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Energy Efficiency

Eye on Utilities: FirstEnergy continues to play hardball with Consumers’ Counsel and others



Ohio regulatory judge steps back from FirstEnergy's HB 6 cases after subpoenaed records reveal his role

This month-to-month publication supplies updates on Ohio’s ongoing utility corruption scandal and is a joint undertaking of Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Heart for Journalism, and the nonprofit Energy News Network.

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New developments within the saga surrounding Home Invoice 6, Ohio’s nuclear and coal bailout legislation, embody:

  • Reality-finding efforts proceed to face frustrations in regulatory and court docket circumstances.
  • FirstEnergy cites the Eighth Modification’s bar towards extreme fines in arguing towards penalties for thwarting auditors.
  • One choose has given a preliminary thumbs as much as a settlement for a number of FirstEnergy shareholder by-product fits, however for now will await different judges to rule in their very own circumstances.
  • Ohio’s corruption scandal casts new mild on a pre-HB 6 deal that paid thousands and thousands to demolish and clear up a former coal plant web site.

Sustain on protection of unprecedented native corruption

Subscribe to Eye on Ohio and Energy Information Community’s month-to-month Eye on Utilities newsletter to maintain monitor of the myriad shareholder actions, legal circumstances, and regulatory investigations surrounding the HB 6 scandal.


FirstEnergy offered the Workplace of the Ohio Customers’ Counsel with numerous paperwork it had beforehand produced in shareholder litigation. But the corporate continues to battle towards different disclosures in regulatory circumstances associated to the Home Invoice 6 scandal.

Amongst different issues, FirstEnergy needs the Public Utilities Fee of Ohio to block the OCC from requiring Bob Mattiuz, a vp for compliance and controlled companies, to convey paperwork on company and charitable contributions to his deposition. Depositions let attorneys query a witness below oath.

FirstEnergy argued that the doc requests had been untimely below a previous deadline. The corporate additionally asserted that the request is “irrelevant” and “unrelated to the [utilities’] compliance below Ohio company separation legislation.”

The Might 9 submitting is daring in mild of audit findings that sure ratepayer charges had been improperly tracked. That conduct may have let FirstEnergy use ratepayers’ cash for political functions or to subsidize associates’ actions. These actions would arguably violate Ohio’s company separation legislation.

The submitting additionally reveals FirstEnergy attempting to take most benefit of the PUCO’s piecemeal approach to HB 6 points, versus a complete investigation. The PUCO has additionally been implicated within the corruption scandal because of FirstEnergy’s admission about funds to former PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo, who performed a task in organising the piecemeal strategy earlier than his resignation in November 2020.

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Extreme fines?

FirstEnergy filings additionally ask the PUCO to reject requests by OCC and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Energy Group for as much as $1.4 million in restitution and penalties for FirstEnergy’s failure to trace the rider funds after they went right into a money pool. Amongst different issues, the corporate argues that statutory penalties of as much as $10,000 per day is perhaps improper below the U.S. Structure’s Eighth Amendment, which forbids extreme bail, extreme fines and “merciless and weird” punishments.

FirstEnergy asserts there was no violation of the PUCO’s order organising the rider and contends that reimbursement is forbidden. Nevertheless, the penalty request focuses on FirstEnergy’s alleged wrongdoing for not tracking rider money, versus the rider itself. So, the penalty calls for are arguably distinct from the reimbursement declare that the Ohio Supreme Courtroom denied when it dominated the rider unlawful in 2019, simply earlier than HB 6 grew to become legislation.

FirstEnergy additionally claims that the penalty demand ignores advantages from a $300 million settlement in an excess profits case. That case handled calculations of considerably extreme earnings, and the settlement got here after an Ohio Supreme Courtroom ruling that the PUCO erred in excluding the rider cash from earnings take a look at calculations. Events reached the settlement earlier than audits from FERC and Daymark confirmed that FirstEnergy’s practices had obscured how the rider cash was finally used.

The PUCO has but to rule on the penalty difficulty. An adversarial ruling would possibly finally go earlier than the Ohio Supreme Courtroom.

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Looking for information from FERC

OCC and others are also asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Fee to share paperwork and knowledge from its ongoing circumstances on FirstEnergy. That features a full set of paperwork concerned in a latest audit, versus the smaller subset that the PUCO has informed FirstEnergy to offer.

“FirstEnergy has an over-reaching strategy of claiming confidentiality of data that isn’t confidential (however is merely info that FirstEnergy seemingly prefers for Ohioans to not find out about concerning its conduct),” mentioned OCC’s April 28 filing.  

Earlier this spring FirstEnergy opposed participation within the FERC case by each OCC and the New Jersey Division of Price Counsel. FERC has but to rule on the state shopper advocates’ intervention and doc requests.

Settlements nonetheless up within the air

U.S. District Courtroom Decide Algenon Marbley gave a preliminary thumbs up to a deal to settle shareholder by-product claims. However he didn’t keep proceedings in different courts with comparable circumstances that may be settled by the deal introduced final winter. U.S. District Courtroom Decide John Adams, who presides in a kind of different circumstances, has mentioned he needs extra reality discovering, known as discovery, to maneuver forward earlier than he okays the deal.

That discovery consists of a number of depositions of present and former FirstEnergy executives below oath. However events have haggled over scheduling. Amongst different issues, FirstEnergy CEO Steven Strah’s questioning was postponed to an unknown date after firm attorneys objected that he could be vacationing in Cape Cod in late Might.

In the meantime, former FirstEnergy vp Michael Dowling, a defendant in multiple circumstances, has subpoenaed paperwork from Partners for Progress. That darkish cash group, led by FirstEnergy’s former lobbyist and others, gave $1.2 million in 2017 to 2 different dark money groups within the HB 6 scandal, Technology Now and the Coalition for Progress & Alternative.

FirstEnergy attorneys have recognized Dowling and former CEO Chuck Jones as having approved numerous funds. Though Dowling’s authorized technique isn’t recognized, the subpoena is perhaps an effort to help an argument that others misused funds for a bribe, versus dark money donations that match inside authorized loopholes below election legislation.

The shareholder by-product circumstances wouldn’t pay cash on to shareholders, as a result of their goal is to guard the company from wrongdoing by administrators and officers.  So, the settlement would offer FirstEnergy with roughly $180,000 million, primarily from insurers, after deducting charges for plaintiffs’ attorneys, whose shoppers sued on behalf of the corporate. Separate circumstances take care of shareholder claims for misplaced inventory worth or different damages.

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Political ripples

The Ohio Democratic Celebration additionally needs extra element about what involvement, if any, Gov. Mike DeWine had within the HB 6 scandal. Public information obtained by the group embody copies of DeWine’s calendars from 2019 onward. 

Nevertheless, widespread redactions and broad privilege claims make it onerous to find out whom DeWine met and spoke with on many events, the group alleges. Supplies produced to date even have a spot from June 16, 2020, till Might 2021. That covers the interval when Householder was arrested, Randazzo resigned and present PUCO Chair Jenifer French was appointed. 

On Might 5 the group asked the Franklin County Courtroom of Frequent Pleas to order extra disclosures. The court docket has not taken any motion but.


The PUCO earlier this month approved Energy Harbor’s request to proceed working as a aggressive retail energy provider with no point out of the corporate’s function within the ongoing HB 6 corruption scandal. Energy Harbor is the successor to FirstEnergy Options following its chapter case, the place filings first confirmed a payment to Generation Now in 2019.

Energy Harbor’s preliminary renewal application on April 4 famous the chapter case however failed to say any of the HB 6-related circumstances wherein it’s a defendant, or the continuing federal investigation. The corporate added detail about a number of circumstances after an April 6 tweet by Dave Anderson of the Energy and Coverage Institute famous the omission. The PUCO’s approval got here three weeks later, with no opinion and no feedback within the file from employees.

“The entire thing appeared odd,” Anderson mentioned. “Right here was seemingly a chance for the PUCO to do a deeper investigation of this former affiliate firm.” 

The case raises the query of what substantive assessment, if any, the PUCO conducts and the way, if in any respect, alleged corruption points matter in relation to approving retail electrical energy suppliers.

Cleansing up

FirstEnergy’s ongoing corruption scandal has solid new mild on a deal that relieved the corporate of greater than $12 million in cleanup prices for a former coal plant. JobsOhio forgave the mortgage after FirstEnergy accomplished its work on the web site forward of a Dec. 2017 deadline. JobsOhio’s plan is for PTTGC America to construct a petrochemical cracker on the Belmont County web site, though the corporate has not but made a last dedication.

FirstEnergy transferred the property to PTTGC America, mentioned FirstEnergy spokesperson Mark Durbin. In the meantime, JobsOhio has spent $70 million on the positioning, $20 million of which was reimbursed by PTTGC, mentioned JobsOhio spokesperson Matt Englehart.

That work “included demolition of the power plant, environmental remediation, draining and filling of ponds that had been created by a former sand and gravel quarry, and grading and leveling the positioning,” Englehart mentioned. He didn’t say who negotiated the deal for FirstEnergy, noting that every one undertaking discussions are deemed confidential.

JobsOhio is a statutorily created corporation that works with the Division of Improvement to draw companies and jobs. It’s exempt from Ohio’s public records law. Funding comes from Ohio Liquor revenues.

“The plant demolition was fairly public, could be very outdated information, and cleaned up a web site of a grimy former coal plant to make it extra enticing to funding to convey jobs to the individuals of Ohio,” Englehart mentioned.

The deal issues as a result of it relieved FirstEnergy of environmental liabilities the corporate in any other case would have needed to pay. Plus, the construction of the deal shielded discussions by the corporate, JobsOhio and different concerned events from public scrutiny.

The environmental cleanup deal additionally meant FirstEnergy was arguably extra flush with money across the time that it and its associates started funding the alleged HB 6 scheme.

Learn extra: Before bribery scandal, JobsOhio forgave a $12M loan to FirstEnergy to clean up a coal plant (Ohio Capital Journal)

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Energy Efficiency

DeSantis veto shows path for solar in red states



DeSantis veto shows path for solar in red states

The shock veto final month of a utility-backed, anti-net-metering invoice in Florida prompted cheers of aid from the state’s {solar} business and clear energy advocates.

Throughout the state line in Georgia, {solar} developer Montana Busch took notice, too, having labored for years to attempt to persuade lawmakers in that state to assist clients’ proper to generate {solar} energy and promote the excess again to the grid.

Having one of many nation’s most distinguished conservative politicians, in a neighboring state, aspect with the {solar} business regardless of a months-long lobbying campaign by highly effective utility pursuits can’t harm its case, proper?

“I want to assume that’s a fairly large deal,” mentioned Busch, president of Different Energy Southeast and co-chair of the Georgia {Solar} Energy Affiliation. “It’s undoubtedly good momentum.”

The Energy Information Community lately spoke with Busch and different regional and nationwide clear energy coverage consultants in regards to the potential political ripple results of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto past Florida.

Constructing a various coalition

All politics is native, no less than relating to energy and utility coverage, which is why Lindsey Hallock cautioned towards extrapolating an excessive amount of from DeSantis’ {solar} resolution. Hallock is the Southeast senior regional director for Vote {Solar}, one among a number of teams that opposed the Florida laws. 

“The factor about web metering is that it lives inside its personal context in every state. No two insurance policies are the identical,” Hallock mentioned. “Each state has its personal historical past, its personal precedent, its personal set of native politics that make every marketing campaign completely different.”

A key takeaway for her was what’s attainable, even in a conservative state with politically highly effective monopoly utilities. 

“We knew when this invoice dropped this was going to be an uphill battle,” Hallock mentioned. “We knew that the facility that monopoly utilities had in Florida was large.”

The veto resolution didn’t come out of nowhere. It was partly a results of months of organizing and lobbying by buyer and clear energy advocates whose pursuits ranged from local weather and resilience to job creation and energy justice. Hallock mentioned the work presents a possible playbook for constructing profitable {solar} coalitions in different conservative states.

“What actually made this marketing campaign work was each group utilizing their completely different views, their various expertise, to come back collectively and create a full argument for the worth of {solar},” Hallock mentioned.

Framing round customers

In Georgia, {solar} advocates have been preventing for years to ascertain clients’ proper to web metering, which requires utilities to compensate clients for electrical energy produced by their {solar} panels. The state is a {solar} chief however the lack of web metering means most of its {solar} era comes from utility-scale initiatives.

Georgia Energy, the state’s largest utility, opened a web metering pilot program as a part of a 2019 price case, nevertheless it’s restricted to five,000 clients and since been crammed. A brand new price case this yr presents an opportunity to lift that cap, however the utility has resisted growth of this system.

“They’re not very pleasant towards {solar},” mentioned Busch, of the Georgia {Solar} Energy Affiliation.

Alongside the speed case, the {solar} affiliation is pushing a invoice within the legislature that may set up web metering statewide. The invoice didn’t discover traction in the newest session, however they’re making ready for the following cycle with contemporary optimism that the Florida veto may assist persuade lawmakers.

“We’re undoubtedly attempting to get our lobbyist in entrance of [Georgia Gov. Brian] Kemp and let him know that his Republican colleague one state down is supporting rooftop {solar},” Busch mentioned.

Thatcher Younger, a vp of enterprise improvement at Velo {Solar} and a member of the {solar} affiliation’s board of administrators, mentioned the veto letter from Gov. DeSantis was additionally useful in the way it framed the coverage as a shopper subject.

“This does strengthen our message with different Republican lawmakers within the Southeast and strikes the dialog to jobs and economics, and away from the surroundings, which isn’t a motivator for a lot of of them,” Younger mentioned.

A GOP motion?

Gov. DeSantis’ veto “undoubtedly turned some heads,” mentioned Tyler Duvelius, exterior affairs director for Conservatives for Clear Energy, nevertheless it perhaps shouldn’t have been a whole shock given his earlier actions on clear energy and local weather.

“In a way, he was listening to his constituents in Florida, however I additionally assume that clear energy is one thing Gov. DeSantis cares about as an financial driver for Florida,” Duvelius mentioned.

And in that sense, he sees DeSantis as a part of a rising motion of conservatives who’re beginning to minimize crimson tape and promote clear energy industries of their states. He cited Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt as examples of conservatives who’re selling clear energy of their states. 

DeSantis’ veto is one other instance of how the “political toxicity” of local weather and clear energy points are fading, Duvelius mentioned. “It provides advocates on this area a crimson ribbon, if you’ll, as a substitute of a blue ribbon, to level to how conservatives are working to forge a cleaner energy future.”

Clear energy can match nicely inside conservative ideology, Duvelius mentioned, however monopoly utilities stay a political barrier – as an example in Mississippi, the place utilities are pushing to curb net metering payments.

“I feel what we have to do is empower leaders to maneuver previous a number of the political obstacles that utilities place in entrance of them,” Duvelius mentioned.

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Energy Efficiency

White, Pink & Yellow Blooms



Tree Vitalize

Colorado falls between the USDA zones 2-7 so experiences many various climates and rising situations.

Nearly all of the state has a highland continental local weather, while some components that sit within the mountains are labeled as subarctic.

When selecting a tree to plant in your yard be sure you select one suited to the temperature and moisture vary, humidity, and soil sort of your space.

10 Stunning Flowering Timber In Colorado You Will Love

1. Russian Hawthorn (Crataegus ambigua) – White Flowering Tree

The Russian Hawthorn is a hardy and adaptable tree, making it properly suited to the changeable local weather of CO. It’s drought-tolerant, making it ultimate for areas reminiscent of Denver that are topic to frequent drought. It may well additionally develop at elevations of seven,500 and above.

Early spring sees clusters of white flowers, adopted by shiny purple fruit on the finish of summer season that persists all through the autumn and attracts many birds. The leaves change to shades of orange, yellow and purple within the fall.

The Russian Hawthorn is a small tree with a low-lying cover, typically with a 2 ft clearance of the bottom. which implies they make a satisfying accent tree. Keep away from planting near walkways because of the thorns on the low cover. Plant in full solar in well-draining soil.

Different Widespread Names: Green Hawthorn, Southern Hawthorn

Rising Zones: 4-9

Common Measurement at Maturity: 15-40 ft tall and 12-20 ft vast

Flowering Season: April-Could

2. Kentucky Espresso Tree (Gymnocladus dioicus) – White Flowering Tree

The Kentucky Espresso Tree has an irregular to oval slim crown shaped by ascending branches. It’s low upkeep, pest-free, and drought-tolerant tree that gives year-round curiosity by the altering colour of its leaves, which start lightish pink in spring, altering darkish green in the summertime, and at last yellow within the fall.

The Kentucky Espresso Tree produces pyramidal clusters of aromatic green/white flowers that seem that the identical time because the leaves are maturing (typically late Could to early June) It’s extremely adaptable to totally different soil sorts, and air pollution, making it appropriate for city planting, the place it capabilities each as a shade and decorative tree.

Different Widespread Names: Espresso Tree, Coffeetree

Rising Zones: 3-8

Common Measurement at Maturity: 60-75 ft tall and 40-50 ft vast

Flowering Season: Late Could to early June

3. Chickasaw Plum (Prunus angustifolia) – White Flowering Tree

The Chickasaw Plum includes a quick, spherical crown, darkish bark, and reddish branches. It’s a thicket-forming shrub or small tree. It produces clusters of aromatic white flowers within the spring that flip into purple fruit that matures within the late summer season months (August/September.)

The fruit could be eaten contemporary, cooked into desserts, made into preserves, or left for birds and different small mammals to eat.

The leaves of the Chickasaw Plum change from green to mild yellow within the fall. They work properly in meadow-like settings in CO, in addition to woodlands and panorama restoration. Plant in free, dry sandy soil, in both full solar or partial shade.

Different Widespread Names: Cherokee’s Plum, Florida Sand Plum, Sand Plum, Sandhill Plum

Rising Zones: 5b-7a

Common Measurement at Maturity: 10-13 ft tall and 6-10 ft vast

Flowering Season: February to Could

4. Prairiefire Crabapple (Malus ‘Prairiefire’) – Pink Flowering Tree

The Prairefire Crabapple is a ravishing flowering tree appropriate for altitudes above 7,500 ft. It’s a small deciduous tree that produces an abundance of sunshine pink/Fuschia flowers within the spring that may brighten up any panorama.

The flowers are adopted by burgundy leaves that progressively flip deep green after which yellow when fall arrives.

Autumn heralds the arrival of small purple fruit that pulls birds and different wildlife. The fruit are smaller than most different crabapples and thus creates much less mess. The Prairiefire Crabapple prefers moist soil and doesn’t like being left to dry out. Plant in full solar to partial shade.

Different Widespread Names: Prariefire Crab Apple

Rising Zones: 3-8

Common Measurement at Maturity: 10-20 ft tall and 10-15 ft vast

Flowering Season: April

5. European Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) – White Flowering Tree

The European Mountain Ash options clusters of flat-topped white flowers within the spring, adopted by an abundance of orange berries later within the season. The leaves change to shades of orange, yellow and purple within the fall.

The European Mountain Ash options an upright and rounded form and grows at a average charge. Plant in full solar with entry to average water for finest outcomes. It’ll tolerate dry situations in addition to city air pollution, making it appropriate for metropolis planting.

Total it’s a really hardy tree that may tolerate drought situations, snow cowl, and inner-city environments.

Different Widespread Names: Rowan, Witch Wiggin Tree

Rising Zones: 3-6

Common Measurement at Maturity: 30-35 ft tall and 20-25 ft vast

Flowering Season: Could-June

6. Purple Smoke Tree(Cotinus coggygria) – Pink Flowering Tree

The Purple Smoke Tree is an upright spreading deciduous tree or shrub that gives backyard curiosity all through the seasons. The pink flowers are wispy, ethereal, and ‘smoky,’ and seem in mid-summer.

They create a cloud of colour amidst that the present season’s development. Fall sees the foliage turns reddish-purple and crushed, they scent like radish.

The Purple Smoke Tree prefers to be planted in full solar in well-draining soil and can adapt to a variety of soil pH. As soon as established, it’s drought tolerant.

Different Widespread Names: European Smoke Tree, Eurasian Smoketree, Smokebush, Dyers Sumach, Venetian Sumach

Rising Zones: 4-9

Common Measurement at Maturity: 10-15 ft tall and 10-12 ft vast

Flowering Season: Late spring to mid-summer

7. Seven-Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides) – White Flowering Tree

The Seven-Son Flower is a vase-shaped woody plant from the honeysuckle household. Its frequent identify comes from the buds which cluster in teams of seven.

Tiny, deliciously scented white flowers seem in late summer season to early fall and distinction handsomely with the darkish hue of the foliage. Cherry-red seed capsules observe the flowers and are much more decorative than the blooms.

The whitebark on mature bushes exfoliates and provides aesthetic attraction in the course of the winter months. Seven-Son Flower isn’t significantly tolerant of excessive warmth or chilly however will adapt to a variety of soil sorts. Nevertheless, it prefers well-drained, moist, fertile soil.

Different Widespread Names: Seven-Son-Flower

Rising Zones: 5-9

Common Measurement at Maturity: 10-20 ft tall and 10-15 ft vast

Flowering Season: Mid-to-late July

8. Goldenrain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) – Yellow Flowering Tree

The Goldenrain Tree is a medium-sized decorative tree grown for its pendulous clusters of yellow flowers that seem in midsummer. The canary-colored flowers seem in 12” lengthy pannicles. Goldenrain Timber are appropriate for smaller yards as a result of their comparatively compact measurement and they’re additionally planted as shade bushes.

Autumn sees small lime-green seed pods that mature to a muted shade of brown and resemble Chinese language lanterns. The Goldenrain Tree will develop finest in deep, well-drained moist soil in full solar, however they’ll tolerate partial shade as properly. They will develop in sand, clay, loam, alkaline, or acidic soils.

Different Widespread Names: Pleasure of India, China Tree, Varnish Tree

Rising Zones: 5-9

Common Measurement at Maturity: 30-40 ft tall and 30-40 ft vast

Flowering Season: July/August

9. Jap Redbud (Cercis canadensis) – Purple Flowering Tree

The Jap Redbud is a medium-rate rising tree with a spreading and regal crown with a rounded vase form. It options heart-shaped leaves that measure between 2-6” in size and emerge a reddish colour, turning darkish green in summer season earlier than yellow within the fall.

Purple/pink flowers seem in plenitude in early spring, and bushes can start flowering in as little as 4 years.

The flowers are adopted by brown-black leguminous seed pods that measure 2-3” in size and persist all through the winter. The Jap Redbud gives meals and shelter for a lot of species of birds and wildlife.

Different Widespread Names: Judas Tree.

Rising Zones: 5-9

Common Measurement at Maturity: 20-30 ft tall and 26-33 ft vast.

Flowering Season: April.

10. Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’) – White Flowering Tree

The Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry is a hardy, multi-stemmed tree that produces a plethora of white flowers. Fall sees the leaves produce a fiery present, which lends this tree its frequent identify. Edible darkish berries observe the flowers in spring/summer season and are favored by birds. The Serviceberry requires minimal upkeep and is illness resistant.

It’ll develop finest in full solar in common to moist, well-drained soil. In the event you’re searching for a flowering tree that requires little upkeep, attracts plenty of wildlife and is illness resistant, and gives year-round curiosity, then contemplate planting the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry in your yard.

Different Widespread Names: Autumn Brillance Juneberry, Apple Serviceberry

Rising Zones: 4-9

Common Measurement at Maturity: 15-25 ft tall and 15-25 ft vast

Flowering Season: April

Mountains In Bloom

Colorado is a state synonymous with pure magnificence. Why not add this pure abundance by planting some flowering bushes in your yard? The state of CO incorporates quite a lot of totally different climates due to the range and topography of the panorama.

Be sure to select a species suited to your native situations to maximise your probabilities of success so you possibly can benefit from the seasonal blooms lengthy into the long run.

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