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EPA takes on three villains at once: pollution, climate change, and racism

Grist.org - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 15:46

You may have read something recently about the air being racist, which is of course ridiculous. It is true that if you are white in America you will tend to breathe air of a more premium quality. A recent study from the University of Minnesota found that black and brown Americans are more often trapped in neighborhoods laden with nitrogen dioxide than their white fellow Americans.

This is not news to us. Our abnormally high asthma and cancer rates testify to this. These reports are perennial, and media coverage of them rarely provides context for how these air disparities came into existence: unequal environmental legal protections.

Nor do the reports note that while waves of such antimatter tend to hover over the browner parts of Gotham, there is a Justice Alliance in place determined to protect them. The alliance is called the environmental justice movement, and it’s recently made significant headway inside the executive branch of the federal government.

President Obama’s first Environmental Protection Agency Chief, Lisa Jackson, promoted environmental justice to top priority status in the agency’s overall mission in 2009. The resulting strategy, which the EPA began rolling out in March, is called Plan EJ 2014, and its primary goal is to end the culture of entitlement among polluters that dump toxic byproducts into the air, soil, and water of marginalized communities.

Why is this a big deal?

  1. Because if you believe that the health and lives of people of color are no less precious than white people’s, this plan helps bring environmental laws in harmony with those values.
  2. If you think that clean air is Don Sterling(I like black people. I feed them with oxygen and give them wind. I just don’t want them breathing me.), then you want to know who the Adam Silver is who can commission a smackdown.
  3. Because civil rights protections in America have been taking a beating lately. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, we now have weakened voting rights protections, weakened affirmative action policies, and we were this close to losing valuable housing discrimination protections (which would have had negative implications for environmentalists).

While civil rights have been getting pushed backwards, environmental justice is been slowly rolling along progressively. That’s no small feat, especially for an agenda that was attacked almost immediately upon Obama claiming the White House in 2009.

To that end, the emergence of Plan EJ 2014 is something akin to The Dark Knight rising after years of allowing the evils of racism to corrupt the air for too long. The plan aims at both local pollution and climate change, hoping to prove it can take on two villains at the same time. To understand the significance of this fight, it’s helpful to understand how this justice strategy was developed.

At its heart, EJ 2014 is an attempt to resurrect – and weaponize – a 1994 executive order issued by President Clinton that formally acknowledged that the way the federal government was allowing business to happen was overburdening communities of color with pollution. The order directed all federal agencies to produce strategies to stop that, but early efforts faltered and George W. Bush ignored the order. Reviving it under Obama would be no simple mission. Whatever EPA came up with was sure to be hated on by business and industry, which were brats about anything that even resembled regulation. The plan also had to pass muster with environmental justice activists and mainstream environmental groups.

To lead the effort, Jackson found a Lucious Fox in Lisa Garcia, an attorney adept in creative lawyering and community empowerment — skills she developed while working as chief advocate for environmental justice and equity for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Garcia would work alongside Charles Lee, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice.

Similar efforts had failed in the past. In New York, Garcia chaired a state government task force that released an environmental justice plan; environmental justice leaders in that city tell me it was one of a succession of such plans that went nowhere. In 1994, Clinton created a federal environmental justice task force to create strategies for incorporating environmental justice principles into executive branch operations. That, too, fell flat.

And while the bureaucrats met, the evidence for environmental racism continued to mount. In 2011, scientists found that American counties with the worst levels of ozone had significantly larger African American populations than those with less pollution. Poverty was not a huge factor in this. Meaning, companies were permitted to pollute near neighborhoods not because they were poor, but because there were fewer white people to suffer.

Companies argued they were doing nothing wrong because they were polluting within their permitted levels (except when they weren’t). But permitting analyses was fundamentally flawed: It was based solely on single pollutants from single sources. There was nothing that took into consideration the fact that some neighborhoods had clusters of pollution sources spitting out gumbo-scale pollutants.

Not to be outdone, Obama himself had been fucking up. He gave the EPA the green mandate, but then started pulling stuff like expanding offshore drilling for oil companies and delaying new regulations around ozone emissions. Such antics cost him his climate change czar, Carol Browner — and he almost lost Jackson early on, too.

Many members of the environmental justice community concluded that anything short of a law, passed by Congress and signed by the president, would simply not be enough. For housing discrimination, there is the Fair Housing Act, and there’s a Voting Rights Act for voting discrimination. But there’s been no parallel act for environmental protections. Citizens have had to rely upon the Civil Rights Act for protection from environmental harm, but the EPA has failed to enforce that law as well.

Still, Garcia soldiered on. She visited dozens of communities gathering complaints and concerns from residents living with the heaviest pollution burdens. The main thing she heard was that the EPA needed to step up its enforcement game considerably, especially around civil rights.

“The communities drove a lot of the questions,” Garcia said in an interview about her approach to creating the plan. “The [EPA] staff not being able to answer these questions easily drove why the EJ program became so process-oriented — because staff didn’t have the tools and didn’t have the guidance needed to prioritize things like enforcement and compliance. So for me the plan really was, this is what the communities are saying.”

In 2012, the EPA completed a working draft of Plan EJ 2014 consisting of much-needed guidance for agencies officials on enforcement, permitting, and agency rulemaking. It also called for a bunch of online tools and GIS applications so that the agency could better identify pollution-riddled communities. President Obama’s Climate Action Plan was integrated into a later version of the plan, signaling that he had heard the concerns of environmental justice groups that his climate change treatise lacked strong language around protecting communities of color.

At this writing, Plan EJ 2014 is about 90 percent complete. Progress reports show that there’s been a tremendous amount of movement in terms of bringing new rules, guidelines, and applications online, but the EPA is still trying to wrap its head around cumulative risk assessment — permitting decisions that consider pollution clusters — and expanding public participation in agency decision-making. Jackson has since left for Apple, but her successor, Gina McCarthy, hasn’t shied away from prioritizing and finishing the project. Last month, Garcia left EPA to join Earth Justice as vice president of litigation for health.

In many ways, the plan itself is a civil rights achievement. It might die an early death like so many other plans before it, or it could live long enough to itself become a villain — another target for the civil rights-hatin’ Supreme Court. But without it, our black and brown neighbors will continue to suffer from breathing dirty air, due to the racism of unequal protection under the law. At least now, the powers that be can no longer feign ignorance.

This is part one of a series on Plan EJ 2014


Filed under: Article, Cities, Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Environment

Greenpeace activists arrested — again — for trying to block Russia’s Arctic oil activities

Grist.org - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 15:18

Greenpeace activists aren’t letting a little jail time dissuade them from continuing their fight against Russia’s nascent Arctic oil-drilling program.

The crew aboard Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior ship tried on Thursday to block the first delivery of oil from Russia’s first offshore oil rig to a harbor in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The crew included some of the same activists who were arrested by Russian authorities in September for attempting to scale the oil rig in frigid waters. The activists were released from jail in December as part of a pre-Olympics amnesty program.

This latest stunt got them arrested again — but this time by Dutch police instead of Russian ones. Reuters reports:

Dutch police stormed a Greenpeace ship on Thursday to prevent environmental activists blocking delivery of the first oil from Russia’s new Arctic drilling platform reaching port in Rotterdam. …

A Reuters photographer said activists had draped banners saying “No Arctic Oil” from the Russian vessel.

“The Russian ship is very big, about 250 meters long, and there are safety concerns when you try and stop it mooring,” Rotterdam police spokesman Roland Ekkers said.

He said the activists had been detained in a room on the Rainbow Warrior until it docked, when the captain was arrested. The oil-tanker Mikhail Ulyanov entered the harbor unhindered, and moored at about 0915 GMT.

These activists seem as stubborn as climate change.


Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Environment

Altec Partners With Sage on Their 18-City North American Inspire Tour,...

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 12:54

Montreal and Toronto host upcoming Sage Inspire Tour stops, spotlighting ERP Document Management as an innovative tool to increase business efficiencies and help companies work smarter.

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11804115.htm

Categories: Environment

Pre-Sales Begin at Darling Homes’ Bridges at Las Colinas Community in...

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 12:54

Darling Homes has announced the start of pre-sales for its latest community, Bridges at Las Colinas, located at the heart of the DFW metroplex in Irving.

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11805389.htm

Categories: Environment

Elliance Uses Manufacturing Marketing Expertise to Create...

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 12:54

German Website Integrated with Existing American Website

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11812029.htm

Categories: Environment

Civic Works Selects Abel Communications for Comprehensive Marketing...

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 12:54

Abel Communications to Build Awareness About the Impact of Civic Works in Baltimore Communities

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11813210.htm

Categories: Environment

Adventure Life Offers New Cotopaxi Mountain Biking Tour

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 12:54

Avid cyclists can now experience the exhilaration of biking through Cotopaxi National Park. Adventure Life is now offering a new tour that allows this unique and active way to explore Ecuador.

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11813704.htm

Categories: Environment

Colorado's Devil's Thumb Ranch Opens New High Lonesome Lodge,...

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 12:54

Eco-expansion showcases the Ranch Resort & Spa's award-winning history in sustainable, wilderness based pampering for leisure travelers, groups and weddings. From its Wine Spectator wine...

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11814522.htm

Categories: Environment

Air Purifiers Direct 2U LLC Announces New Website Features Including...

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 12:54

Air Purifiers Direct 2U LLC announces new website features Including hot items, complimentary shipping, specials & FAQs. Now it is easier than ever for customers to find what they are needing.

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11745561.htm

Categories: Environment

The Global Tomographic Explosives Detection Systems EDS & BHS...

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 12:54

Homeland Security Research Corporation analysts forecast a comeback for the Explosive Detection Systems & Baggage Handling Systems industry, generating a refreshing 4.2% CAGR for the 2014-2020...

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11772801.htm

Categories: Environment

Rice Lake Industrial Weighing Solutions on Display at International...

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 12:54

Visitors to booth #2207 of the 2014 International Powder & Bulk Solids Expo will be able to see the best of Rice Lake's industrial weighing solutions.

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11814774.htm

Categories: Environment

Leader of Activists for Truth, Regina Imburgia wants to set the record...

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 12:54

News headlines are causing confusion about where Dallas is in the process to halt the addition of fluoride to the Dallas water.

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11804841.htm

Categories: Environment

Make Me Care: What’s so great about tiny houses, anyway?

Grist.org - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 12:08

Welcome to Make Me Care, a new and experimental vlog in which we try to get our writers and editors to explain why their topic du jour is worthy of your attention. In this episode, host and editorial intern Amelia Urry invites Grist fellow Eve Andrews into her (occasionally glitchy) Skype room. For the past couple of months, Eve has been writing about tiny houses by themselves, tiny houses in groups, tiny houses in love, and now tiny houses in cities.

There’s a lot to say on the topic — but why should you care? And for all of the thousands of words on tiny houses to which Eve’s subjected us, would she actually live in one herself? Watch the video above to find out!

And if, after all that, you’re still wondering if you could or should go tiny, check out our tiny house flowchart!


Filed under: Cities, Living
Categories: Environment

Ask Umbra: What’s the best way to get my local veggies?

Grist.org - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 11:02

Q. Is it better to have a veggie box from a produce delivery service sent to my home each week, or to just purchase the produce from the grocery store? They have many of the same products from the same producers.

SDL
San Francisco, Calif.

A. Dearest SDL,

Who wants local veggies? We do! When do we want them? Now! Where will we get them? Well…that one is a little more complicated. But dear readers, I don’t want you overthinking this. Eating lots of local produce is superhealthy for you, the environment, and the economic futures of small farms. There are some differences between the sources for these veggies, which we’re about to dive into. But if you point your compass toward local, organic foods, your choices will all be varying degrees of good, OK?

As you’ve discovered, SDL, there are a few ways to get your mitts on local veggies. You’ve mentioned two: produce delivery services and the grocery store. Let’s add a few more into the mix: community-supported agriculture (CSAs) and the farmers market.

Like I said, all have their pros. But if you must have a best option, it’s probably a CSA share. To the uninitiated: A CSA is a fabulous arrangement in which you pay a farmer up front and receive a box of fresh, in-season produce each week for the growing season. We heart this model because it provides crucial dollars a small farmer can invest in seeds, labor, infrastructure, and other costs for the year. You’re providing the farmer with a guaranteed market, and you’re getting your produce from a local source, which reduces its transport footprint. And on the especially warm-and-fuzzy side, you’re building a connection with the people who grow your food.

For all its benefits, a CSA share might not be 100 percent perfect for everybody, however. Because you’re committing to a local farm, your produce will be tied to the growing season – that means no berries in fall or tomatoes in early spring. By paying up-front, you’re also sharing the risk of drought and crop failures. And if you’re not that into cooking, or you travel a lot, you might appreciate a more flexible option. But if you think it might work for you, SDL, please do think about it.

The farmers market offers similar benefits – personal connections to farms, access to locally grown asparagus and peppers, buying directly from growers – and is more flexible and convenient for shoppers. But it’s riskier for the farmer, as they don’t have the promise of sales on any particular day. “It’s very fickle,” says Luke Woodward, co-founder of Oxbow Farm out here in Washington. “And to make $2,000 at a farmers market, you have to bring $4,000 worth of produce. In our CSA, you sell exactly as much as you have.”

Then there’s the produce delivery service. These are generally bigger organizations that source local, organic produce, but also cast a wider net to more distant farms. This means you have more variety of goodies for a longer amount of time – you might get cold-season mangoes! There’s the added convenience of getting the box delivered to your door. And for the farmers, a produce delivery service means access to a larger market. Of course, this option will usually be bringing you food from farther away, increasing its carbon footprint (though some offer local-only options). You’ll also lose out on that special connection to one farm that you get with a CSA or market.

As a final option, what about just buying local eggplant from the grocery store? That’s perhaps the easiest, most convenient option for consumers. And it’s great to show the supermarket there’s a demand for local produce, notes Chris Iberle, a CSA manger for food advocacy group Seattle Tilth. But keep in mind your local farmers are getting wholesale prices for those zucchinis, unlike in the middleman-free CSA and farmers market.

That’s a long-winded answer to your question, SDL. I’ll let a farmer boil it down for you: “When a local farm is offering a CSA, that’s where you should get your produce,” Woodward of Oxbow Farm says. “In the off season, make your choice between the store and a delivery service.”

Or even easier: Local food is good food, wherever you can find it. I promise that won’t steer you wrong.

Bountifully,
Umbra


Filed under: Food, Living
Categories: Environment

Why we talk about the Kochs

Grist.org - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 10:42

Are we all too focused on the Koch brothers? That’s the argument of a feature in the current issue of Newsweek by veteran political reporter Matt Cooper. Cooper claims Charles and David Koch’s influence is overstated by Democrats, who raise money by fearmongering about the brothers’ nefarious plots, and by the media, which loves any pair of eccentric billionaires.

“With the Democrats possibly losing control of the Senate, Harry Reid, their leader in that chamber, has gone after the Kochs with what seems like unprecedented language against private citizens,” Cooper complains, noting that Reid called the Kochs “un-American” for “trying to buy America.” Here is Cooper’s argument in a nutshell:

Professionals in both parties have a vested interest in building up the already substantial impact of the Kochs. Republicans see them as loyal Americans coming to the rescue, while Democrats get a higher return on their solicitations simply by invoking the Koch name. Neither side has an incentive to say, “Yes, Koch money is a big deal, but it’s not determinative.” And neither side has an incentive to say the obvious: “Even if you believe that it’s crazy to allow that much private money in politics, the Kochs are playing by the rules.” It’s like cockfighting: Don’t hate the player, hate the game. The Koch geyser of money may be unusual but “un-American”? Oh, please.

As a writer for one outlet that talks about the Kochs frequently, let me explain why we do so: The Kochs threaten to destroy American democracy, regardless of their views. And, as it happens, their extreme and self-interested positions are taking over the Republican Party.

Cooper makes two arguments: One, that the Kochs are really not all that powerful, and two, that they are just libertarian-leaning philanthropists, not far-right loons trying to buy a favorable political climate for their lawbreaking, polluting company.

This is wrong on both counts. On the first: Cooper notes that the Kochs marshalling of more than $400 million in the last election cycle did not put Mitt Romney in the White House. That’s true, but if the Republicans had nominated a stronger candidate, the Koch money might have put him or her over the top. And Republicans in Congress and at the state level might have done even worse without Koch backing in 2012. Going forward, we don’t know how much the Kochs will spend. Perhaps they will conclude that buying the presidency simply requires a larger investment. They can afford it, as they are worth $80 billion. Suppose they and other Republican fossil-fuel plutocrats spend $4 billion instead of $400 million in 2016?

Cooper seems to argue that if you try to buy an election and fail, then you’ve done no harm. But that misses the point. Either you think it’s OK for billionaires to buy elections, or you don’t. Saying it’s OK because they probably will fail at it — except for when they succeed, like Mike Bloomberg in New York — doesn’t make sense.

Cooper does give the Kochs credit for one thing: turning the GOP against climate action, via Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch-backed anti-regulation organization. “A few years ago, cap-and-trade curbs on greenhouse gas emissions was embraced by the GOP presidential nominee, John McCain,” writes Cooper. “There’s no way that’ll happen in 2016, in part thanks to the AFP.” Well, climate change is currently the worst catastrophe affecting humankind. Preventing one of the two major parties in the most powerful nation on earth from accepting its reality, and thereby preventing national and international action to fight the problem, is no small matter. It is, indeed, the whole ballgame. (Consider the effect of substituting another apocalypse into Cooper’s sentences, to fully appreciate the absurdity: “A few years ago, avoiding a nuclear war with Russia was embraced by the GOP presidential nominee, John McCain. There’s no way that’ll happen in 2016, in part thanks to the AFP.”)

On the second count, just how evil the Kochs are, Cooper is much too generous. He notes their libertarian personal beliefs — e.g., “David Koch told reporters in 2012 he disagreed with Mitt Romney’s opposition to legalizing gay marriage” — as if that matters. It doesn’t. David Koch backs candidates with intolerant, big-government social positions because they share his commitment to eliminating the social safety net and rolling back labor, environment, and public health regulations. Koch’s personal view of gay marriage matters as little as his patronage of the arts or academia — supposedly mitigating factors that Cooper also emphasizes. Sorry, but giving money to Lincoln Center and MIT, two institutions patronized overwhelmingly by the wealthy, does not diminish the harm the Kochs unleash on society as a whole.

“Explaining why, say, David, who donated millions to cancer research and the dinosaur wing at the American Museum of Natural history, is a monster is a tough sell,” writes Cooper. Well, I’m not much of a salesman, but I think I can close this deal. Even the brothers’ seemingly nonpartisan giving to laudable educational causes is tainted by their right-wing agenda. The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History sows confusion about climate science and depicts climate change as a natural, harmless phenomenon.

And even when the Kochs don’t get their candidates elected, they still get their ideas adopted. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recently noted, David Koch’s far-right policies have moved from the periphery to the mainstream of the GOP over the last three decades:

In 1980, Libertarian vice-presidential candidate David Koch ran on a platform that called for abolishing the minimum wage. Thirty-four years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of 1 percent of the American people. Today, not only does virtually every Republican in Congress oppose raising the $7.25 an hour minimum wage, many of them, including Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and John McCain, are on record for abolishing the concept of the federal minimum wage. …

In 1980, the platform of David Koch’s Libertarian Party called for “the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system.” Thirty-four years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of 1 percent of the American people. Today, the mainstream view of the Republican Party is that “entitlement reform” is absolutely necessary. For some, this means major cuts in Social Security. For others who believe Social Security is unconstitutional or a Ponzi scheme this means the privatization of Social Security or abolishing this program completely for those who are under 60 years of age.

Just this week, every Republican in the Senate but one voted to block a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage.

Most disingenuous is Cooper’s argument that the Kochs cannot be blamed for merely playing by the rules of unlimited campaign spending. Tom Steyer cannot be blamed for that. The Kochs can, since they have worked to elect Republicans who oppose campaign finance regulation and have appointed the Supreme Court justices who have ruled such regulations unconstitutional.

Cooper takes exception to calling the Kochs’ efforts to buy America “un-American.” Fine, let’s call it what it is: anti-democratic. We shouldn’t have to discuss just how “unusual” the Kochs are, because they shouldn’t matter more than any other two citizens. We shouldn’t have to wonder whether their billions can buy elections. The American government exists to govern in the interest of the majority. For example, it should regulate greenhouse gas emissions to prevent harm to everyone from fossil fuels that only benefit a handful of wealthy people like the Kochs. If, instead, the Kochs can buy off politicians to side with them over the public, we are headed for catastrophe.


Filed under: Article, Business & Technology, Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Environment

Friends of Science ask Psychological Sciences to Retract Lewandowsky...

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 09:53

Friends of Science are calling for a retraction of a controversial paper by Stephan Lewandowsky, published in Psychological Science, that claims climate change critics are hoax and conspiracy...

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/03/prweb11703705.htm

Categories: Environment

HiveSSL Announces LED PAR30 Bulb with 90 Year Life Expectancy

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 09:53

HiveSSL will debut their new game-changing LED PAR30 light bulb in the fourth quarter of 2014. The new dimmable bulbs use only 6 Watts to produce 790 Lumens and have a life expectancy of 90 years and...

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11797817.htm

Categories: Environment

Outdoor Decorating Made Easy with Costa Farms Tropic Escape Collection...

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 09:53

Try these tropical plants for beautiful blooms all summer long.

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11808118.htm

Categories: Environment

Palms Costa Rica to Offer Amazon Kindle Paperwhite to Vacation Villa...

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 09:53

As seen on major television networks nationwide, The Palms Costa Rica is set to reward their guests with a Amazon Kindle Paperwhite when booking a 4 night "Preview Stay".

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11808230.htm

Categories: Environment

Discounted 60 KG Single Door Magnetic Mini Locks Now Offered By China...

PR Web - Thu, 05/01/2014 - 09:53

Recently, SWAccessControl.com, one of the world’s leading magnetic lock companies, has released its new designs of 60 KG Single Door Magnetic Mini Locks. According to the company’s development...

(PRWeb May 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11810626.htm

Categories: Environment

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