Trump Is Completely Remaking A Law Enviros Often Use To Stymie Oil Pipeline Construction

From The Daily Caller

Energy

Trump Is Completely Remaking A Law Enviros Often Use To Stymie Oil Pipeline Construction

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Chris White Tech Reporter

January 09, 2020 12:00 PM ET

President Donald Trump announced Thursday his plans to dramatically change an environmental law activist groups and their attorneys often use to wrap oil projects in years of bureaucratic red tape.

Trump plans to exempt privately funded projects from undergoing environmental reviews, a significant change that would make building mines and pipelines much easier, The Washington Post reported. Energy producers are cheering the move.

The changes will narrow the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a 50-year-old law requiring agencies to assess the impact a big project could cause to the environment. The administration directed the Daily Caller News Foundation to the White House website, where Trump explained his decision Thursday.

“America is a nation of builders,” the president said at the White House while explaining his decision.

“Yet today it can take more than 10 years to get a permit to build a simple road,” he said. “It’s big government at its absolute worst.”

It can often take years for a project to move forward while going through the NEPA process.

Instead of taking a decade, the new rule will allow projects to go forward after less than two years, Trump noted.

People protest against President Donald Trump’s executive order fast-tracking the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Environmentalists have used NEPA in recent years to defend against what they believe is Trump’s willingness to hasten oil pipeline construction. (RELATED: The Protests Over The Dakota Access Pipeline Explained)

Environmentalist groups, for instance, said the president violated the NEPA in 2017 when he approved the Keystone XL pipeline, which the administration based on a three-year-old analysis conducted when oil prices were more than double what they are now.

NEPA has also stood in the way of Trump’s plans to build a border wall along the southern border. Trump made building a giant border wall stretching from coast to coast part of his campaign message during the presidential election. The president has railed against the law in the past.

The president noted in a press statement on NEPA’s 50th anniversary on Jan. 1 that the law “can increase costs, derail important projects, and threaten jobs for American workers and labor union members.”

Unions and energy producers are calling the president’s move a long-needed change. Terry O’Sullivan, the general president of Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), told WaPo that the rule has impacted union jobs.

“For the hard-working members of LIUNA, who have had their livelihoods put on hold as infrastructure projects become mired in a review process that is needlessly long, complex, and lacks transparency, the administration’s anticipated NEPA reforms are a welcome change,” O’Sullivan told WaPo.

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73 thoughts on “Trump Is Completely Remaking A Law Enviros Often Use To Stymie Oil Pipeline Construction

  1. I’d like a little info on how the changes still provide some protection for material environmental concerns. As is, the article lends itself to wild claims that pipeline companies can ignore environmental safety in total. I’m guessing Trump’s team isn’t so stupid as to hand a final victory to these environmental lawfare terrorists. Also, what does the border wall have to do with privately funded projects? A bit of subtle agitprop in the writing, perhaps?

    • Coach, are you not aware of the privately-funded border wall effort? They have already built marvelous sections of the wall deemed impractical by our government contractors, which should really surprise no one!

    • Trump is proposing legal changes in the relevant laws…by elected officials following Constitutional Law…only to STREAMLINE unnecessary, burdensome and very costly bureaucratic obstacles…not to change the mandates of the laws.

      _________
      Aside:
      Leftists, the people who employ the wholesale use of “lawfare” (mostly legislation from the bench) constantly instead of actually getting laws passed or changed (using the ammunition provided primarily by the leftist 9th Circuit…to illegally tie up the entire country on regional issues) are also, paradoxically, the only ones that use the term “lawfare”.

      Other bylines commonly used by the left include the terms “Marginalized” and “Agitprop”. The use of these terms is a 90% accurate political affiliation indicator…if you are ever unsure who you are talking with or listening to or reading.

    • Pipeline companies have an inherent interest in not letting their pipelines leak and not building them in places where the risk or damage from leaks is greatest. Turns out, you don’t need a D.C. bureaucrat, that has less knowledge than the pipeline designers, to tell them how to do their job while taking a decade to do it.

      • Nor do you need billionaire oligarchs who happen to own railroads using dumb a$$ed liberal watermelons to block safer, cleaner pipelines.

    • Too bad we don’t have Trump in Canada. All we have is a racially fluid PM who listens to “local groups” who are nothing more than fronts for greedy US funded eco-multinational conglomerates.

      There was a case on Vancouver Island a few years ago where the Sierra Club founded a local chapter to oppose the building of a gas station. The Sierra Club whipped up local fervor and raked in a ton of cash off of the issue. When the judge ruled against the Sierra Club, and said they were liable for the costs and damages of their misadventure they turned tail, ran away and left huge unpaid legal bills. Just shows you that $$$$$ are everything to these greedy eco-grifters.

    • If it takes 2 years doesn’t that imply that the environmental concerns are merely being addressed more quickly than the sluggish bureaucracy?

    • This action rolls back overreach by the prior administration that was intended to cripple oil & gas development. The fundamental protections envisioned by the original legislation are intact. This highlights the problem with a deep state bureaucracy that re-interprets 50-year old laws to implement new restrictions when political support to actually amend the law is lacking.

    • Projects still have to be approved by the relevant regulatory agencies, like DOT, USACE, etc. NEPA was being misused by Enviromarxist terrorist organizations to get liberal judges to revoke lawfully issued permits.

      NEPA was never intended to apply to the private sector.

      Title I of NEPA contains a Declaration of National Environmental Policy. This policy requires the federal government to use all practicable means to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony.

      Section 102 in Title I of the Act requires federal agencies to incorporate environmental considerations in their planning and decision-making through a systematic interdisciplinary approach. Specifically, all federal agencies are to prepare detailed statements assessing the environmental impact of and alternatives to major federal actions significantly affecting the environment. These statements are commonly referred to as Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) and Environmental Assessments (EA).

      https://www.epa.gov/nepa/what-national-environmental-policy-act

      • NEPA is a procedural law, it is not substantive; however, the misuse of the law has grown in the courts into a politically leveraged decision document that incorporates alternatives and mitigation measures that exceed the authority and jurisdiction of the regulatory agencies. By the time an applicant gets through the “process”, they are willing to implement many measures not required by law..the system is broken.

  2. Fracking NEPA! I have personally experienced the NEPA club wielded by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund and am greatly heartened by President Trump dealing with this. Please note: nothing in either the NEPA reform or my comments allow actual pollution, this is simply rational conduct writ large. Cheers.

  3. This also streamlines the building of bridges, highways, and other infrastructure projects that this nation desperately needs. Anyone remember the I-35 bridge collapse? That is not something that should ever take place in this nation in the 21st century.

    • Several years back they replaced a nearby bridge on a major east-west highway. before it could gain approval they had to hire a couple of archaeologists to do half-a-dozen test digs in the area of the two proposed abutments. We were lucky… that only delayed the project another couple of years. Of course that came after several years of environmental and ecological reviews.

    • The I35 collapse was stupidity, yes it had a design flaw, but when you rebuild the deck you don’t allow the old material to remain on the bridge while you put on the new. You don’t take the load to a 50 year old bridge anywhere close to it design specification. Only idiots do that and that what the Minnesota Department of Transportation did. The results was a bridge with people on it in the water.

    • And the EPA’s ridiculous assertion that ALL particulate matter equally toxic onthe basis that “we don’t know it is not.”

      The equitoxicity rule is the root of multiple outrages turned into law in the pursuit of “clean air.” The “attribution” of all particles causing premature death regardless of exposure, concentration, genetics, diet, access to health care, income and inoculation history is why you hear about any and everything causing “nn deaths per year” in any country.

      Under this equitoxicity ruling ploughing was accidentally banned a few years ago when the permitted PM2.5 concentration was temporarily set so low tractors could not stir the soil.

  4. Congress needs to start writing laws that can’t be swung wildly in one direction and then the opposite direction by each incoming administration. Those aren’t laws; they’re tools of potential oppression.

    Alternatively, the Supreme Court needs to start ruling all open-ended laws subject to open-ended administrative interpretation as unconstitutional on their face.

    If Congress wants to write a law that hamstrings the economy, let them write it as such and take the voters’ heat for doing so.

  5. It would be very interesting to see someone examine the building of the transcontinental railroad, and determine how long it would take to construct today, following all the permitting requirements – or if it could have been built at all.

    I am stunned at those with the mindset that Man should leave the natural world untouched. All that we see, every living creature including us, will exist for a very brief moment in this universe. The entire Earth will be wiped out or vaporized, rendering everything done on it, or to it, a moot point.

    Species come, and species go, sometimes made extinct by other species. Undoubtably, some we never knew existed. That’s just part of nature, and Man is part of it. We have the intellect, well, some do, to transform the Earth to make life easier, more enjoyable for our species. Not to do so simply wastes much of the value the Earth has to us. If that means a subspecies of snail darters is threatened, then so be it.

    • jtom: snail darters threatened. Or we can probably excercise enough intelligence at reasonable cost (say 5% of the project cost) to find a way to keep the stinky little snail darter, too! Heck, we invented fish ladders and access-ways for deer and even a species of frogs that were being killed by the millions on a British highway – for some weird reason the slippery little hoppers needed to get to the other side of a major highway during one particular week of the year! I’m vexed that Windmills get a free pass to chop up millions of bats, eagles, etc. and we don’t even get the benefit of sensibly priced energy from them.

  6. Natural gas, alas!
    For long haul high pressure gas pipelines: Remember the Hindenburg.

    For me the big news of the Trump Administration was the DOE/Perry proposed proposed 90 day rule that would have rewarded base load sources of energy capable in a position to stockpile 90 days of fuel on site, to ensure grid resilience in the event of natural or human-caused disaster.

    It was clumsily worded by not specifically including hydro and geothermal, which can be fudged as ‘fuel on site 24/7’ with nature managing the supply chain.. a mistake perhaps, it could have been packed with more sweet environmental goodness… but its verbiage was specifically written to imply piles or gobs of fuel-stuff on hand to omit solar and wind and natural gas from consideration.

    FERC fronted a gibbering docket of urgent questions almost a call to arms, that neglected to ask the most crucial question: Is 90 days’ worth of backup energy for the grid a BAD thing?.

    The natural gas consortium then sent a response swarm of flying-monkey lobbyists (each with a solar’n’wind lobbyist dangling on a harness beneath, as they lack the energy to fly) to encircle this proposal with screeching protest. And not surprising, FERC finally ruled that the 90 day rule was unnecessary because, no grid resiliency problems to see here, move along!

    Even an imbecile should be able o see that the lack of recent grid interruptions, with natural units perched at the end of long haul pipelines supplying just-in-time fuel, is merely the result of good fortune. But that good fortune will run out, and we are heading for a single point (natural gas) of failure. The imbeciles have won this round.

    In every area presently supplied gas, grid electricity is already there and is our last defense from darkness and cold. My fear is that a day is approaching where the loss of natural gas plants at the end of long haul pipelines may trigger a cascading grid failure from an interruption of the gas distribution network.

  7. Is this the same Jan. 4 story linked above? The big deal is getting rid of the cumulative consequences provision.

    According to NYT, President Trump has moved to modify a 50 year old rule which requires Federal Agencies to consider the “cumulative consequences” of new infrastructure, to prevent courts from interpreting this as a requirement to consider climate change.

    That means each project is judged on its own merits, not in combination with the imagined effects of cattle farts from Namibia.

    That sounds like actual justice not the SJW version thereof.

  8. Three facts worth noting:
    1. Daily Caller is wrong about NEPA and the southern border wall. DHS was given by Congress the ability to waive all federal and state and local environmental considerations. 8USC§1103 et. seq. It did so with the rebuilding of the San Diego sector.
    2. The revision is to the regulations interpreting NEPA, not NEPA per se. These have not been revised on over 40 years, during which time they have accreted a lot of geen litigation court ordered baggage.
    3. The process must use the Administration Procedures Act of 1946, 5USC§551 et. seq. That requires proposing changes, holding an at least 60 day open commentvperiod, then carefully respondingbto each set of comments. If proposed regulations change in response to comments, then another 60 comment period is required. In the end the finalized new regulations can be challenged in court. So this announcement is just the opening salvo in second term infrastructure wars.

  9. Of course the next Democrat President can undo this on day one. Too bad the GOP House didn’t actually change the law when it could have. I would like to see a law that forces the Greens to pay for the delay costs and lost income that they cause. That would even the field more.

  10. The writers here are incredibly ignorant. Presidents can’t rewrite laws, only Congress can do that. A President can propose changes to regulations that implement laws, but those changes are entirely subject to judicial review, and courts all the way to SCOTUS will reject rules changes that are not consistent with the language of the authorizing statute. These proposed rule changes will be challenged immediately in Federal court, and long after Trump gets booted from office by the voters later this year, the courts will not approve any changes that are not legal.

    If you think you’ve enjoyed the wacko rightwingnut and mostly unqualified Federal judges and Justices of SCOTUS that Trump railroaded through the Senate with a bare majority, you will see the exact opposite come January 20, 2021, with President Biden and Majority Leader Schumer.

    The American people highly prize environmental protections, there is zero support for turning the clock back to before NEPA was passed by Congress.

    • … long after Trump gets booted from office by the voters later this year …

      We had a bad bout of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) when he was elected for the first time. Better clear out some beds in the mental hospital ’cause I see another wave TDS coming.

    • Obama…”pen and a phone”…”Executive order”…”Elections have consequences”…blah, blah, blah

      D’OH !

      • “Trump landslide in 2020.”

        No Malarkey!

        Seriously, Biden wouldn’t last five minutes once Trump started putting up ads showing Biden sniffing and fondling little girls.

    • Duane
      Being British I don’t intend to get involved in your politics in a partisan fashion but president Biden seems very unlikely to me.

      If that is the best the democrats can come up with I think another 4 years of president trump seems the likely outcome
      Tonyb

    • Making it more expensive and uncertain to construct is not in the country’s best interest.

      The cult of CAGW have added red tape to bills to make it not economic and uncertain to construct pipelines….

      … not to protect the environment.

      A Canadian example is pipelines now must consult and get agreement from all indigenous people to construct a pipeline.

      This is used as weapon to stop pipelines. A single native band can stop a pipeline because the band chief has heard Greta on television and believes he/she must stop all new pipeline construction.

      In Canada there is a separate independent agency that has already force a complete environmental review which includes consultation and addressing all landholder issues so the issue is not review but rather to stop the project.

      • “This is used as weapon to stop pipelines. A single native band can stop a pipeline because the band chief has heard Greta on television and believes he/she must stop all new pipeline construction.”

        Or someone promised them a lot of money for a new casino.

    • It really is amazing how leftists honestly believe that the definition of qualified is “agrees with me”.
      They are also convinced that everyone agrees with them.

      • I suspect that what liberals want is for someone else to tell them exactly how to live, so they have no responsibilities, but can constantly blame others and complain (their chief form of enjoyment) when things go wrong.

    • You clearly do not understand the process. Congress writes broad laws, something like, this Act establishes the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States whose mission is to protect human and environmental health. The EPA is responsible for creating standards and laws promoting the health of individuals and the environment.

      What rules and regulations they write are independent of Congressional oversight. The Department is under the jurisdiction of the Executive Branch, and those appointed by the Executive Branch to a large degree determine what science is accepted, and who, how, and to what extent the regulations should apply. A President could interpret the law broadly (the EPA must consider the potential impact of x on the pH levels of the oceans), or very narrowly (the EPA should only consider the impact of x on the potability of the local water supply).

      The extent that Congress has delegated what many believe should be their duties to unelected bureaucrats has been a contentious debate for decades.

    • “Zero support”? With just that assertion, you’ve shown your inability to look at reality and face your extreme case of TDS. I support what Trump is doing. If I am alone, I constitute support greater than zero.

    • Duane–
      I don’t know where you live but it isn’t in the USA. One of the reasons Trump was elected was to reform the interpretation of those environmental laws that have been subject to ignorant manipulation by enviro-wackos and liberal judges.
      Your prognostication of party change is your wet dream composed of fairy dust and unicorns.
      American’s know when they’ve been manipulated and scammed. MAGA

    • “I disagree with you people so you are incredibly ignorant.”
      “I don’t like someone on the Supreme Court so they must be “wacko rightwingnut and mostly unqualified.”
      Your condescension is so winsome and charming, I’m sure you must be the life of the party!
      Thank you in advance for all you do personally to help re-elect President Trump.

    • Yea, like the left follow the constitution, It was the judges that the Demorats put on the courts that ruled Dred Scott v. Sandford, the logic to get that through was used in Roe V. Wade both were decided on property rights, only the left would argue property in the case of a human after all the left believes the the people are subservient to government, which make people property of government. Us on the right do not believe in a “living” constitution and we believe government is subservient to the people. We are not owned. Of course the left belief that the people are subservient to the government also allowed the left to murder over a hundred million people using the existing laws in the countries they took over they just interpreted and twisted them to mean what they say they were, just like leftist judges do in this country almost daily. Any one who thinks the left follows the rule of law is a useful idiot.

    • Says the anonymous troll. Post that again with your real name and we can bet some real money on your predictions of the outcome of the 2020 presidential elections. How about it troll, got the guts to put your money where your keyboard is?

  11. Cannot even build a sidewalk today without some environmental lawsuit. The environmentalists will never be satisfied. They don’t understand the word reasonable. If up to them absolutely nothing would get built since by nature building anything outside, no matter what it is, disrupts environment in some way.

    • Not totally correct. Industrial wind factories seem to be exempt many environmental concerns. If an open oil tank happen to drown a bird, there is a huge penalty. If the wings of an industrial wind power factory knocks out a Golden Eagle, it is excused due to how Green this utility is.

      • The movie “Inventor, Out For Blood” has an interesting segment about 1:09. It is by Dan Ariely, who is a behavioral economist (?). He describes an experiement in which the subject picks a side, top or bottom, then rolls a die. They are given a $ for every spot on the side that they picked. It seems that test subjects are very lucky because if the five or six lands the subjects have picked the correct side, the side with five or six, significantly more than half the time. When repeated with a lie detector it appears that the subjects may be less than truthful about their about selection in these cases. Now the fun part: if the $$ goes to the test subjects’ favorite charity the lying doesn’t stop, but the lie detector stops working. You don’t feel the conflict when you are lying for a good cause. Lying becomes a virtue and you can think of yourself as a good person.

  12. Sadly most Americans have little real appreciation just how bad the NEPA process has become. It has even stopped infrastructure project that are part of the CAGW agenda and wish list.

    I have been in meetings within government where the technocrats discussed finding “just one more issue” to challenge a project. Their clearly stated goal was to delay a project long enough that those building the project gave up or even better those funding a project moved the money some place else or ran out.

    Environmental law in the USA has very little to do with saving or protecting the environment.

    Certainly Trump’s actions will be challenged in court because they hate ALL that is Trump; the lawyers that have been involved will lose money and the environmentalists, generally a bunch of Luddites, truly believe that it is saving the environment.

    Note there is an entire industry that has been created to fight NEPA from both sides.

    • I totally agree and this filthy dirty, treatious weapon has been used in other countries.

      The objective of the cult of CAGW is to stop all pipeline construction as well as to stop all energy development that is not ‘green’.

      There is no sanity review of the fanatic’s policies. People have not idea how this will impact their country.

      For example, in Canada 12% of their direct GDP and 40% of the foreign exports are hydrocarbons. The government has introduced new special weaponized review that will stop all energy development.

      The problem is the same Canadian government is spending more per person (adjusted for inflation) more than any time in the history of Canada and spending is growing faster than GDP grow.

      … and the general public think it is evil Trump verses good guy environments

      … this is anti-democracy, left wing anarchism, corrupt fascism, where the special interest groups who buy political parties have created regulation that is a weapon…

      CAGW the idea, the end of civilization, is how they got into the highest levels of our government and legal system.

    • Please don’t forget that this was really a laywyer’s and environmental “scientists”full employment plan.

      Take away their jobs? Oh no you don’t!

  13. Long, unnecessary delays in getting approval due to an excessive regulatory system is what prevents so many countries from becoming wealthy. The roadblocks that the left loves to use almost seem to be a deliberate attempt to impoverish successful capitalist societies.

    Hernando De Soto lays it all out in his book.

    The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else

    Paperback https://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Capital-Capitalism-Triumphs-Everywhere/dp/0465016154/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2I93MMJKDJ6YG&keywords=the+mystery+of+capital&qid=1578853557&s=books&sprefix=The+mystery+of+c%2Caps%2C259&sr=1-1

  14. I support the change, but want to point out something. I was a professional journalist from 1979-1990, and at one point my beat was organized labor. The Laborers Union at the time represented a relative handful of construction workers, many in New York. It was notorious for being controlled by the Mafia. I’d be surprised if anything has changed. It’s ludicrous for anyone to cite the Laborers as a voice of workers in this country.

  15. If Trump can swing the union vote then that kicks a leg out from under the Democratic table. After Clinton lost the “blue wall” (Wis,Mich,Oh,Penn) I didn’t know if it would last but Trump might just carry all 4 again.

    • If? Biden declared that the coal miners losing their jobs, due to his administration’s closing down of coal mining, could become computer programmers. I could get a bigger union vote from the coal miners than him, now, and no one knows who the h I am.

      And here’s the rub: he can’t walk that back without losing the support of the greens. The Democrats pandering to the greens have lost them the vote of the union rank and file. Dumping the greens is the only way to get it back.

  16. Sad but typical that bonafide environmental protection enforcement has become an excuse to stonewall anything that isn’t politically liked by some constituency. This is why it takes forever to build a bridge, tunnel, highway, etc.

  17. One of the US’ greatest ironies among the environmentalists is our National Parks. They are the crown jewels and to most environmentalists, everywhere should be treated as a National Park. However, when you visit them, you find roads, buildings bridges, power lines, gas lines, trails and especially trails that NEVER would be approved today. If they didn’t exist, almost no one would visit them.

  18. Henceforth we shall no longer be known as the knights who say “NEPA”. From now on we shall be known as the knights who say “NGD!!”

  19. The XL and Dakota Access Pipelines were held up by a technicality. There had been many environmental impact studies performed (and approved) during the G.W.Bush and early Obama Administration, then Hillary Clinton (and later John Kerry) got involved by denying the permit to complete the crossing of the USA / Canada border, which comes under the purview of the State Department, not the EPA or Department of the Interior.

    President Trump, after taking office, was able to fast-track the approval by replacing the Secretary of State with the oil-friendly Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon-Mobil, who removed the objection to the pipeline crossing the international border, and then used the already-completed environmental impact studies to approve the remainder of the pipelines.

    Since NEPA depended on an Executive Order, rather than a law passed by Congress, the current administration can change the rules, but a future Democrat President could change them back. The current administration should be careful not to totally dismantle the regulation, but should be able to restrict the grounds for rejection of a permit to mitigating actual risks of pollution to the air and public waterways, not concerns about “global warming” and habitat for an obscure species of bird, frog or lizard.

    For example, for an oil pipeline, there is legitimate concern that oil spills may contaminate an aquifer, but if the pipeline is built from double-walled pipe when passing over the aquifer, the risk of spillage is minimal. There should also be a scientific analysis of the risks of NOT building the pipeline. In the example of the XL pipeline, while the pipeline was delayed, crude oil from the Alberta tar sands was transported by railcars over the same route. For a given volume of oil transported over a given distance (barrels * miles), there is far greater risk of spillage from railway accidents than from oil pipelines.

    But, Warren Buffett was a huge donor to Obama’s campaigns, and railroads he owned were making huge profits from transporting Alberta crude by railcar, and Warren Buffett didn’t want the pipeline to compete with his railroads, so the pipeline was blocked while Obama was in office. Follow the money!!!

  20. It takes balls to do what Trump does. But its also urgently necessary. Our societies choke under a cobweb of regulations. Don’t get me wrong. Regulation is often a good thing. But not if it goes overboard. Some eggs have to be broken if an omelet needs to be made. We cannot eat the cake and have it at the same time. There needs to be a line in the sand and when this line stifles anything anyone wants to do, someone needs to use the sledgehammer. Trump is a great sledgehammer. I would love him to do this same thing to my own country. A country that does not move anymore fails its citizens.

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