The Morning Report
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Since its equipment ignited a series of fires in 2007 that burned hundreds of homes and killed two people, San Diego Gas & Electric has spent more than $1 billion to avoid another repeat.
The company hasn’t caused a major fire in 12 years but openly admits that the good streak won’t last. Ry Rivard dug up an astonishing series of regulatory filings in which SDG&E anticipates that it will cause or contribute to a catastrophic fire sometime in the next 20 years.
Now the company is asking state regulators for permission to increase electricity rates by $168 million over the next several years to help maintain investor confidence in their operators.
One way or another, some costs are likely to be passed down to customers. The company argues that less confidence in their operations means higher interest rates when they borrow and they need nearly $6 billion over the next five years.
While SDG&E has a reputation in Sacramento for planning responsibly around wildfires, others do not.
A California commission tasked with studying wildfire costs is urging lawmakers to rethink the legal standard that holds electric utilities accountable for blazes caused by their equipment even if they didn’t do anything wrong, the Union-Tribune reports. But legislative leaders continued to cast doubt on any proposal that could be seen as a bailout for Pacific Gas & Electric Corp.
That company is under court oversight after a criminal conviction for a 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people.
Where the Caravans Begin
VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan has been in San Pedro Sula, Honduras — the place where the caravans of migrants in the past year have left — for the past several days reporting, speaking with deportees and reporting on what’s driving immigration to the United States. (Note: Srikrishnan is reporting from Honduras thanks to the International Center for Journalists Bring Home the World Fellowship).
Here’s a dispatch she sent along Saturday afternoon.
I spent Friday night at San Pedro Sula’s bus terminal, where a couple hundred people each night flee to Guatemala by bus. Taxi drivers and ticket-sellers said the hundred-some people waiting Friday was less than usual. Everyone there is on edge.
The city — like the rest of the country — has been engulfed in protests. Initially, the protests were triggered by privatization reforms that critics warned would kill off public education and health services. Last week, the country’s president, Juan Orlando Hernández, withdrew the proposed legislation, but strikes and protests have continued, as general frustration with the president and conditions in the country simmers.
Recently released court documents also named Hernández as a target of a major U.S. investigation into “large-scale drug-trafficking and money laundering activities,” which has fueled the anger and dissatisfaction driving people into the streets to protest.
Even the business community is calling for him to step down.
The Honduran government responded to the protestors with force. Security forces deployed teargas and live bullets to quell protests nationwide, including in San Pedro Sula.
The protests, which started peacefully, have also taken a turn. Many here suspect gang members have infiltrated the protests of doctors, teachers and students and started causing chaos, since several nights this week have ended in looting and tires burning in the streets. On Thursday night, 16 vehicles belonging to the Honduras Energy Company were set on fire in San Pedro Sula.
There’s a pervasive paranoia throughout San Pedro Sula. There are constant whispers and rumors about protests expected to turn violent, or what the government will do next. The tension reverberates through the bus terminal, too.
The migrants there are leaving for many of the same reasons droves of Hondurans have been fleeing the country over the past few years: Their lives have been threatened by gangs, they’ve been victims of violence in another way or they’re simply trying to escape extreme poverty. And those factors are all intertwined with angst from the failure and corruption of the government that has driven the protests.
But early in the night Friday, everyone waiting to flee was kicked out of the terminal and it was locked up for fear that looters would come. Everyone was instead left to sit on the sidewalk out front, wary of what might happen next.
Vaccination Rate Slipping as Medical Exemptions Rise
A new research paper identified 25 counties in the United States most at risk of a measles outbreak, and three California counties — Los Angeles, San Mateo and San Diego — were on the list, Wired magazine reports. Only 94.3 percent of San Diego kids were fully protected against measles, slightly below the level that federal officials say is necessary to contain the disease.
In March, Will Huntsberry reported that a single physician based in South Park was behind nearly one-third of all medical exemptions written for students attending the San Diego Unified School District.
- Once again, San Diego Democrats are poised to split over a major race for a seat on the County Board of Supervisors that will likely determine which party controls the region’s future. The union that represents county workers voted to endorse one candidate while the only Democratic supervisor is backing another.
- As local leaders square off over the future of transportation funding, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez is steadily moving along a bill in the Legislature meant to keep SANDAG’s financial picture from getting worse. The regional planning agency needs more time to produce a carbon emissions reduction plan so it can keep the state and federal spigot flowing.
- Speaking of SANDAG, Catherine Blakespear, mayor of Encinitas and the agency’s vice chair, came into the podcast studio to talk about the new regional vision for transportation and the opposition waging in more rural parts of the county. She argued in a recent newsletter that freeway expansions aren’t an option if we’re going to meet our climate goals.
Another Big Pension Decision in the Neverending Pension Saga
The San Diego City Council will decide behind closed doors Monday whether to continue fighting for Proposition B or join the labor unions seeking to invalidate an initiative that killed public pensions for most city employees. The courts have ruled that Prop. B’s backers put the initiative on the 2012 ballot illegally, but it continues to be part of the City Charter.
In the Politics Report, Scott Lewis and Andy Keatts write consider some of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering in recent days. Officials could attempt to remain neutral in any subsequent legal battles, but there’s a very real chance that they’ll drop the city’s defense of the law and side with the unions.
In Other News
- A federal government watchdog says ICE violated its own rules on deporting former service members and has no idea how many they have removed. (Washington Post)
- San Diego police struck and killed a pedestrian who was jaywalking in Hillcrest. (Associated Press)
- San Diego State University researchers took photos of places where homeless people congregate and said they found the environment perpetuates the stigma of homelessness. (Union-Tribune)
The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.