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Coast Guard beefs up deployment in the U.S. Arctic
Last Post 06 Mar 2012 09:50 PM by Bells. 16 Replies.
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BellsUser is Offline
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02 Mar 2012 12:08 AM

    With increasing ship traffic through once-frozen northern seas and the expected debut of offshore oil drilling as early as July, the U.S. Coast Guard is launching Arctic Shield, its largest-ever deployment in the Arctic Ocean. 

    Coast Guard officials disclosed this week that they will be mounting full-scale Coast Guard cutter patrols as well as helicopter and small-craft operations across the northern and western coasts of Alaska as Royal Dutch Shell prepares to drill exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

    "As the ice has receded and there’s more open water, we’re moving our operations up north,” Capt. Adam Shaw, chief of prevention for the Coast Guard’s 17th District in Alaska, said in an interview.

    “It’s not just Shell’s activities; there’s the presence of other activities up on the North Slope and the Bering Strait, and that’s what’s driving our operations this summer,” he said.

    Warming global temperatures have had a dramatic effect on the amount of shipping traffic in the far north, as routes through the fabled Northwest Passage above Canada and across the top of Russiahave begun to open. Polar tourism, oil and mining operations, and commercial shipping are now all present in a region that once was home mainly to small whaling boats and delivery barges.

    Within a few years, commercial fishing — presently the subject of a moratorium in U.S. Arctic waters — could move north from the Bering Sea.

    Ship traffic through the Bering Strait, the narrow waterway between Alaska and Russia, nearly doubled from 2009 to 2010, reaching 430 vessels a year.

    But with few certified ice-breakers and the nearest deep-water refueling port nearly 1,000 miles away in the Aleutian Islands, the Coast Guard is proposing a gradual ramping up of operations in the Arctic, with the potential of expanded deployments in the future.

    The Coast Guard has been conducting operations in Alaska, including the Arctic, for many years. Since at least 2008, the agency has been conducting dedicated Arctic exercises each summer to help answer fundamental questions about how to launch the move north.

    “We’ve been testing our capability,” Shaw said. “Can our people operate in the cold? Are our ships capable of working in the Arctic? Do we have the right people and the right training and the right assets to operate in the northern climates?”

    In an address to Congress last July, U.S. Coast Guard commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. said he wasn't even able to remain overnight in Barrow, Alaska, during his first trip to the Arctic. Finding lodging for his travel party was "a real challenge," he said.

    "Imagine if we had to mount a major pollution response — we would have to create our own infrastructure," he said. "Operations in the Arctic’s extreme cold, darkness and ice-infested waters require specialized equipment, infrastructure and training. Our current Arctic capabilities are very limited. We have only one operational ice breaker. We do not have any coastal or shoreside infrastructure. Nor do we have a seasonal base to hangar our aircraft or sustain our crews."

    Arctic Shield 2012 will allow the Coast Guard to mount search-and-rescue operations for troubled vessels, monitor oil operations and conduct outreach activities -- including boating safety and ice-rescue courses -- with communities across the North Slope and Chukchi coast.

    “Part of that is to learn from them,” Shaw said. “There are people in the North Slope who have lived there for a thousand years. They operate in that environment, they know that environment, and there’s a lot we can learn from them.”

    Two Coast Guard cutters -- the 282-foot Alex Haley, currently based in Kodiak, Alaska, and the 420-foot National Security cutter Bertholf, based in Alameda, Calif. -- will be present at each Shell drilling site throughout the season, which lasts in the Beaufort Sea through October. Two Jayhawk helicopters will be based at Barrow, Alaska.

    To operate so far offshore, the Coast Guard will be setting up its own communications station to power VHF radios and satellite communications both in the air and aboard ship, with links to hub offices in Juneau and Anchorage.

    Finally, the operation calls for conducting the Coast Guard’s own oil spill response drills with equipment deployed on a 225-foot buoy tender, normally based in Cordova on Prince William Sound, that until now has not been tested in the Arctic.

    “We’ll be conducting a field exercise working with Shell, the state, BSEE [the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement] and [the Department of Defense] to make sure,” Shaw said. “Everyone has these plans in place, but are these plans effective? We think it’s important to test.”

    Shaw said the Coast Guard expects to field the Arctic patrols, which will involve several dozen personnel, without a measurable budget increase by diverting assets from elsewhere — for now.

    “We’re not going to be reaching out, asking for more money,” he said. “But based on what we learn this year, that could change in the future.”

    Take what you like and leave the rest behind.
    FloridaGirlUser is Offline
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    02 Mar 2012 02:12 AM
    I read a similar article the other day. I find in interesting, thought of you Bells. Maybe we will get more funding finally for icebreakers we desperately need? Bullocks that we haven't been asking for money. As soon as Shell anounced they wanted to drill, Adm. Papp was all over it. "Yeah....you guys go do that. But we can't save you, because....uh....we don't have any icebreakers to get you. Money, k?" The other article mentioned that certain areas are no longer solid ice as they were decades ago ( I can't find it now, unfortunately). What about during winter? Did anyone learn anything from the Nome situation?


    *Also, I think this is in the wrong forum.*
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    janelleyfishUser is Offline
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    02 Mar 2012 07:11 AM
    *Note: this is MY opinion*

    While I support the US Coast Guard increasing its presence in the Arctic IF oil/gas exploration is taking place there, I do not believe that oil/gas exploration SHOULD occur there. First of all, the amount of US coastline that borders the Arctic is minimal compared to that of other countries (i.e., Canada and Russia). I work in Oceanography, and so much funding was being thrown around in my field for "sea floor mapping" - because whatever country could first "see" the Arctic sea floor could claim it, and then they would OWN it. This, of course, is valuable for oil/gas exploration...BUT the Arctic is an extremely sensitive environment with many endemic species (most of which haven't even been discovered or named yet). Pollution from our countries south of the Arctic also magnifies there - which is why many of the Canadian indigenous peoples that live in the Arctic are encountering so many health problems (among many other problems associated with climate change and a changing Arctic environment). Soon, there will be cruises through the Northwest Passage and commercial fishing and tourism industries popping up. The Arctic environment is already heading into a rapidly changing situation, and we have NO idea how increased human interference will impact it. For example, we already know that helicopters flying overhead may damage the hearing of polar bears, as they grow up and live in a virtually silent environment. We know that when human use is involved, environmental degradation happens faster...but scientists can not predict how potential changes will affect an environment they know so little about. Why don't we instead turn our focus to finding alternatives to oil and gas (since oil and gas will still eventually run out, regardless of whether we open drilling in the Arctic) rather than further damaging one of the most natural places left on Earth?
    janelleyfishUser is Offline
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    02 Mar 2012 07:16 AM
    ...and if you don't care about the environment, what about all the indigenous peoples that live in the Arctic? They have been living a certain way, in harmony with the land, for longer than many existing cultures. I have no doubt that the US, or any other country, will displace their communities if they are sitting on a well of oil/gas. What happens to the Arctic refugees (some of who are already being displaced due to melting permafrost, etc.)?

    If you're interested in this, watch the Inuit film called "Qapirangajug: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change," by Zacharias Kunuk. It's available free on-line.
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    02 Mar 2012 08:04 AM
    This should be in the News section, so I moved it. It could go as a discussion in the port & report area as well. But since it is the news post, here it is. Any discussion that you would like to have on all points... The floor is open.
    Sector NY, Staten Island
    BellsUser is Offline
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    02 Mar 2012 10:30 AM
    There aren't polar bears in the bering sea, its water. I was just there. My unit was sea floor mapping all summer.

    I think we SHOULD drill, ya there needs to be an awful lot of over-site, but Shell has the potential to be taxed something 3 trillion dollars. The D17 commander came to our unit while we were up there to talk about the potential for drilling and the numbers were outrageous, it was like how could we not?

    Everyone is afraid of another oil spill but they could read the CRS for it. The rig blew because a moron disregarded a non stable pressure test on the line. He tested another line within the well and it was stable so boom, he thought the whole thing would be stable. Within 8 hours the rig blew.

    He and 5 others died.

    How would drilling affect the people in the arctic. I think you need to actually go to the beaufort and chucuki seas so that you can see that there is nothing there but water and weather. The thing that I am most concerned about is the weather. Its pretty bad. They would need to know how to remain stable in the seas.
    Take what you like and leave the rest behind.
    janelleyfishUser is Offline
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    02 Mar 2012 06:28 PM
    I was speaking to drilling and environmental impact in the Arctic in general, not just in the Bering Sea region. I can assure you that there is not just water and weather there (this is a common, but extremely anthropomorphic view) - while there may not be land mammals like polar bears, there are most definitely many (hundreds? thousands?) of marine species in that water. We have discovered some of the most interesting species in the harshest environments. The Census of Marine Life has found hundreds of new species, in some areas we never thought life could exist, including the Arctic and Antarctic (http://www.coml.org/arctic-ocean-di...ty-arcod). These are species we know virtually nothing about, and have no idea how altering their environment for oil/gas drilling will affect them.

    Once oil/gas drilling starts ANYWHERE in the Arctic, it will only be a matter of time until it spreads to every possible place in the Arctic that it is feasible and profitable - places where polar bears and indigenous peoples do live. This is currently a huge concern in Canada, especially, because there are so many Arctic-dwelling native communities. I currently live in Canada, so I hear a lot about this.

    I currently pay nearly $6 per gallon for gas...but I understand why prices are so high. Oil and gas are non-renewable resources - once they're gone, they're gone. Again, why not invest in more sustainable alternatives instead?
    BellsUser is Offline
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    03 Mar 2012 09:16 AM
    I understand your argument. But thats where they want to drill. In the Bering and Chucuki seas. And I just came out of a 250 day deployment in the arctic so I am well aware of its conditions over a 8 and a half month straight period.

    And I agree that we can invest money for alternatives but this is something that can help the economy right now.

    I doubt they will be able to drill where polar bears live. They live on the ice edge and it is a lot colder there to the point where the oil would probably freeze on it's way up.

    I dunno, I am not saying that I don't care about the environment or species of animals, but if there is proper oversite and shell can actually do this, it is going to help the country a lot.
    Take what you like and leave the rest behind.
    KDUser is Offline
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    03 Mar 2012 12:31 PM
    I live in CA, not Canada, and I can tell you what investment in 'renewable' resources generates : lawsuits.
    Hydro? Not considered renewable, and besides, it impacts fish populations in the rivers.

    Geothermal? The water that's injected into the drilling sites comes back contaminated with heavy metals, and many of the appropriately volcanically-active sites are located on land considered sacred by one tribe or another. (Actually, as far as I can tell, the only sites NOT considered sacred are the ones where casinos can be located. You can do anything you want on those, except form a union or claim EEOC protections. )

    Solar? Takes too much space, and there are protected tortoises being adversely impacted.

    Windmills? If they are on land, they adversely impact ground squirrel habitat (okay, that one was in OR, not CA) and also do a Cuisinart thing on migrating raptors. If they are out at sea instead, some rich person will object to them wrecking their sea vista, as witnessed off Cape Cod.

    What's left?
    janelleyfishUser is Offline
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    03 Mar 2012 01:10 PM
    I would argue that if this does help the economy, it will be extremely short-lived. I would also argue that further continuing our society's extreme reliance on oil will not help our country, but eventually hurt it.

    I'm also not saying they're aren't problems with alternative energy sources...but most of them are in very young stages and need further research. And oil/gas drilling also results in lawsuits - every time there is a spill or when drilling procedures negatively impact local communities. How much money has BP spent to clean up the lives of those they impacted? Or Exxon-Mobil, who still haven't paid back all that the owe to the local community? And all of the people who live around the Alberta Oilsands getting sick? You get the idea...

    It can be done. There is an entire island in Denmark (Samso) that functions entirely from renewable energy sources. Some cities in North America are almost there. Regardless if drilling continues, our current use and dependence on oil is unsustainable - for the environment, for the economy, and for human health. The US, and many other countries, have been ignoring the scientists speaking out about sustainability for years. Canada was just called out on muzzling their scientists, and the US was accused of the same just a few years ago. I do not support any drilling in the Arctic, by the U.S. or any other country...but that's just my opinion.
    janelleyfishUser is Offline
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    03 Mar 2012 01:11 PM
    Further, "quick fixes" to fix the economy "right now" are often part of the problem. We should be thinking of long-term solutions rather than band-aid fixes.
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    03 Mar 2012 11:44 PM
    I have no doubt that renewables can be developed, if someone develops a system for quashing obnoxious lawsuits.
    In another time and place, I might have identified myself as an environmentalist-- I recycle, I drive a car that gets 40 mpg, heat and cool with a 14 seer heatpump, use low-flow lawn sprinklers, showerheads and toilets, and have a timer on my efficient electric water heater.
    But now that's become a hugely loaded word. No one seems able to keep groups that otherwise claim to want to protect the environment from filing entire forests-worth of lawsuits to prevent the development of energy sources not already established. Right now, oil and coal are the only energy sources that make enough money to be able to defend themselves in court, right or wrong.

    As long as anyone in the US can file a lawsuit about anything they want, I don't see any way around that. I hope that it's different in other places.
    janelleyfishUser is Offline
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    05 Mar 2012 07:16 AM
    KD, I'm not a fan of labels (environmentalist, etc.) either - they segregate and exclude people more than they bring them together. I strongly feel that as long as you can hold your head high knowing that you did what you thought was best, and that you shared what you know with the world, then that should be enough. I think everyone should always strive to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. You should do it for the right reasons, and it sounds like you are.
    KDUser is Offline
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    05 Mar 2012 07:57 AM
    Love the opportunity to disagree respectfully, janelleyfish. It's a lost art.
    BellsUser is Offline
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    05 Mar 2012 10:12 PM
    its business. If drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas will bring 3 trillion dollars to the US, lowering the defecit, AND lowering gas prices (i refuse to buy more than 5 gallons at a time because I am too busy wiping the tears from my soggy face at the gas pump) then they need to do it.


    This is what happened with deepwater:

    The Detailed Events Leading up to the Night of the Mishap

    First it is imperative to go through exactly what happened and lead up to the oil well and rig explosion of April 20th 2010. On this day, the rig and it’s crew were entering an abandonment phase to the Macondo well’s construction. The reason for the temporary abandonment of the well is so that BP can hire a smaller rig to finish the remaining construction at a lower price (Beinecke, 120)”. The rig’s team had just finished constructing the well’s new bottom cement seal. At 7:30 in the morning of the 20th, one of the rig’s engineers made a daily conference call to BP America’s corporate office in Houston, “to discuss that the final cement job at the bottom of the Macondo well was completed”. To ensure the job did not have any problems, a three-man Schlumberger team was scheduled to fly out later that day, to perform a series of tests to examine the integrity of the well’s new bottom cement seal”. BP however decided that since the cement job had gone smoothly, they would skip out on the Schlumberger team evaluation, which would save time and a $128,000 fee. Regardless of whether the Schlumberger team was going to do an evaluation or not, a positive and negative pressure test would be performed on the well to ensure the well’s integrity by the rig’s crew (Beinecke, 21).
    At 10:43, Morel, a crew manager, emailed an ops note to the rest of the Macondo team listing the temporary abandonment procedures. It was too:
    1. Perform a positive-pressure test to test the integrity of the production casing;
    2. Run the drill pipe into the well to 8,367 feet (3,300 feet below the mud line);
    3. Displace 3,300 feet of mud in the well with seawater, lifting the mud above the BOP and into the riser;
    4. Perform a negative-pressure test to assess the integrity of the well and bottom-hole cement job to ensure outside fluids (such as hydrocarbons) are not leaking into the well;
    5. Displace the mud in the riser with seawater;
    6. Set the surface cement plug at 8,367 feet; and
    7. Set the lockdown sleeve. (Report, 120)
    The positive-pressure test was performed without any problems during the day. Later on into the afternoon and evening the crew started to perform the negative-pressure test (Beinecke, 20). A negative-pressure test was first performed on the drill pipe of the well. It is to ensure that once the pressure it bled out of the pipe to zero psi, that nothing is entering the pipe, which would cause a rise in pressure. The first time the crew performed the test they could not get the pressure down to zero psi, instead they got it down 266 psi. When they drill pipe was closed it then jumped back to 1,262 psi. During the second test, the pressure did bleed down to zero psi, but then jumped back to 773 psi. The third time it got down to zero again, and then jumped back to 1,400 psi. After a meeting where the results were discussed, it was decided to perform the same test on another pipe instead of the drill pipe, the kill line. Performing the test on the kill line would have indicated positive integrity of the well if the test was a success. The test was performed and the kill line was successfully bled down and retained at zero psi while the pressure in the drill pipe remained at 1,400 psi (Beinecke, 124). An experienced crewmember, Jason Anderson, justified the reading as a “bladder effect”, and as a crew, they decided they achieved the no-flow effect needed for a successful well integrity report, despite never seeing effective and stable results from the drill pipe (Beinecke, 22).
    Another test is performed after the pressure tests, which is to check for kickback of pressure building in the well. During the test the rate of volume pumping into the well should be the same rate of flow coming out of the well. If the pressure inside the well is higher than what it is outside of the well, then there is something entering the well causing an increased amount of pressure (Beinecke, 125).
    For the kickback testing, the rig crew was experiencing a higher pressure in the well indicating that the pressure within the well was not stable. There is something flowing into the well causing the volume to be higher along with the pressure, which should have been a concurrent indicator with the unsuccessful drill pipe negative-pressure test (Beinecke, 126)
    A kickback did occur due to the increasing pressure of the well. This resulted in the drilling mud being discharged onto the rig floor (Beinecke, 129). This is when the crew and the rig experienced a “distinct high-frequency vibration” and at this point a crewmember witnessed that “[t]here was mud and seawater blowing everywhere; there was a mud film on the deck (Beinecke, 25)”. A senior member received a phone call in his cabin from an assistant driller on the floor; the driller said, “[w]e have a situation, the well is blown out, we have mud going to the crown.” The senior crewmember stepped out of his stateroom and felt a tremendous explosion that threw him twenty feet against a bulkhead (wall). Afterwards the lights and power went out on the rig (Beinecke, 25).
    The explosion caused multiple casualties to the crew and rig. A fire broke out after a second explosion and one of the crewmembers hit the general alarm alerting the crew to man their general emergency stations, followed by a mayday call that was sent out to other vessels and land-stations. Another vessel, the Rambling Wreck, received the mayday call and heard “[m]ayday, mayday, mayday, this is the Deepwater Horizon, we are on fire”. The Rambling Wreck “heard and felt a concussive sonic boom” and headed to the scene. The explosions caused the engines and thrusters to fail to start, causing the Deepwater Horizon to be dead in the water (Beinecke, 26).
    Much of the crew began mustering to the lifeboats along the weather decks of the rig. Among the chaos several members jumped off the rig (Beinecke, 28). They were picked up by lifeboats either from the rig or another vessel, the Bankston’s, fast rescue craft (Beinecke, 30).
    While most of the crew was mustering, several members stayed behind to try and manually start their auxiliary generator so that power could be restored to the rig, enabling the engines to start along with the fire pumps. The attempt failed. They were also ordered and attempted to engage the “rig’s emergency disconnect system (EDS). EDS would have closed the blind shear ram, severed the drill pipe, sealed the well, and disconnected the rig from the BOP”. The lights on the indicating panel showed that EDS had been engaged, however “the rig was never disconnected”. It is of speculation that the first explosion damaged the power cables of the EDS system, resulting in the failure of the disconnect (Beinecke, 130) A back up system, the “deadman” system also failed to disconnect the rig. “A post-incident testing of the deadman system revealed that low battery charges and a defective solenoid valve” could have caused the failure (Beinecke, 131) Afterwards a senior crewmember ordered to abandon ship (Beinecke, 31).
    The remaining crewmembers either deployed on a single lifeboat or jumped off the rig 100 feet to the water. On one lifeboat, during its descend away from the rig by a couple of crewmembers swimming and pulling it away, it got stuck for its painter line was still connected to the rig. One of the members swam to the rescue craft from the Bankston for a knife and then swam back to the lifeboat to free it from the rig. Eventually the majority of the Deepwater Horizon’s crew made it onto the Bankston (Beinecke, 34).
    “The first Coast Guard helicopter arrived at 11:22pm, deploying a rescue swimmer to oversee the medical evacuation of the injured… more helicopters came which eventually evacuated 16 Deepwater Horizon crew members to hospitals”. By 11:30 muster was taken and out of 126 members 11 were missing. “By 3:15 am, when the USCG cutter Pompano arrived on the scene, Deepwater Horizon was listing (a permanent lean to the vessel) heavily (Beinecke, 34).
    The Bankston was finally able to deploy for land at 8:13 am on the 21st. After making a couple stops, for meeting with other vessels for supplies, medics and Coast Officials, the Bankston made it to Port Fourchon on April 22nd, 27 hours after the Bankston left the burning rig (Beinecke, 35).



    Thats an exert from a paper I had to write and research for an emergency management class for Michigan State University. If you want to read the 22 page paper on the govnts lack of oversight I'll send it to you, its pretty interesting
    Take what you like and leave the rest behind.
    janelleyfishUser is Offline
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    06 Mar 2012 10:28 AM
    You're right, Bells, it is all business. And man, do I HATE that.

    How long will gas prices be lowered due to oil/gas drilling in the Arctic? What percentage of the national deficit will be eliminated due to this? I would bet that it's just a drop in the bucket, with consumers only seeing a short-term relief at the pumps.

    Have these studies even been done? Who crunched the numbers? Has an environmental impact assessment been filed?

    All I'm saying is that the methodology used to assess the costs-benefits in this situation (and so many others) is flawed. It ignores the non-market benefits of protecting species and their habitat (i.e., ecosystem services, intrinsic value of preserving a species, and even future harvest opportunities). Ecosystem services are the range of resources and processes supplied by natural ecosystems like clean drinking water and the absorption of carbon by ocean ecosystems. The value of these services is not captured in regular market transactions. There is a bias that dictates that economic and political considerations trump science in making these decisions, which is an extremely anthropocentric view. Humans do not give any other life form(s) equal consideration, and will continue to manipulate the environment for their own selfish, personal gains. I'm extremely saddened when I think about what the world will be like in, say, 2050. I'm certain that I will have to tell my children and grandchildren about things that used to exist that they can no longer see... Trees over 100 years old? Polar bears? Fresh seafood? Any great frontier left?

    Sustainability has been defined as fulfilling the needs of the current generation WITHOUT impacting those of future generations. It has been said that we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, but we borrow it from our children. I'm afraid that our children will look back on this time in history and be angry with us for how selfish we're being - that we just sat here and did nothing to stop the destruction that is occurring, that we didn't care enough to save something for them. Seriously, sometimes I don't even want to have children, because I don't want to leave them in such a world. A world without adequate fresh water and food. A world with hundreds of thousands of species less than when I lived. A world where war will break out over the few resources left. A world with no "natural" left. It's such a scary thought - and unfortunately, it's one that most people never think about, or if they do, they brush it off.
    BellsUser is Offline
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    Bells

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    06 Mar 2012 09:50 PM
    lol I'll try and find all the cost stuff out
    Take what you like and leave the rest behind.
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