Network in the U.S. Geological Survey's budget, contrasting the House's decisio n to call on the Defense Department to fund the program. Both the House and Senate bills fund the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program at the FY97 level, denying the Administration's request for a $1.7 million reduction.
The Water Resources Division is funded at $194.9 million, a $0.5 million increase over the President's request. The report ignores the President's plan to reprogram $9 million of Survey funds for the Kalamazoo water quality initiative and instead provides full funding for the Water Resources Research Institutes and other programs that were slated for cuts. The National Mapping Division is funded at $132.8 million, a $1.9 million increase over the request, and the Biological Resources Division is funded at $147.2 million, an increase of $2.2 million over the President's request.
The Bureau of Land Management would receive $1.135 billion, which is $13.6 million more than the Administration's request. The Office of Surface Mining would receive $4 million more than the Administration's request at $275.1 million, and the Minerals Ma nagement Service would receive $141.8 million. The Department of Energy is slated to receive $1.061 billion, including $100 million for clean coal technology, $50 million for oil technology, $70 million for natural gas research, $46 million for fuel cell s and $364 million for energy research and development.
VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies (NSF, NASA, EPA)
President Clinton signed the VA, HUD and Independent Agencies spending bill for agencies including NSF, NASA, and EPA into law (PL 105-65) on October 27. He vetoed seven projects tota lly $14 million, but none were related to the geosciences. Clinton also remarked that "he didn't think enough money was set aside for cleanup of toxic sites and meeting international commitments on climate change and ozone depletion."
The House and Senate have agreed to fund NSF at $3.429 billion, an increase of $159 million or 5% over the FY97 level and $62 million more than the President's request. In his remarks on the appropriation, NSF Director Neal Lane commented, "I am pa rticularly grateful for the efforts made by the science and engineering community to work with the Congress. These efforts played a large part in obtaining such strong Congressional support for NSF." The Research and Related Activities account also incre ased by 5% over FY97 to $2.546 billion, but the Geosciences Directorate lagged behind, receiving only a $5 million, or 1.1% increase to $451 million, $2 million less than the President's request. The original reason given for the small increase was that i t reflected a shift in funding to the Major Research Equipment account to fully fund construction of the Polar Cap Observatory, a $25 million request. That request was denied, however, after Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) learned that the obse rvatory was to be built in Canada (near the North Magnetic Pole) rather than Alaska. NSF is to study the matter and consider alternative sites! The Antarctic fared much better in the Major Research Equipment account, receiving $70 million for the rehabili tation of the South Pole Station in the Antarctic of a total $109 million in the account, $29 million above FY97. Political interests also intervened in the Biological Sciences Directorate, which received a $40 million increase over the President's reques t, earmarked by subcommittee chairman Kit Bond (R-MO) for a merit-reviewed plant genome research program. The increases for research and equipment came at the expense of NSF's Education and Human Resources Directorate, which will receive $535 million, jus t a 1.1% increase over FY97. The final bill also includes a provision requiring the agency to study the creation of a National Institute for the Environment as part of NSF. More from AAAS.
NASA is slated to receive $13.6 billion overall. AAAS estimates that R&D spending totals $9.8 billion, up 5.4% from FY97. The bulk of the R&D spending -- and all geoscience-related spending -- comes from the Science, Aeronautics, and Technology (S AT) account, which will receive $5.7 billion, up 4.3% from FY97. Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) will receive $1,422 million, up $66 million or 4.4% over FY97 and $5 million more than the President requested. In additional MTPE news, NASA has indicated tha t present cost saving techniques will allow the agency to increase its funding for data analysis by up to $165 million by 2000. Much of this increase will be used to fund grants to researchers. The Space Science program, which funds missions such as Mar s Pathfinder and Global Surveyor and the soon-to-launch Cassini mission to Saturn, will receive $2,030 million, up $61 million or 3.1% over FY97 but down $14 million from the President's request. These increases are dwarfed by those for the International Space Station, which will receive $2.4 billion in FY98, up nearly 11% from FY97 and the President's request, as cost overruns on the program continue to mount. More from AAAS.
EPA funding is set at $7.4 billion, up $564 million or 8.3% over FY97. Most of EPA's R&D spending is located in its Science & Technology account, which is funded at $631 million, a $79 million or 14.3 percent increase over FY97. The bulk of the in crease, $50 million, is to be used for particulate matter research, reflecting congressional concerns about the lack of scientific data to support EPA's new rule under the Clean Air Act regulating ozone and fine particulate matter. Academic researchers wi ll benefit from an increase in funding available for extramural competitive research grants, as much as $186 million. Under threat of a presidential veto, conferees agreed to $1.5 billion in funding for the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup program with t he promise of up to $2 billion next year if a reauthorization bill can be completed by May 15, 1998. More from AAAS.
The House passed the VA, HUD, & Independent Agencies appropriations on July 16,1997. The bill provides NSF with a 6.6 percent increase to $3.487 billion for FY98, which reflected the work of the scientific community lobbying for a 7% increase. A copy o f the report is available on Thomas, the Library of Congress web site.
The House did not provide the Administration's $650 million increase for Superfund, but did provide additional support for brownfield development and water programs. They appropriated $1.25 billion for clean water state revolving funds, and $750 million for safe drinking water state revolving funds. They also provided $85 million to clean-up brownfields.
The Senate passed H.R. 2158 in lieu of S. 1034, the VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies bill by a vote of 99-1 on July 22 with minor changes from the committee and subcommittee markup. Th e Senate appropriations are not as generous to science as the House because the Senate subcommittee received $800,000 million less than the House subcommittee in its allocation from the Appropriations Committee.
The Senate recommended a total appropriation for NSF of $3.377 billion. This amount is $10 million more than the request and represents a 3.3% increase over the FY 1997 level. It is $110 million below the level recommended by the House.
For Research and Related Activities, the Senate is recommending $2.524 billion. This amount is $10 million more than the request and represents a 3.8% increase over FY 1997. At the same time it is below the House mark for this account by $13 million. Within this account, the subcommittee has included bill and report language for a $40 million plant genome initiative to be supported consistent with NSF's competitive, merit-based procedures. The subcommittee also included bill and report language delaying the availability of some of the funds for the Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence and the Life and Earth's Environment initiatives until a report is submitted that outlines appropriate "milestones and benchmarks".
For the Major Research Equipment account, the subcommittee is recommending the budget request of $85 million to support the requests for South Pole Station, LIGO, and the Polar Cap Observatory. The subcommittee's recommendation of $85 million is $90 million below the House level largely because the House provided upfront funding for the rehabilitation of South Pole Station.
For Education and Human Resources, the subcommittee is recommending the request of $625 million, which is $7 million below the House level. Within the amount provided, the subcommittee has directed that $6 million be used to support historically black colleges and universities. Both the Salaries and Expenses and Office of Inspector General accounts were funded at the request level which is the same as in the House bill.
Energy and Water
President Clinton signed the $20.7 billion Energy and Water appropriations bill into law (PL 105-62) on October 13. The Basic Energy Sciences account will receive the President's request of $668.2 million, a 2.9% increase over FY97. This account funds no n-defense basic research at DOE's national laboratories, including the geosciences program funded at $23.5 million, a 6.7% increase from FY97. The Department of Energy's massive Environmental Management program, tasked with cleaning up the defense nuclear weapons complex, is funded at $5.5 billion, a level comparable to FY97. The agreement provides $350 million for the Yucca Mountain site characterization program ($160 million from the Nuclear Waste Disposal Fund and $190 million from the Defense Nuclear Waste Disposal account), down from $382 million in FY97. A provision in the Senate bill to revive DOE involvement in science and math education was not included in the conference agreement. A big winner was DOE's solar and renewable energy program, which soared to $346 million, more than requested by the President or allocated in the House and Senate bills. Although DOE sought $1 billion for privatization of cleanup efforts, the conference agreement allots only $200 million amidst problems with DOE's Pit 9 contract , which was to be a model privatization effort at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and has been dogged by huge cost overruns and repeated management changes.
The House passed HR. 2203, the Energy and Water Appropriations bill by a vote of 418-7 on July 25. The bill provides $329.3 million for solar and renewable energy programs, including $44 million for the Office of Energy Research, considerably more than the Senate allocation of $301.4 million. It funds the Bureau of Reclamation at $910 million, $23 million less than the Administrations' request. It increases funding 16% over the Adm inistrations request for the Army Corps of Engineers to a total of $4 billion.
The Basic Energy Sciences allocation is the same as that requested and provided by the Senate -- $668.2 million. The report states that "the Committee remains committed to robust basic energy research programs which are characterized by cutting-edg e basic research, availability of world-class facilities to the scientific and research community, and direction to meet current and future energy-related challenges."
Controversy continues to surround the possibility of an interim nuclear waste facility at Yucca Mountain. Rep. James Gibbons (R-NV) considered offering an amendment prohibiting funding f or an interim facility, but refrained at the request of Subcommittee Chairman Joseph McDade (R-PA). McDade assured Gibbons that the provision would be included in the conference with the Senate.
The Senate passed S.1004, the Energy and Water Appropriations bill by a vote of 99-0 on July 28. Overall, the bill provides $20.7 billion in spending, a slight increase from last year but $1.9 billion less than the President's request. Funds for major programs are: $5.32 billion for environmental restoration and waste management, $3.6 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, $829 million for the Bureau of Reclamation, and $301.4 million for renewable energy.
The Basic Energy Sciences account was funded at $668 million, the level requested by the President and nearly $20 million more than the FY97 amount of $649 million. This account funds DOE's geoscience research program.
The Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste disposal project was funded at $350 million, down from $382 million in FY97 and a request of $380 million. Of that total, $160 million is to come from the Nuclear Waste Fund and $190 million from the Defense Nu clear Waste Disposal account, which was set up to ensure payment of Federal contributions to the Nuclear Waste Fund.
The accompanying report language reinstates DOE's university and science education efforts: "The Department of Energy through its national laboratories and sites has unique physical and intellectual resources available to support the Nation's efforts to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers by improving teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering, and math at all levels. The Committee regrets the elimination last year of the university and science education program and has provided $10,000,000 to reinstate it. The Department is directed to focus its educational efforts on two areas in fiscal year 1998: expanding undergraduate and faculty research opportunities through programs such as the successful University Lab Cooperative Program; and reinstating programs to support minority institutional development, in particular, the Minority Technical Education Program."
The appropriations process spells trouble for DOE's continued privatization efforts. In response to DOE's request for over $1 billion for contract privatization, the Senate bill offers a mere $300 million and the House bill sets aside no funding for priv atization efforts. Lawmakers have made it abundantly clear that they are skeptical of DOE's management of its privatization projects. The House Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee convened a two-part hearing series to examine the problem s with DOE's Pit 9 contract , an agreement with subcontractor Lockheed Martin to clean up the Pit 9 nuclear waste site in Idaho. The administration has expressed its displeasure over the Hou se and Senate appropriators' being tightfisted with DOE's privatization programs.
President Clinton signed the Agriculture appropriations bill into law on November 18 and promptly vetoed five projects worth a total of $1.9 million. Both the House and Senate passed the conference agreement on H.R. 2160 in October. Conferees essentially split the difference between conservation funding levels, appropriating just over $633 million for conservation operations. According to preliminary estimates, the National Resources Conservation Service may lose 500 employees under this deal. The conferees also appropriated $101 million for watershed protection programs and $35 million for the Resource Conservation and Development Program. More from AAAS.
The House passed H.R. 2160, the Agriculture Appropriations bill on July 24. The bill's total discretionary spending is $13.65 billion, a slight increase over FY97 but still less than the President's request. It contains provisions to cut conservation operation funding levels to $758.738 million, $60 million less than the President's request. The cut has raised concern among agriculture interest groups and the Clinton administration. A statement issued July 16, 1997 by the administration says the House bill's reductions for conservation operations "could seriously impair [the Department of Agriculture's] ability to carry out critical conservation programs, including those enacted in the 1996 Farm Bill." Watershed and flood prevention activities and forestry activities were cut by $10 million, and watershed survey and planning was decreased by $2 million. Funding for the Agricultural Research Service increased $7 million from its c urrent level to a total of $725 million.
On the same day, the Senate unanimously passed S. 1033, the agriculture appropriations bill. The bill was marked up by the Appropriations Committee on July 18, and differs from the Hou se bill in that it increases funding for conservation programs to $828 million. Additionally, it provides $427.526 million for research and education activities in CSREES, an increase of more than $6 million from FY 97. $738 million was allocated for th e Agricultural Research Service, a sizable increase over FY97 funds and House appropriations.
After passing the Senate as part of an omnibus bill on November 9, the House passed the conference version of H.R. 2267 on November 13. Clinton signed the bill into law on November 26 . NOAA received $2 billion, a compromise between the House request ($1.85 billion) and Senate ($2.103 billion). About three-fourths of the money total appropriation ($1.509 million) went to the Operations, Research and Facilities Accounts and the other quarter went to the Procurement, Acquisition, and Construction Account.
The National Ocean Service will receive $241 million, a substantial increase over last year's $204 million. Some of those funds will be directed towards outreach activities to celebrate 1998 as the Year of the Ocean. The National Marine Fisheries Service will also increase, from $323 million last year to $346 million. The Oceanic and Atmospheric Research account will increase $25 million from FY97 to $278 million. $4.9 million in marked for buoys in the tropical Pacific that will increase monitoring of El Nino as well as expand the global monitoring system beyond satellites and atmospheric methods.
House and Senate requests
The following summary compares the committees' requests of major line items.
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS)
President Clinton signed the Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill into law (PL 105-78) on November 13 after a lengthy House-Senate conference that concluded on October 30. The conference bill, H.R. 2264, passed the House by a vote of 352-54 on November 7, and the Senate by a vote of 91-4 the following day. One of the most controversial education issues, the amendment by Slade Gorton (R-WA) to Senate bill S.1061 to transfer funds from K-12 education programs into block grants, was resolved when conferees decided to adopt the House version and not include the block grant proposal. The Eisen hower Professional Development state grants program will therefore not lose its designation for teacher enhancement activities in science and math and will be funded at $335 million, more than originally proposed by the House or Senate. The House bill fun ded Eisenhower at $310 million, the same amount originally appropriated by the Senate before the passage of the Gorton amendment. AGI and several of its member societies submitted letters to members of Congress on the importance of the Eisenhower program. For more information, visit AGI's action alert on the Eisenhower Program.
In addition to Eisenhower, most education programs emerged from the appropriations process with significant funding increases. Discretionary spending on Department of Education programs received an overall raise of $3.1 billion, nearly 12 percent, to $29.4 billion. That hike for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 came on top of increases in the fiscal 1997 and 1996 budgets. "It was a banner year for education," said Marshall S. Smith, the acting deputy secretary of education.
On October 8th, President Clinton signed H.R. 2266, providing appropriations for the Department of Defense for FY98. The House and Senate passed the conference agreement (H. Rpt. 105-265) for the bill on September 25th. In a year that has been marked by s trong support for federal research programs, DOD's basic research account (known as the 6.1 account) has been the exception. President Clinton requested $1.16 billion for the account, a 7.8% increase over FY97. Both the House and Senate passed authorizing bills requesting similar amounts, and the Senate version of the National Security appropriations bill contained the increase. But House National Security Appropriations subcommittee chairman C.W. "Bill" Young (R-FL) opposed the increase and provided for a 4% cut. The report accompanying the House bill questioned "whether never-ending budget growth in basic research is wise, particularly in the context of the Administration's failure to adequately address the Defense Department's weapons system modernizat ion needs." In conference, Young stuck to his guns (as it were), and the 6.1 account will be funded at $1.06 billion, a 1.1% decrease.
In contrast to the 6.1 cut, the DOD applied research (or 6.2) account will receive a 7.5% increase over FY97 from $2.86 billion to $3.08 billion, despite the Administration's request of a $46 million cut. Because the 6.2 account is the larger by far, the total research budget (6.1 plus 6.2) will increase to $4.14 billion, a 5.1% increase over FY97 and 4% over the President's request.
Although the cut in the 6.1 account is bad news for universities, which receive a sizable portion of those funds, oceanographic and atmospheric research funded by the Navy received strong support and will see increases as part of an overall 2% increase in the Navy's $8.0 billion R&D budget (6.1 through 6.7 accounts). More from AAAS.
Sources: House and Senate documents, Environment and Energy Weekly, National Science Foundation, American Institute of Physics, National Association of Graduate and Professional Students, Washington Post, American Chemical Society, Science and Governme nt Report, Ecological Society of America, Education Week
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed by Kasey Shewey and Dave Applegate, AGI Government Affairs.
Last updated December 12, 1997
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