Fisk Generating Station

From Global Energy Monitor

Fisk Electric Generating Station was a 374.0-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station owned and operated by Edison International subsidiary Midwest Generation in Chicago, Illinois.


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Plant Data

  • Owner: Midwest Generation EME LLC
  • Parent Company: Edison International
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 374.0 MW (Megawatts)
  • Units and In-Service Dates: Unit 19: 374.0 MW (1968)
  • Location: 1111 West Cermak Rd., Chicago, IL 60608
  • GPS Coordinates: 41.849399, -87.653297
  • Technology: Subcritical
  • Coal type: Sub-Bituminous
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source:
  • Number of Employees:
  • Unit Retirements: The powerplant retired in 2012.[1]


Fisk started generating electricity in 1903 and was rebuilt in 1959.[2]

The 2011 NAACP report, "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People in Illinois," ranked the Fisk station the third highest environmental justice offender in the nation, due to its pollution output and close proximity to communities of color. The nearby Crawford Generating Station was ranked first.

In a deal announced on February 29, 2012, after a multi-year campaign by community groups, Midwest Generation said it will close its Fisk Generating Station in the Pilsen neighborhood by December 2012 and the Crawford Generating Station in Little Village by the end of 2014.[3] On May 1, 2012, Midwest said it will shutter both plants in September 2012.[4]

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 1,784,715 tons
  • 2005-08 average SO2 Emissions: 4,924 tons
  • 2005-08 average NOx Emissions: 1,178 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions:
  • People living within 3 miles: 314,632
  • Average income within 3 miles: $15,076 (65.3% of Illinois average)
  • People of color within 3 miles: 83.1% (38.3% Latino, 32.0% African-American)[5]

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Fisk

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[6] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[7]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Fisk Generating Station

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 15 $110,000,000
Heart attacks 23 $2,500,000
Asthma attacks 250 $13,000
Hospital admissions 11 $250,000
Chronic bronchitis 9 $4,000,000
Asthma ER visits 16 $6,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed March 2011

Pollution and pollution controls

Resident Kimberly Wasserman

According to a 2010 article in Chicago Reader, Midwest Generation has invested about $60 million in pollution control upgrades at Fisk and Crawford since purchasing the plants from ComEd in 1999. The Fisk and Crawford plants have mercury controls to meet state requirements, and plan to have nitrogen oxide controls by 2012. Scrubbers to reduce sulfur dioxide must be installed at Fisk by 2015 and Crawford's two units in 2017 and 2018. Midwest Generation has no plans to take measures to reduce direct particulate matter.[8]

2006 agreement

As part of a 2006 agreement with the state of Illinois, Midwest said it plans to shut down the three smallest generating units in its fleet -- two units at the Will County Generating Station in Romeoville and one at its Waukegan Generating Station -- between the end of 2007 and the end of 2010. The company also said it is committed that its smallest plant -- the single-unit Fisk Generating Station in Chicago -- will either have additional controls for sulfur dioxide emissions or be shut down by the end of 2015. The same agreement to shut down or install additional controls applies to the Waukegan Generating Station by the end of 2014 and to the Crawford Generating Station in Chicago by the end of 2018.[9]

July 2009 lawsuit

In July 2009, five groups of environmental and public health advocates announced their intent to file a Clean Air Act lawsuit against Edison International subsidiary Midwest Generation. The groups say Midwest's six Illinois power plants are decades old and do not have the appropriate pollution controls according to EPA standards. Specifically, the lawsuit will focus on opacity violations, a measurement of the light blocked by particulate matter from smokestacks at Midwest's Crawford, Fisk, Joliet, Powerton, Waukegan, and Will County stations.

The concerned groups include Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, and Sierra Club. The six power plants in question are located in working class and minority neighborhoods, raising concerns about environmental justice. The groups expect to file suit in 60 days, unless Midwest Generation comes into compliance or stops operating, or unless the EPA takes other measures.[10] Shannon Fisk, an attorney for NRDC, described Midwest's Fisk and Crawford plants as, "two dinosaurs in the middle of a large city. They should have cleaned up decades ago. Running those plants is inexpensive for the company, but it's very expensive for public health."[11] A 2001 study by a professor at the Harvard University School of Public Health found that particulate matter from the Fisk and Crawford plants contributes to 41 deaths, 550 emergency room visits, and 2800 asthma attacks each year.[12]

A Daily Train Supplies Chicago's Last Coal Fired Polluters: The Fisk and Crawford Power Plants.

Midwest spokesman Doug MacFarlan said the company is being targeted unfairly, and that Midwest's plants release less particulate matter than most. He also said the company had responded to local complaints by reducing both the amount of coal piled up at Crawford and the dust that blows off barges transporting its coal. "We really believe we have demonstrated environmental responsibility at those plants," McFarlan said. In 2006, Midwest made an agreement with the state of Illinois to reduce emissions at its coal plants. The company has installed mercury controls, but has not decided whether to install scrubbers or shut the plants down. The company has until 2015 to install scrubbers at its Fisk plant and until 2018 to install them at Crawford.[11]

August 2009 lawsuit

On August 28, 2009, less than a month after the public health lawsuit was filed, the EPA, Department of Justice, and state of Illinois announced that they would also be filing suit against Midwest Generation for illegal emissions of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide.[13] Their claim charged that the company had upgraded its plants, including Fisk and Crawford, without adding the modern pollution controls required under the Clean Air Act.

2010: Lawsuit dismissed and refiled

In March 2010, a federal judge sided with Midwest, dismissing the allegations of Clean Air Act violations at five Illinois coal-fired power plants and partially dismissing claims of violations at a sixth plant. The judge said the New Source Review violations occurred at the time of construction, and that Midwest Generation cannot be liable for the modifications that occurred prior to Midwest Generation's ownership of the plants. The one exception was the Will County Generating Station, as the utility made modifications after buying it from ComEd. The judge barred claims of monetary relief on that claim, however, because the five-year statute of limitations has expired since the major modifications were made in 2000. The judge's order did not address additional allegations that Midwest Generation had violated Title V operating permits as well as opacity and soot limitations under Illinois's federally approved pollution control plan.[14]

In June 2010, the US EPA, the State of Illinois, and several environmental action groups filed amended complaints similar to the prior 2009 complaints, but also seeking to add Commonwealth Edison and Edison Mission Energy (EME) - an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Edison International - as defendants.[15]


In late 2010, Midwest secured state permits to install pollution-control equipment that would reduce soot- and smog-forming emissions from its six coal-fired power plants.

In documents discovered in February 2011, however, Midwest Generation signaled it might delay installing pollution controls at its plants "for the maximum time available." The documents, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, said whether the company actually makes the $1.2 billion investment depends in part on "regulatory and legislative developments," according to its latest financial documents. The documents conveyed a starkly different message from public statements by Midwest Generation executives, who have pledged to make "meaningful improvements in the environmental performance of our plants."[16]

Poll finds most Chicago residents support pollution controls

A 2011 poll showed that voters in every part of Chicago support efforts by the City to reduce pollution from the Fisk Generating Station and the Crawford Generating Station. Of the 600 registered Chicago voters polled, 72% said they would support a plan that reduces soot pollution from the coal plants by 90% and carbon dioxide pollution by 50%. After hearing arguments both opposing and favoring stricter pollution standards, 64% of respondents said they would support City efforts to reduce pollution from Fisk and Crawford. In a separate question, 56% of those surveyed said protecting the environment is good for the economy. Fako & Associates conducted the poll, which has a margin of error of 4% and was commissioned by the Chicago Clean Power Coalition, a grassroots coalition of more than 60 Chicago organizations.[17]

Chicago's largest carbon dioxide emitter

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas database, Fisk and Crawford are Chicago's largest industrial sources of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, releasing 4.2 million metric tons in 2010. Altogether, Midwest Generation plants emitted more than 31 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010.[18]

Emanuel sets ultimatum on Fisk and Crawford Plants

On February 21, 2012, after months of negotiations, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Midwest Generation had one week to figure out how to clean up its Fisk Generating Station and Crawford Generating Station plants, either by installing pollution controls or by converting to a less polluting fuel. If Midwest doesn't broker a deal by then, Emanuel's City Council allies will push an ordinance (the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance) that could force the Crawford and Fisk plants to shut down within the next two years.

In Fall 2011, Emanuel's office considered a deal floated by Midwest Generation that would have shut down the coal plants in return for a long-term contract to buy electricity from a wind farm the company owns in northwest Illinois. But House Speaker Michael Madigan reportedly scuttled the idea, forcing the city, company, and others back to the negotiating table.

Ald. George Cardenas, 12th, chairman of the Health and Environmental Protection Committee, said he is ready to call a hearing in March 2012 on the proposed ordinance if the city and company fail to resolve the dispute.[19]

Midwest announces closure

In a deal announced on February 29, 2012, and after a lot of pressure from community groups, Midwest Generation said it will close its Fisk Generating Station in the Pilsen neighborhood by December 2012 and the Crawford Generating Station in Little Village by the end of 2014.[20] On May 1, 2012, Midwest said it will shutter both plants in September 2012.[21]

Fisk Plant and Environmental Justice

Resident and nurse Kimberly Harrington comments on the health effects of the plant

The Fisk and Crawford Generating Station are located on the lower west side of Chicago, in the predominantly Latino areas of Pilsen and Little Village, as well as nearby neighborhoods with a significant population of African Americans, raising issues around environmental justice and coal. Within a 3-mile radius of Crawford live 314,632 residents, 83.1% of which are non-white with a per-capita income of $15,076. The plant does not have an emissions scrubber. Within miles of each plant are homes, parks, schools, etc. Fisk is among over 100 coal plants near residential areas.[22]

2010 report: Chicago's Fisk and Crawford Plants cost public up to $1 billion since 2002

On October 20, 2010, the Environmental Law and Policy Center released a study, ELPC Report Finds Chicago Coal Plants Caused Up To $1 Billion in Health Damages Since 2002 showing Midwest Generation's Crawford and Fisk coal plants in Pilsen and Little Village may have caused between $750 million and $1 billion in public health related damages since 2002. The plants operate on equipment built between 1958 and 1961 and skirt Federal Clean Air Act regulations since they were built before 1976. The report uses data culled from various sources such as a 2010 National Research Council study and the Harvard School of Public Health’s Illinois Power Plant Study.[23]

According to the study, the plants cause more than $127 million in 2010 dollars in health damages yearly, based on 2005 emissions. Particulate matter released into the air causes cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, heart attacks, premature death and more. A spokeswoman for Midwest Generation told WBEZ that there is no tie between the plants and public health, putting the blame on traffic instead. The ELPC supports the Chicago Clean Power ordinance, which would require Midwest Generation to reduce PM pollution within 4 years. Howard Learner, executive director for the ELPC, said via press release “Soot and smog from Chicago coal plants is making us sick and costing us millions. Cleaning them up is the right thing to do for our health, our environment and our economy.”[23]

2011 Report: Fisk top environmental justice offender

The 2011 report, "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People in Illinois" by Adrian Wilson, NAACP, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), and the Indigenous Environmental Network used an algorithm combining levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions together with demographic factors in order to calculate an environmental justice score for the 431 coal-fired power plants in the U.S. Twelve plants were ranked the top environmental justice offenders, producing a total of 48,582 Gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity in 2005 — only 1.2% of total U.S. electricity production, yet affecting a total of 1.78 million Americans who live within 3 miles of one of the 12 plants, with an average per capita income of $14,626 (compared with the U.S. average of $21,587), and 76.3% people of color.

The plants were:

  1. Crawford Generating Station, Chicago, IL (Edison International)
  2. Hudson Generating Station, Jersey City, NJ (PSEG)
  3. Fisk Generating Station, Chicago, IL (Edison International)
  4. Valley Power Plant, Milwaukee, WI (Wisconsin Energy)
  5. State Line Plant, Hammond, IN (Dominion)
  6. Lake Shore Plant, Cleveland, OH (FirstEnergy)
  7. Gallagher Generating Station, New Albany, IN (Duke Energy)
  8. Bridgeport Harbor Station, Bridgeport, CT (PSEG)
  9. River Rouge Power Plant, River Rouge, MI (DTE Energy)
  10. Cherokee Station, Commerce City, CO (Xcel Energy)
  11. Four Corners Steam Plant, Niinahnízaad, NM (Arizona Public Service Company)
  12. Waukegan Generating Station, Waukegan, IL (Edison International)

Citizen actions

Activists protest outside Fisk Generating Station on October 24, 2009.

October 24, 2009: Hundreds of activists protest outside Fisk

Hundreds of activists gathered to march and rally in front of the Fisk Generating Station to observe an international day of action on climate change.[24] At the protest, eight people locked arms and sat down in front of the power plant. All eight were issued citations.[25]

October 13, 2010: Protesters rally to shut down Chicago Power Plants

On October 13, 2010 protesters in Chicago rallied to shut down Chicago's two coal-fired power plants, Fisk Generating Station in Pilsen and Crawford Generating Station in Little Village. Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of Edison International, owns the plants.

“This is the year we’re going to end coal in Chicago,” said Chicago author Jeff Biggers.

Greenpeace and the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO) organized the Chicago Clean Power Coalition rally at Alivio Medical Center.

A group of people in T-shirts lettered with “Quit Coal” and wearing green cardboard oxygen masks stood outside in the hot sun to listen to speakers explain why clean air is so important.

“This is the year the next governor and the next mayor will announce that these [plants] are shutting down,” Biggers said.

The coalition sought to raise awareness about pollution that is emitted from both power plants, which are located in dense urban areas.[26]

November 1, 2010: Day of Dead procession held in Chicago

On November 1, 2010 Chicago activists held a "Day of the Dead" rally in "remembrance of the lives lost" to the pollution caused by the Fisk Generating Station and Crawford Generating Stations. Author Jeff Biggers wrote:

More than 66 premature deaths, 104 heart attacks, and thousands of asthma attacks and cases of chronic bronchitis--that is the tragic symbol at the altar of Chicago's decrepit coal-fired plants in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods.

"The public can't afford the huge health costs from the Fisk and Crawford coal plants in Chicago neighborhoods," said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, on the release of the organization's report last month. "It's time for Midwest Generation to be socially responsible and clean them up or shut them down."[27]

May 2011: Activists stop coal barge, climb on coal plant

I Can't Sit By: Stopping Coal in Chicago

On May 24, 2011, Greenpeace activists stopped a coal barge from the Pulaski Bridge, displaying a banner on the river bridge that said “We can stop coal” and “Nosotros podemos parar el carbόn.” Dangling above the water, the presence of the activists prevented three coal barges from passing, according to the activsts. From the bridge, the activists proclaimed to Edison International that people have the right to choose clean energy for their communities. They demanded that Edison International shut down the Fisk and Crawford plants. In spring 2011, the Chicago City Council failed to vote on the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, which would have forced the plants to clean up or shut down.[28]

In a separate action the same day, Greenpeace activists climbed the smokestack of the Fisk Generating Station and unfurled yellow banners with "Quit Coal" printed on them. After several hours atop the structure, several of the climbers rappelled down the smokestack and painted the same words on it. The eight activists were arrested and released on bail on May 26, and are scheduled to appear in court on July 1, 2011. They are charged with felony criminal damage to property.[29]

Impact of closing the plant on electricity generation

According to Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, none of the electricity generated at the Crawford Station and nearby Fisk Generating Station is actually sold to Illinois utilities, but rather is used to maintain reliabity of the electrical grid during peak times.[30] According to Midwest's website, "the electricity produced by Fisk and Crawford goes directly onto the local electric grid for use in Pilsen, Little Village and the downtown district."[31] According to a 2010 article in Chicago Reader, Fisk, Crawford, and State Line contribute to the energy load that Midwest Generation and Dominion sell to ComEd to power the Chicago area, but the plants closing down would pose no risk of an electricity shortage in the region, according to ComEd spokesman Bennie Currie, as Illinois is a net exporter of power.[32]

Midwest Generation has also said that the plants feed into the inter-state PJM Interconnection and help maintain a stable flow of electricity and prevent disruptions through city power lines. Yet, PJM maintains an installed reserve margin of at least 15 percent over record peak demand, according to the Sierra Club's Midwest Director James Gignac: "The grid operators maintain plenty of additional capacity and are in fact planning for multiple coal units to come off-line in the coming years." ComEd has said the plants closing down would pose no risk of an electricity shortage or disruptions if the grid were updated, at a cost of $178 million, which would be funded by rate increases of about 20 cents per month for residential customers, according to ComEd.[33]

Environmentalists envision the sites transformed into solar farms, like the one in West Pullman, or factories making wind turbine components or other "green" industry. In neighborhoods with among the city's least green space, residents would also like to see parks.[34]

Impact of climate change legislation on existing U.S. coal plants

Chicago Clean Power Coalition Takes on Coal-Fired Plants

It remains unclear how the proposed Waxman-Markey Climate Bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2009 and heads to discussion by the Senate in the fall of 2010, will impact existing coal plants such as Fisk. Although the version of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) that passed the House requires a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions from new coal plants by 2025, it mandates no specific reduction requirements for existing plants.

Environmental groups and public health advocates are concerned that, by driving up the cost of new plants and offering free emissions allowances or carbon offsets for older facilities, the bill may result in even heavier reliance on an aging fleet of coal plants. Some groups have expressed concern that the climate change legislation may end up having similar issues to the 1977 Clean Air Act, which grandfathered in older plants and largely exempted them from requirements that facilities use the best available pollution-control technologies. Environmental advocates hope that the Senate will add regulations to ACES that will lead to the closure of older, highly polluting plants. Midwest parent Edison International supported the current version of the Waxman-Markey bill.[11]

Articles and Resources


  1. "EIA 860 database May 2022" accessed May 2022
  2. "Close Chicago's Toxic Coal Plants!" Climate Justice Chicago, accessed Sep. 2011.
  3. Michael Hawthorne and Kristen Mack, "Chicago's 2 coal-fired plants to shut down sooner than expected," Chicago Tribune, Feb. 29, 2012.
  4. Julie Wernau, "Midwest Generation to close 2 Chicago coal plants early," Chicago Tribune, May 2, 2012.
  5. "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People in Illinois" by Adrian Wilson, NAACP, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), and the Indigenous Environmental Network, 2011.
  6. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  7. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  8. Kari Lydersen, "Chicago Without Coal" Reader, Oct. 14, 2010.
  9. "Midwest Generation, Governor Agree On Long-Range Emissions Reduction Plan" BusinessWire, 2008.
  10. Terry Bibo, "Illinois coal plants are being threatened with lawsuit," Journal Star, July 29, 2009.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Kari Lydersen, "'The Clunkers of the Power-Plant World': Old Coal-Fired Facilities Could Escape New Rules," Washington Post, August 17, 2009.
  12. Jonathan I. Levy, et al., "Using CALPUFF to evaluate the impacts of power plant emissions in Illinois: Model sensitivity and implications," Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002): 1063–1075.
  13. Henry Henderson, "You're Not the King of Me: Midwest Gen Runs Afoul of the Clean Air Act," Huffington Post, August 29, 2009.
  14. Robin Bravender, "Judge dismisses NSR allegations against 5 Ill. power plants" Greenwire, March 15, 2010.
  15. "Midwest Generation 2010 Annual Report" Edgar Online, filed 2011.
  16. Michael Hawthorne, "Power company holds off on cleaning up Chicago-area coal plants" Chicago Tribune, Feb. 21, 2011.
  17. "Poll: Chicagoans want City to reduce coal plant pollution" Gazette, Dec. 1, 2011.
  18. Michael Hawthorne, [,0,6304228.story "Coal plants dominate list of Chicago's biggest polluters," Chicago Tribune, Jan. 22, 2012.
  19. Hal Dardick and Michael Hawthorne, "Emanuel gives coal plant operator an ultimatum to clean up," Chicago Tribune, Feb. 23, 2012.
  20. Michael Hawthorne and Kristen Mack, "Chicago's 2 coal-fired plants to shut down sooner than expected," Chicago Tribune, Feb. 29, 2012.
  21. Julie Wernau, "Midwest Generation to close 2 Chicago coal plants early," Chicago Tribune, May 2, 2012.
  22. Jacqui Patterson, "Day V Clearing the Air Road Tour — Chicago, IL — Fisk and Crawford Plants" NAACP Climate Justice Initiative, April 21, 2010.
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Study Says Coal Plants Cost Chicagoans Millions In Health Damages" Chicagoist, Oct. 20, 2010.
  24. "Protest at Fisk Generating Station," Chicago Tribune, October 24, 2009.
  25. "8 cited during anti-coal protest," Chicago Breaking News Center, October 24, 2009.
  26. "Protestors rally to shut down Chicago's coal plants" Clarisa Ramirez, Medill Reports, October 13, 2010.
  27. "At the Altar of Coal-Fired Plants: Chicago's Day of the Dead Procession Calls for Clean Energy Leadership" Jeff Biggers, Huffington Post, November 1, 2010.
  28. ceaton, "BREAKING: Greenpeace activists stop coal shipment at Pulaski Bridge in Chicago" Greenpeace, May 24, 2011.
  29. Dick Johnson and BJ Lutz, "Anti-Coal Activists Released from Jail" NBC Chicago, May 27, 2011.
  30. "Coal-fired power plants in Chicago" Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, accessed Sep. 2011.
  31. "FAQs" Midwest Generation website, accessed Sep. 2011.
  32. Kari Lydersen, "Chicago Without Coal" Reader, Oct. 14, 2010.
  33. Christine Shearer, "Coal, Race and Health: The Chicago Clean Power Ordinance" Truthout, Sep. 28, 2011.
  34. Kari Lydersen, "Chicago Without Coal" Reader, Oct. 14, 2010.

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