CEPA, Canada’s main environmental law isn’t working. Of course it isn’t, the oil and gas industry is largely exempt while emissions of the most harmful chemicals are on the rise. Live in a frac field? Hold your breath, don’t drink the water.

Has Husky disclosed all the chemicals it spilled into the North Saskatchewan River to the Environment Canada, NEB, the provincial government and regulators, and harmed families and communities in Saskatchewan? Wanna bet the company never is made to disclose those toxic chemicals, not even to the regulators or public, or those who will bathe in and ingest the toxic river water in the future?

Canada’s main environmental law isn’t working, Emissions of some of the most harmful chemicals are on the rise in Canada by Joseph Castrilli, July 29, 2016, Toronto Star

Despite heavy federal investment, aggregate emissions for the most harmful chemicals are rising in Canada.

For the first time in a decade a committee of Parliament is examining how the nation’s primary environmental law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), is working. What we are learning about CEPA is not good news. [NEWS? It’s been known since CEPA was created in 1999 that the act doesn’t and won’t work! How can it work when the government cleverly exempts the most toxic industry, namely, oil, gas and bitumen?]

Despite Ottawa’s heavy financial investment over the first decade and a half of the 21st century in the screening, assessment, and management of existing chemicals in Canadian industry and commerce, aggregate emissions for the most harmful of them are rising. These include substances that cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, or are persistent (breakdown slowly in the environment), bioaccumulative (easily accumulate in organisms), or toxic. In short, these are the very substances the federal government has determined are the ones it wishes [BUT IS TOO COWARDLY] to control or prohibit under CEPA, when other federal or provincial measures are not adequate.

By any benchmark, increases in emissions for substances like lead (up 125 per cent between 2006 and 2012), arsenic, or cadmium (up almost 85 per cent and 900 per cent, respectively, during the same period) are indicative of regulatory failure, not success. [INTENTIONAL FAILURE?]

Moreover, we are not doing well when compared to our neighbours to the south when it comes to controlling releases of toxic substances common to both countries. For example, New Jersey is a jurisdiction some members of the chemical industry argue Ontario should be compared to because of a similar manufacturing and industrial-based economy. We agree. However, the comparison underscores what’s wrong with Canadian laws. In 2013, Ontario released to air known or suspected carcinogens common to both Canada and the United States at a rate 18 times higher than New Jersey.

Furthermore, there is a disturbing but not surprising correlation between attempts to engage in soft regulation (use of measures that are not legally binding) for certain industrial chemicals or sectors and the resulting soaring levels of releases of substances to the environment. Take cadmium, for example, and its 900-per-cent increase in Canada between 2006 and 2012. Despite cadmium being regarded as carcinogenic and posing reproductive and developmental problems, as well as exhibiting persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic characteristics, the approach of the federal government to controlling this substance consists of applying unenforceable guidelines, voluntary codes of practice, and self-regulating pollution prevention plans.

Similarly, Ontario’s policy of granting exemptions to companies, if not whole industrial sectors, from the requirements of the province’s primary air pollution control regulation may, not surprisingly, explain why Ontario had the fourth-highest level of releases to air of carcinogens out of 60 state and provincial jurisdictions in Canada and the United States in 2012.

So whether we compare our record to other jurisdictions or just look at our own domestic situation, the picture is grim. 

What should Canadians demand in the face of this failure? We suggest as a start:

1. A federal law that is drafted with the recognition that releases of toxic substances are increasing, not decreasing, and reformed to reverse that trend by preventing pollution, protecting vulnerable populations, promoting safer, including non-chemical, alternatives, and enhancing the role of the public in the process; and

2. A provincial air pollution control regime that reverses the trend in making exemptions to its application the rule, rather than the exception.

Our environmental laws need to be robust if they are to be a true last line of defence in protecting public health and the environment from exposure to toxic substances. [Emphasis added]

Joseph F. Castrilli is a lawyer with the Canadian Environmental Law Association in Toronto.

[Refer also to:

The National Pollutant Release Inventory Oil and Gas Sector Review NOTE ALL THE SNEAKY EXEMPTIONS! by Environment and Climate Change Canada

Environment Canada is undertaking a review of National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) reporting requirements for oil and gas facilities in order to achieve appropriate rates of reporting coverage for pollutants of concern, as well as simplified data reporting/data collection processes for industry and Environment Canada. The review will be completed in two phases. Phase 1 is intended to respond to the environmental petition submitted to the Auditor General of Canada, requesting Environment Canada to address NPRI reporting for shale gas and in-situ oil sands extraction. Phase 2 will build on Phase 1, and examine NPRI reporting requirements and remaining issues for the sector as a whole.

Discussion Document: Scope and Approach
Phase 1: Proposal for Reporting of Pollutant Releases from Hydraulic Fracturing and Solvent-Assisted in situ Bitumen Extraction

Discussion Document: Scope and Approach
1. Introduction

NPRI Overview

The NPRI is Canada’s legislated, publicly accessible inventory of pollutant releases (to air, water and land), disposals and transfers for recycling. It is used for identifying pollution prevention priorities; supporting the assessment and risk management of chemicals and air quality modeling; helping develop targeted regulations for reducing releases of toxic substances and air pollutants; encouraging actions to reduce the release of pollutants into the environment; and improving public understanding. It captures data on over 300 substances of concern, including many substances declared toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) and key air pollutants from a wide variety of industrial sectors.

Under section 46 of CEPA 1999, the Minister of the Environment issues notices to require facilities to report information each year for the purpose of creating an inventory of data. The NPRI reporting requirements, as published in the Canada Gazette, Part I Notice with respect to substances in the National Pollutant Release Inventory, specify the chemicals which need to be reported and set minimum quantities for reporting. As such, the NPRI does not capture data on all pollutant emissions in Canada. The reporting requirements are intended to create a balance between the level of effort required from reporting facilities and the overall quality of information in the NPRI. For the 2011 reporting year, 346 substances or substance groups were listed on the NPRI and approximately 8,000 facilities submitted reports on the substances that they released, disposed of, or sent to other facilities for recycling.


Facilities from the oil and gas sector are required to report their releases, disposals and transfers of all substances listed on the NPRI for which they meet the reporting criteria, as published in the Canada Gazette notice. For the most recent reporting year (2011), close to 4,000 oil and gas extraction facilities reported to the NPRI, representing over 40% of all facilities reporting to the NPRI. All producing Canadian oil sands operations and off-shore oil and gas extraction facilities reported, as did most natural gas processing plants. Reporting coverage is lower for conventional oil and gas batteries, compressor stations and gas-gathering systems. Many facilities of these types were not required to report based on NPRI thresholds. Current NPRI reporting requirements capture most combustion-related emissions from the sector, but do not require reporting of fugitive or venting emissions (e.g. volatile organic compounds and hydrogen sulphide) from oil and gas extraction facilities with fewer than the equivalent of 10 full-time employees, or releases from oil and gas drilling and exploration activities.

Environment Canada is undertaking a review of NPRI reporting requirements for oil and gas facilities in order to achieve appropriate rates of reporting coverage for pollutants of concern, as well as simplified data reporting/data collection processes for industry and Environment Canada. This review also responds to the environmental petition Shale Gas Fracking and In Situ Oil Sands Chemicals and the National Pollutant Release Inventory: Public Disclosure Needed (petition 317) which was submitted to the Auditor General of Canada on June 22, 2011. Environment Canada responded to the petition on October 25, 2011, indicating that it will be undergoing a review of NPRI reporting from the oil and gas sector and would consider NPRI reporting for shale gas and in-situ oil sands extraction as part of that review.Footnote1 See Section 3 for more information.

2. Scope

The NPRI Oil and Gas Sector Review will primarily examine NPRI reporting requirements for oil and gas extraction and for support activities for oil and gas extraction (North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes 211 and 213). However, it should be noted that the review is not limited to facilities and activities with these two NAICS codes and may examine other facilities or activities from the oil and gas sector.

The scope of this review will look at the known gaps with NPRI data for the oil and gas industry and the potential contributing factors. The issues have been identified based on input from stakeholders and departmental needs. It should be noted that as this review progresses and discussions and consultations take place, other issues and contributing factors may be identified. However, for the time being, Environment Canada will be reviewing the impacts of the nine issues identified below and considering changes that would capture additional information on oil and gas activities and facilities. The review will be completed in two phases and the issues will be considered as part of Phase 1 and/or Phase 2, as applicable.

1. The exemption for oil and gas exploration or drilling (Phases 1 & 2)

This exemption has two main implications. First, it exempts facilities that are solely involved in these activities from reporting to the NPRI. Due to this reporting exemption, most pre-production facilities (e.g. those in pilot phase or in exploration or drilling phase) are not currently required to report to the NPRI. Second, for facilities that engage in other activities, the oil and gas exploration and drilling portion of their operations are exempt from reporting. Consideration of possible changes to this exemption will also need to take into account that exploration and drilling are not usually ongoing activities.

2. The 20,000 employee-hour (i.e. the equivalent of 10 full-time employees) threshold for reporting (Phases 1 & 2)

Many oil and gas facilities (such as wells, batteries and compressor stations) are unmanned or have few employees, [WHAT ABOUT NEIGHBOURING FAMILIES, LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE FORCED TO ENDURE THE OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY’S TOXIC CHEMICAL, 24/7?] and are therefore not required to report to the NPRI, except for criteria air contaminants (CACs) (see issue #3 below). It should be noted that the employee threshold does not apply to facilities that are engaged in certain specified activities (e.g. incineration). The review will consider whether certain oil and gas activities should be added to the list of activities for which reporting is required regardless of the number of employee hours.

3. Facilities with few employees are only required to report specified substances and specified release sources (Phases 1 & 2)

Facilities that do not meet the 20,000 employee-hour threshold are only required to report CACs and are only required to consider these releases from stationary combustion sources. Consequently, the majority of CACs from combustion-related emissions are tracked through the NPRI, but the majority of fugitive or vented emissions are not (e.g. fugitive emissions of volatile organic compounds and hydrogen sulphide from oil and gas wells). The review will consider whether adjustment of the requirements to ensure reporting on these emissions is warranted.

4. Subterranean releases are not specifically listed as a reportable category under releases to land (Phase 1)

NPRI requires reporting of releases to air, surface water and land, with land releases reported separately by spills, leaks, or other releases to land that are not disposals. Underground injection for the purposes of waste disposal is reportable under the disposal category (either on- or off-site). Underground injection for the purpose of enhancing upstream oil and gas production (e.g. hydraulic fracturing and enhanced oil recovery) is not specifically listed as a reportable category. This results in uncertainty as to whether this injection should be categorized as subterranean releases, whether these releases need to be reported to the NPRI and how they should be reported. The review will consider whether and how to address this issue.

5. Reporting is only required for substances listed in the NPRI (Phases 1 & 2)

Reporting for a particular substance is required only if that substance is listed in the NPRI notice. Therefore, releases or disposals are not captured if the substances of concern are not listed on the NPRI. For example, hydraulic fracturing fluid is a mixture of substances that may contain specific NPRI substances. Reporting of this fluid would be based on the individual NPRI substances contained in the mixture and not on the hydraulic fracturing fluid as a whole. As part of this review, substances that are relevant to the oil and gas sector but not already listed on the NPRI may be identified, and if so will be considered for addition.

6. Reporting on NPRI substances is only required if the threshold for a particular substance is met (Phases 1 & 2)

Thresholds for amounts of a substance manufactured, processed or otherwise used (MPO), or released should be at a level that will trigger reporting of all significant releases or disposals. If the thresholds are too high, then those substances are not reported. If deemed appropriate, reduced thresholds could be considered to increase reporting. [But aren’t.]

7. NPRI facility definition (Phase 2)

Some oil and gas facilities and activities can be transient or temporary [All drilling, cementing, acidizing, perforating, fracing, refracing, servicing, no matter how toxic the chemicals injected into drinking water supplies and vented into the air breathed by families, even children in schools and the elderly and ill in hospitals?] and may not be captured by the current NPRI facility definition, and thus not be required to report. In addition, data users have difficulty comparing NPRI data to other sources, such as provincially reported data. In some cases, this is due to the NPRI facility definition not being aligned with other emissions reporting programs. Changes to how oil and gas sector facilities are defined under NPRI may be considered.

8. Certain types of information that may be relevant are not collected (Phase 2)

Certain types of information that may be relevant for this sector are not collected, such as equipment-level data, information on concentration and amounts of substances used, annual production data, etc. This is a potential issue for supporting the analysis needs of Environment Canada and other data users. The potential addition of certain additional data elements, which would be required to be reported by oil and gas sector facilities, will be considered.

9. Difficulty tracking facilities over time (Phase 2)

NPRI faces difficulty in tracking and processing reports from conventional oil and gas extraction facilities (such as oil and gas batteries and natural gas gathering systems) from year to year. This is due to the large number of these types of facilities and their frequent ownership changes, name changes and closures. Solutions on how to better track oil and gas extraction facilities from year to year will be explored.

3. Approach for This Review

The NPRI Oil and Gas Sector Review will be completed in two phases. The issues listed above that are relevant to shale gas and in-situ oil sands extraction activities, will be considered in whole or in part, during the first phase of the review. The remaining issues, as well as any others that arise will be considered during the second phase.

The review will occur in line with Environment Canada’s established procedures for considering changes to the NPRI, as set out in the Guidelines for the Use of Information Gathering Authorities under Section 46 of CEPA 1999Footnote2.

Phase 1: NPRI Reporting for Shale Gas and In-situ Oil Sands Extraction

The first phase of the review will look at NPRI reporting for shale gas and in-situ oil sands extraction activities, in response to environmental petition 317. The main issue raised in the petition is the concern that the chemicals injected into the ground for these activities are not being reported to the NPRI due to the current reporting requirements. All shale gas and in-situ oil sands facilities are required to report if they meet the NPRI criteria. However, pre-production facilities (i.e. those in pilot phase or in the exploratory or drilling phase) may not meet the NPRI requirements due to the exclusion for oil and gas exploration and drilling activities. Furthermore, once in production they may not trigger the 20,000 employee-hour threshold for reporting on substances other than air pollutants.

Environment Canada will consider changes that would capture more information on oil and gas activities and facilities beyond the traditional reporting thresholds. Phase 1 will focus on aspects of the issues listed in Section 2 that are relevant to shale gas and in-situ oil sands extraction. During 2013, stakeholders and the public will be consulted on the issues raised in petition 317 and on Environment Canada’s proposed path forward and position. It is anticipated that Phase 1 of this review will be completed in 2014.

Phase 2: NPRI Reporting for Other Oil and Gas Facilities and Activities

The second phase of the review will be a broader review of reporting from the oil and gas sector with a primary focus on extraction activities. This phase will build on Phase 1 and examine NPRI reporting requirements and aspects and issues from the list in Section 2 that remain. This broader review is anticipated to begin in 2014 and be completed in 2015.

Footnote 1
Office of the Auditor General of Canada. (2011). National Pollutant Release Inventory reporting of chemicals used for shale gas and in-situ mining (petition 317).

Footnote 2
Environment Canada. (2001). Guidelines for the Use of Information Gathering Authorities Under Section 46 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.


Jessica Ernst in Ottawa to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development May 8, 2007

Testimony to Parliamentary Committee on water contamination and non-disclosure of chemicals used in shallow hydraulic fracturing

Ms. Jessica Ernst (Environmental Specialist, Ernst Environmental Services) Testimony, May 8, 2007:

Good morning. Bonjour.

I grew up in Montreal. I now live in Alberta. I’m very sorry, but I have forgotten all my French. I live near Rosebud, Alberta. It’s a small, little-theatre cultural town with a lot of beautiful historic resource.

I have worked in the oil patch for 25 years. I have also been banished by the regulator that Mr. David Pryce was so proudly discussing earlier in his presentation. I believe I was banished—this was in writing—by the energy regulator because they were trying to intimidate me.

I have evidence of EnCana Corporation not complying with the noise regulations, and the EUB actually covering up for the non-compliance in writing. I believe that the EUB, the regulator, did this to try to silence me. They copied the RCMP. So I’m very surprised that you, honourable members, here have allowed me to speak, because I do believe this was the first time this had happened in Alberta. I have been informed that the banishment was a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights.

I grew up proud to be a Canadian. I grew up proud of our water, of our leadership on peace and mediation, and environmental issues globally. I have worked in other parts of the world. I have to admit, I’m ashamed to be Canadian now, and I plead to you all as this committee to listen carefully and review the documents, and carefully consider whether the federal government needs to get involved.

I have never seen such atrocities in my 25-year career of working in the oil patch as I have now seen in the boom: human rights violations, environmental degradation, and disrespect of the legislation and the regulations.

In regard to noise, the other day when I was leaving from the airport, the night before I left, the compressor noise—we’re surrounded by 13 EnCana compressors—drove me to distraction. Occasionally the noise is mitigated, but not always. There’s a straw-bale wall surrounding these compressors.

I have direct experience with the water. This is my water, on fire, from my tap, poured into a pop bottle, a water bottle. There is no sugar in there. A few minutes later I set it on fire. I’ve lived in my place since 1998, 50 acres. CBM came and my water dramatically changed–a chemical burst on my skin and eyes. My dogs not only refused to drink the water, but they would back up. White smoke was coming off the water.

There were whistling taps. I didn’t know what it was. I was really busy. I thought it was my plumbing. I thought, “Oh my goodness, I have to replace the taps.” Little did I know that I was living in an explosive time bomb. It was methane and other hydrocarbons coming out of my taps. Sometimes I couldn’t even close my taps there was so much gas. I couldn’t get suds out of my soap or shampoo anymore; the water changed.

Also, living rurally, you know you get stains on your plumbing and toilets—sorry to speak so intimately. All of a sudden my toilets went pristine, brand new. Something got rid of the stains, I think probably what was burning my skin.

Mr. Pryce mentioned the good regulations. This happened in 2004. These are the two aquifers in my community. This is an EnCana well. It fractured into—into—our aquifers. So the protection and the separation that was discussed is not possible. Perforations, which explode through the casing, and then the fracs, and who knows what solvents went into our aquifers?

In the States, EnCana was found to contaminate groundwater and did not protect health and safety.

This again is another picture of my water, a different picture. I don’t do this in the house anymore because the flame exploded so high it shot up to the ceiling. I’m a blur in the picture—this is me here—because I had to jump; it scared me.

We have one out of 20 resource wells leaking. The landowner in an investigation is usually blamed, instead of comprehensive testing of the resource wells. There are ways to find out which gas wells are leaking. They can be fixed. In this case, EnCana has stated publicly that they do not need to cooperate with this investigation because they don’t believe in the science that can lead to finding out which wells are leaking.

The regulators misinform the public. We have thousands of resource wells leaking.

The new testing that came up only began when a number of concerned citizens went to the legislature and went to the public. The MAC committee was still in deliberation. I believe the testing requirements wouldn’t have happened.


We have now had, finally, a number of years of CBM, but our knowledge on groundwater is behind. The precautionary principle: where is it?

In 2005, industry advised the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board that some of their shallow fracs were damaging oil and gas wells. So they brought in some new rules. These rules should have been brought in before they began the experiments, especially for our drinking water.

This is a water well that exploded last spring. The farmer had dealt for three years with the regulator–the so-called best regulator. What’s wrong with this picture? Three men were seriously injured on sampling day. After contamination, some companies refused to cough up the data that was needed to investigate and remediate.

This is a diagram that the AEUB, the energy board, and Alberta Environment go to the public with. They say it never happens. Oh, no, there is no leaking.

By the way, methane is a much worse greenhouse gas than CO2, and we have thousands of these leaking methane directly into the atmosphere. There is surface casing vent flow, and gas migration through soils. The interesting thing is that the AEUB, in 2007, is even warning that the gas leakage and the gas migration potential is worse in the shallow zones. This is where we’re going to be doing our CBM and where our water is. 

In Rosebud water we have 30 milligrams to 66 milligrams of dissolved methane, as well as free gas. CAPP, which is here today on the video, has a report that one milligram puts you at risk of explosion if the water passes through an unventilated place. A light switch, static in my hair, could have blown up my house.

The regulator is still in denial. They have done tests on our water. You have a table. We have benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes in our water. We have ethane, propane, methane, butane, and octanes, and we have kerosene in the community drinking water. In most cases, the landowner is blamed for the contamination by way of bacteria. On the table, you can look at the process we have to go through.

I read your report that came out recently on the chemicals and your Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and I plead with you to please implement this act in Alberta.

We are told that only nitrogen is used, so our water is safe because nitrogen comes from the air. I would like to show you a list. This came from Oilweek. These are a variety of products, hundreds of them, used in different stages of drilling, [f]racking, and servicing. Some of them contain diesel and mineral oil. In Alberta, the regulator does not require industry to disclose any of the chemicals used, not even if they’re toxic, not even if it’s benzene, a known carcinogen, or toluene, which damages the brain, notably in children. Toluene was found in our water.

We need to know what the chemicals are, especially so shallow, and I believe that the federal act is perfect. I noticed in your report this is seldom used and seldom implemented. I would like to ask that you use this and implement it in Alberta and ask the regulators to control the chemicals being used.

I have seen many pallets of chemicals that aren’t even on this list, bags of chemicals that say, “Danger, Unregulated”. Nobody knows what’s inside, driving through playground zones. We don’t know now how to analyze our water. These chemicals could have gone into our water, but we don’t know what to test for.

I also brought with me a pledge to protect our groundwater. You had this translated. I would like to ask every member of Parliament, not just the committee members, to sign this pledge and fax it to Honourable Minister Baird and our Honourable Premier Stelmach.

There are a few things we would like done to protect our groundwater.

CBM can be a fantastic new resource. We can all share in the prosperity. Canada is a fantastic country. I would like to see the Canada I knew as a child come back from corporate rule. I would like to see the people in charge. I would like to see public health and safety protected. There are still people in my community bathing in and drinking water with benzene and toluene. We do not need to harm people to have prosperity.

Coal-bed methane will spread far. The shales are coming. They will spread far. These impacts, violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, will spread through the country if we continue to allow industry to rule.


The precautionary principle: why are we allowing perforations and fractures into these shallow zones above the base of groundwater protection? Industry still doesn’t know what these shallow perfs and fracs do. They have stated this in writing to the EUB. Why don’t we learn first? We can do an economical mitigation here, slow down, think first, collect some data first. Let’s find out what we’re doing to our groundwater. This is Canada’s water. We all have water on the table here. This water will affect all of us. 

The story has been much in the news. I bring one gift for my French friends here today. Quebec journalists are writing three stories on the water situation. In September, I believe, the Rosebud water situation will be published, but they are also writing about climate change. I find it interesting that Quebec is so concerned about what is happening to our water in Alberta that they’re sending journalists out. There is an Alberta Views article. I have copies here for you. They’ve been handed in. Even Canadian Business magazine has published the story about the water. There I am with my water. I can’t live with this water anymore. It’s too dangerous. I have trucked-in water that the Alberta government is supplying and paying for. I’ve lost my independence. I live rurally. I have to rely on trucked-in deliveries. I want my water back. I want to protect water for others.

In conclusion, in my experience, the regulations are not working. The regulators are not working. Instead of dealing with the industry’s non-compliance, they banished an ordinary citizen, considered me a threat to safety and the public. I had just found out when I got this letter from my regulator in Canada, a country that I thought was a democracy, that I was living in danger of explosion from my water. Yes, methane can be natural, but it is normally at very low levels. Nothing like the levels we have after this company, EnCana, fractured directly into our potable water supplies. They have cemented this well off, but we do not know what damage has been done to our aquifers. This is very serious. 

Thank you.

2014 08 28: Environment Canada Keeping Nearly a Thousand Frac Chemicals Secret: Memo released through Access to Information Legislation

Environment Canada has quietly compiled a list of nearly a thousand chemicals, toxins and additives used by shale gas drillers nationwide.

The department would not disclose the list, but states in a confidential memoit was compiled through “North American sources”. The memo was released through Access to Information: “Canadians have expressed concern”.

[Refer also to:

Petroleum Services Association of Canada. Drilling and Frac Chemical (Mud) List Historical. 2005.

Updated but reduced list, no longer accessible at PSAC: Drilling Product Listing for Potential Toxicity Information

Above lists referenced in Brief review of threats to Canada’s groundwater from the oil and gas industry’s methane migration and hydraulic fracturing by Ernst Environmental Services, June 16, 2013 ]

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