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Roundtable: San Diego Mayor's Race, Methane Leak, Fish Farm

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Roundtable: San Diego Mayor's Race, Methane Leak, Fish Farm
San Diego Mayor's Race, Methane Leak, Fish FarmHOST:Mark SauerGUESTS:Liam Dillon, Voice of San Diego Ingrid Lobet, INewsource Ry Rivard, Voice of San Diego

On today's roundtable, independent Lori Saldana enters the race for mayor. Methane gas continues to spew from a broken well north of Los Angeles and the trouble facing a massive program to form this off of our coast. Than some of the top feature reports heard this week on KPBS including Super Bowl scammers and the high cost of preserving our sandy beaches. I am Mark Sauer KPBS Midday Edition Friday next but first this news. From NPR news in Washington. The presidential candidates are ramping up their campaigns with just three days to go before the Iowa caucuses. The economy immigration and informal correct and the battle to eliminate the Islamic state all prominent issues for the Democratic and Republican candidates as they were last it GOP debate into one. Donald Trump to New Hampshire today for a rally after skipping last night's debate in Iowa and holding a fund-raising events for veterans instead. NPR's Brian Neely reports Reporter: Says he asked Fox news $45 million contribution to the veterans in exchange for his taking part in the debate of the network client. Told a campaign rally that Fox very much wanted him to take part in the debate which preceded without him. And that he wanted to do it. But he said his participation would come with a price tag. I think if I million dollars to the veterans and I will come into your debate. And they were really unable psychologically to do that. And I said that's okay, we went out and raised $6 million which was fantastic From said GOP rival Ted Cruz of Texas was pummeled in the debate. He later joked that crews who trumpet argued is not qualified to be president because he was born in Canada, was quote and anchor baby in Canada. Brian Naylor NPR news New Hampshire. Demonstration strategy against Isys continues to come under fierce Republican attack but Defense Secretary Carter tells NPR the US military is still on track to shift resources where they are needed most. In Afghanistan our plan and we expect to be carried out that plan, is to wind down the force there. In Syria and Iraq we are looking actually to do more because we need to accelerate the defeat of Isis. The way is appealing to its allies to stop helping the Afghan army. Fort Worth-based American airlines has set a record profit in the fourth quarter of 2015 and for the year as a whole. Build people with member station K ERA in Dallas reports will feel palaces help the bottom line of all carriers. American world's largest airline says it earned $3.3 billion in the fourth quarter. The profit beat analyst accidents. For all of 2015 $26.3 million. CEO Doug Parker says that's the biggest profit in the history of the industry. Michael carriers Americans benefited from lower fuel prices that began falling in 2014. Passengers benefited as well. More people flew on American last year and paid a little less. Not everyone is happy about. Americans flight attendants said instead of stock buyback and dividends, some profits could help American the pension obligations. For NPR news I am please -- I am Bill evil. -- A new challenger steps forward to run against Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer but she is not a Democrat. The gas leak is still wreaking havoc on the environment. And the state is looking into tran13's program that produces many deformed fish. Welcome to our discussion of the weeks top stories I am Mark Sauer. Joining me at the KPBS round table today are reporter Liam Dillon, Voice of San Diego. Good to see you back again. Reporter Ingrid Lobet of INewsource. And reporter Ry Rivard of Voice of San Diego. Voice of San Diego here today. A challenger has finally emerged to run against Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer less than six months before the June primary. Lori Saldana is a liberal that she is not a Democrat anymore. Purchases appear slim she talked about that after announcement yesterday. For those who ask if this is a ridiculous quest I have to tell you that I was the daughter of a career Marine. He taught me that some battles are worth fighting. Some challenges are were taking on. No matter what the odds are. I love the city very much and I think fighting for San Diego and better brighter future for San Diego is well worth the fight and well worth the challenge that I am about to undertake. Liam, give us some background who is Lori Saldana and why does she want to climb this big political Hill? Lori Saldana is a former status only woman. She represented an area of the city from roughly 2004 until 2010. She then and was at that point a Democrat. She then ran for Congress in 2012 against then representative Brian Cambrai and Scott peters. She finished third in the primary by a slim margin. That's a tough infested district up along the coast. Correct like La Jolla. Chief -- she was a Democrat for a long time. Why did she leave the party? I think it's a mix of practical and personal reasons. On the practical side, what she told me when we spoke a she is probably more liberal than the mainstream Democrats are she said she has been attracted by Bernie Sanders presidential campaign and some of the support he is getting from the left and it feels like she can engage people who are very progressive and also folks who feel disfranchised by the political system. There's a growing number of declining state and people without political party in San Diego. And she feels she can engage them the same way Sanders engaged folks. Personally she has had a number of run-ins with party infrastructure and party establishment in town. Most notably, during the debacle, she called of the Democratic party leader in mid-2011 to say, listen I have heard from women who had major problems with filter -- Filner and she says it was swept under the rug. And then he unraveled in the way that he did and she fought against for doing some of that. She thought the party was fighting against her which was running for Congress. All of these things put together and she left the party. Yet some Democratic leaders have urged her to step in as a Democrat and run in the mayor's race. There isn't any. Again we have a saying that we have a city with no Democratic candidate. Toni Atkins the assembly woman did not run. David Alvarez decided not to run. They were left with nobody. Let's get into that. You touched on the Bob Filner situation and it seems she has explained to do because she went ahead and endorsed Filner after supposedly back channeling these issues. Is a very, located situation. She referenced it in the interview, I called her in 2011 when I was doing a profile on Filner and after about some of the rumors that were out and surfacing about him and his relationship with women. She would not talk to me at all for that story. Then she called me once some of the harassment allegations came out to save listen, here is what actually happened. And as you said, she endorsed Filner in the campaign. All of this stuff. And I said you have some explaining to do as well on the issue. She said, and I believe this was the first time she made this public she said she was a survivor of sexual assault herself. That was a lot of interesting emotions. It was difficult for her to deal with it. And now it was what was involved. Ingrid let me talk to you as a woman, what about the potential women voters may over her core liberal. Do you think that may have them stay home and not support her in some way? I would think someone would give her credit for being so candid about something that is so difficult to talk about in the public eye. I was so interested to hear that she said she thought was an epidemic of sexual harassment and sexual assault and I wondered, did you get an impression of whether she meant locally or at some larger systemic level X Yes. We didn't delve into that too much. I'm not sure exactly what is this issue would be referring to with respect to that. Blakely, we know there is an epidemic. But ditching in politics X I think you are seeing with a lot of the Filner news resurfacing this week and in recent times how pervasive some of the stuff was and how the sum of it went. Tran14's former chief of staff wrote a book that we got an advance copy of talking about how one of his executive's assistance was chased around the table. That's an allegation she makes in the book. This was all under the table for months and months until it finally came out. These are the kind of things that were going on as recently as three years ago. For our evening show tonight she will be on talking about some of those Filner allegations. Let's shift back now to Lori Saldana . Whatever issues with wanting to be mayor of San Diego? She is refreshingly candid about her expectations. To be very clear and although anything can happen, she is not going to win. I think she's very honest about what she wants to do which is forced a conversation in the city about a number of different things. There is, although we have not heard much about it, there's a ballot measure for minimum wage. No one is talking about it. The mayor is opposed and she is in favor. She wants to bring the issue to the forefront and Kevin Faulconer himself has try to paint a picture of himself who can reach out to Democrats and people of color and folks like that. He is saying that he is a softer Republican than what has been seen nationally. She really wants to push him on some of the issues to see how liberal he really is. I think that's the kind of conversation that she can't force for the future. So maybe kind of a local version of Bernie Sanders to get some of the issues affordable housing got neglected the poor, income equality, a lot of thing Sanders is talking about nationally. That this kind of talk about the differences between Kevin Faulconer and Lori Saldana. What about the Chargers and epic shift? She did not seem very interested in any sort of deal that would involve taxpayer money. Money not going to football team. Exactly. I will say anytime anyone is running for office in San Diego, that is their position. But once they are in office they seem to flit. I am not saying that something she would do, but that is the pattern of politicians. We have a few seconds left on the segment and I do want to shift, arty black pulled out of the Democratic primary for San Diego Senate seat, he has paved the way for Toni Atkins, a big party fight averted their. Whited block say he stepped away? I think it was to not have an expensive damaging race when there are a lot of contested races. It was fascinating to me that we're having this potentially million-dollar battle in San Diego when it was no Democrat running for mayor. Very strange. And then of course actors with her position as speaker, you would think that her money raising ability with the enormous. Maybe it is not so much. Exactly. We will be looking at it as we move on for the mayor's race and a lot more on it in the months to come. We're going to move on ourselves now. A broker loan north of Los Angeles before it became a big national story there's a methane gas leak the massive plume of gas escaping each day has diminished. But that is little solace to the residents of the Porter Ridge area. Ingrate, how bad is the gas flow now compared to its peak back in November X I did not to the map but I think it's down about two thirds. I think we're down to about 20,000 kg an hour. A total to date estimated of 5,000,000,000 ft.³. I believe that is a lot of natural gas to have lost. They have been listening the pressure underground which is what gives the force to the gas to come up. They are very close I believe with the relief well, so the relief well is now as deep as the failed well and now they need to penetrate that Casey, find it exactly and penetrated to be able to stop the flow. One of the more recent developments that we found, you have a main well casing made of steel, and inside there you have a narrow tube. The more typical and more common practice is to force the gas down the narrow tube and bring the gas backup when you need it through the narrow tube. But we had a confirmed on the head of the state oil and gas agency, that this gas on the date that this happened, was being injected under pressure through both of its tubes and its outer casing. So is it to within a tube and the best practice is to just do the smaller interior to but they were doing both. Yes because it allows you to use the space in between to do other things that are safety measures. You cannot do that if you are using the full diameter to force the gas underground. So we spoke with several well drilling experts in Texas, font of all things oil and gas related, they told us that is not the best way to do things that is what happening that day. Is it legal? Does the state have a regulation? It is legal. Is not the best practice according to experts, but it was legal. It is and the state says it is re-examining the practice in the older well. This well was originally drilled in 1953 so it certainly is older. Also we have some action in the state Senate, unanimously, yesterday said that they are not going to put any more gas into this particular field. They will examine hoping. I think the assembly will follow suit on this. It is late in the game but it appears there may be new real -- new restrictions and regulations on how they restore the natural gas and bring it up. They are not going to use this one particular well again but this gas field is certainly not out of the picture by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I have recently heard that California public utilities commission say that if they were to close this natural gas well field that they cannot guarantee they couldn't deliver people to you and the brown water and are heating. It is a critical in for structure they say. They are considering closing. But a decision to my knowledge has not been eight. Southern California Gas says it's not going to. This is the longest repository. Is not actually a castle itself is where they store it. Is more than 150 wells and yes it is where the store is the largest place where they store gas for all of Southern California customers. So you raise a really interesting point, are we willing to do some sort of restrictions and cut back on the usage of energy if they were to have to take the sting off-line? Do you think people would be willing to do that in the interest of safety? No. [ Laughter ] It becomes a big political issue. People want to use energy when they want to use it. Ultralights to come on, they want the stove to work, that is something they expect. One thing I am curious about though, separate, which is the parent company is one of two 4500 copies in San Diego and import to the economy, what effect do you think it will have on some from? We are just beginning to look at that and counting up the lawsuits and the number of plaintiffs because some of the plaintiffs -- so the lawsuits have more than 100 plaintiffs. The legal proceedings are really in their infancy and it hasn't been decided before what judge this will all take place. Though we are definitely going to keep an eye on that. How many folks have been displaced up there in a particular Porter Ridge area? The numbers vary tremendously 3000 families have temporarily sought relocation and some say have been driven out of their homes. But I seen advocacy groups have numbers that are three times that it. Is a lot of folks. The equivalent, it's hard to get your mind around the quantity of gas, when you turned into an equivalent of million more cars on the road and even at the lower rate of escaping, the story was over 3 million cars on the road in terms of pollution. I did the up-to-date numbers and it would be if you filled up and drove 70,010. Gas that's the equivalent -- that the equivalent climate emissions. Is that they may be getting close, the officials, to another well which I think a month to drill. You have one well over here that approximately 1500 feet away a safe distance, you have a drill down again vertically. Now they have reached the same deep depth about 7800 feet, Eccles laterally, -- it those laterally, then they have to pinpoint a 7 inch pipe and pour into it and force liquid down that will quiet and overcome force of the gas coming up than they can permanently shut off that wealth. So if they are at that depth it would seem as you say they are getting close. They are close. I estimate the guitarist to buy stuff what is happening now and they cannot. What about the danger factor there? Is there still risk of explosion in tapping into the existing well? Is this a safety issue for the people working there? I don't believe the answer to that. I do believe there's a risk of explosion specifically regarded to getting into the original failed well. And we have her very mixed things about the explosion above. Planes are not allowed to fly low over that site. A representative of Southern California Gas said that it was his concern that there was zero risk of explosion right now. And in the meantime before we leave this topic there are a lot of lawsuits already and it's going to be very costly, any idea, is there a class-action from all of the Porter Ridge residents there? Some state agencies have sued? Currently I don't know how many there are exactly. There is one that is called a mass tort action the attorneys for those are actually based in San Diego and they say they have more clients than anyone else. There are at least 20 lawsuits but I can't tell you how many plaintiffs yet. I am ready to start counting them up. I am sure we will do a lot of follow-ups as we move forward on this story especially when the The welfare We will move on with it ever dwindling the stock in the United States. If this farm should be welcome news. Stories about this farm plans by Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute have generally been positive. But Ry Rivard your story says there is a clouds over the sunny aspects of the story. Start with the scope of the agricultural project proposed by Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute. There looking at about 11,000,000 pounds of fish off the coast a year. It will be a fish farm with pens of fish about 5 miles off the coast. The fish would be out there and then taken out and sold. A huge operation one of the biggest in the country. Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute Ari has an experiment this farm near Carlsbad, and they have problems there. What are they trying to breed and what are some of the problems that you have encountered? They had been trying to breed white Seabass and they have had a program for about 30 years and have been in charge of it for the past 20. Is a hatchery -- it is a hatchery where they spawn white Seabass and they grow them into juvenile Seabass is the one along and in their goal is to release healthy Seabass into the ocean. So that then we can catch them or the Seabass will breed and grow bigger. Boost the population. The population on the outset has been dwindling. A variety of reasons for fish and fishing be one of the main ones. We could use more fish. And there's about the white Seabass has been rebounding since the program started though perhaps because of some banning of illness which are massive that's to catch all kinds of fish at once and then catch limits on the size of this that you can catch. The smaller breeding experimental because they had gone into the massive short yet, now your reporting in interviews you did you learn that they are really spawning some deformed fish. What are these problems that the experts are seeing? There are numerous problems there. Piercing skeletal deformities. Therapist with bombs on their heads that they call horns. Or fish with crooked spines. With water circulates through their hatchery facility in Carlsbad, causes the fish to have bubbles form in their eyes or to go blind entirely. These are problems that were particularly the blindness, which is not happen in the wild. In your story, one top state fish expert is quoted as saying he accuses hubs of bearing -- very information under tons of misinformation. There has been a lot of attention to Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute. Debit advertising more fish in the ocean . Before now the public really do know that there were a lot of problems with the program. Have not been able to release as many fish as they had hoped. Some of the fish they are releasing die before they are released or they may not be able to survive in the wild We are all consumers of fish we eat fish this would seem to be a serious thing where you are talking about board and blind fish and deformed fish who wants to eat that? I am asking this question so I can say fish herpes on television [ Laughter ] There have been a couple of outbreaks of fish herpes and because of this when they detected, they have to kill all of the fish that have been identified to have herpes or around the fish that have herpes and they killed 100,000 or more fish here But my serious question is, what was interesting about your story is it is unclear how common these deformities are in the sort of fish farms. There are problems at all hatcheries are there not? One interesting thing about this, but there are two things. There working with the species that has not been worked with before. And because this is a state-funded program, we had access to documents and public records that you would not normally have about a private commercial hatchery. So we are able to know a lot about the program that you are not able to know about commercial describes. So speaking of public funding, how much money has gone into it so far to try and get this thing up and running? About $20 million since 1984. And net estate funding, a state agency is overseeing? Is a mix from the State Department official wildlife from federal officials. A lot of it comes from support the syntax and sport fishing license. We all have a stake in getting pissed off backup because fish isn't -- we all have a stake in getting fish stock back up. There is so much president for restocking rivers and lakes, has anyone ever try to restock an ocean of fish before X I think this is one of the major and first project of its kind in the United States I think there are some work in Japan and Europe. I think this is the only game in town like this on the West Coast. Ideally what do they ultimately want to do with the fish farm? What would be the timeframe? You mention 11,000,000 pounds as a goal. This would be a huge commercial operation. Is a difference between a state-funded program where you see the deformities and the disease and the proposed project would be a project off the coast. The state-funded project was never put into law. There was a report on in 2010 and a report came back and said we don't really have goals for this program, 80 we should come up with them and now they are auditing the program to figure out if it is work or if they want to switch species. And walk us through that process, we talked about it earlier, they would take the small fish, they picked them out one by one to figure out which ones could survive in the wild, it feels like an intensive progress. There are hundreds of millions of larva from eggs. Some number of those are just not going to survive and that is natural. Ticket to be a certain size and they are preparing them to release into the ocean, sometimes they put them into pens in the ocean so they can grow larger and have a better chance of surviving in the wild against predators. As they are released from the hatchery facility, staff will pick them up and look at them, not been out with anesthesia and look at them, they see if it is visibly deformed or not and if they are okay they will put them in a box -- bucket that kills the. That kills them. They are supposed to be catching a lot of deformities there for the state fish pathologist have found deformed fish in the pens in the ocean which in theory there should not be as many as there are. What's the response from officials at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute They say is an external program work they say we compare well where we can be compared. And that is it. How long has this program is going on and what is the plan to get to the massive fish farm stage? There's an audit of the state-funded program and that will be completed in 2017. There is a bidding process going on -- there is a permitting process that is going on. Will have to see how long it takes. Do you think anything going on here is going to affect that process? The head of Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute is the interim CEO of the offshore fish farm that is proposed, content, -- Don Kent, his ability to oversee a commercial project Ali flees based upon how Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute does . You try to get an interview with the state is pathologist, you're not able to do that but you did have some of his reports and emails. Fish and wildlife was generous with their documents but they did not want the guy to go on the record. A put me in touch with other people in the Department of Fish and wildlife Nyhan. Is a touchy thing and I'm sure we will be doing some follow-up and more reporting as we go forward because it such a public thing with the deformed fish. Is not a phrase you want to hear. That wraps up another week at the KPBS roundtable. I would like to think my guess Liam Dillon Voice of San Diego. Ingrid Lobet and Ry Rivard. A reminder all of the stories we discussed today are available on our website KPBS.org. I am Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today on the roundtable.

An independent woman

Lori Saldaña is a former Democratic assemblywoman.

As of this week, she is a current candidate for Mayor of San Diego, running as an Independent.

A Democrat in 2014 when she ran against Scott Peters in the 52nd Congressional District primary, she jumped off the train during the ugly general election contest between Peters and Carl DeMaio, disillusioned by party politics.

She told Voice of San Diego's Liam Dillon that local party officials asked her for months to run against Faulconer as a Democrat. Nothing doing, she said.

Saldaña carries some baggage with her on this adventure, namely her endorsement of Bob Filner for mayor, which came after she warned the Democratic Party about his behavior to women. This came about, she told Dillon, because of her own conflicted feelings as a survivor of sexual assault.

She said she is running today to give San Diego voters a clear choice. Her main interest is income inequality, and she believes those who are struggling economically are not getting the same level of city services as wealthier residents.

Her other positions: no taxpayer money for a stadium, infrastructure bonds should be funded, and more affordable housing should be built.

Gas well still leaking

A natural gas well operated in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles by Southern California Gas, a unit of Sempra Energy, has been spewing climate-damaging methane gas into the air since at least October 23, 2015.

INewsource has found that the wells in the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility were -- and still are -- operated in a legal, but risky, manner by SoCalGas. The company injects and withdraws gas into both the tubing and its casing at the same time. Both are under pressure, leaving no room for the protective brine that inhibits corrosion.

The company knew a year ago that those pipes were corroding and failing at a faster pace than they had been, and they informed state regulators.

SoCalGas's director of operations wrote in its filing with the California Public Utilities Commission that the company’s inspection and maintenance program was essentially reactive, without active searches for corroded pipes on a regular basis.

Recently, methane gas was estimated to be escaping at a rate of 21,500 kilograms per hour. Nearly 3,000 families have been displaced.

Local frankenfish?

Deformed, diseased and blind fish are regularly produced and then destroyed at the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute's experimental fish farm off the Carlsbad coast.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has given the program $28 million over 20 years to restore the rapidly declining white seabass population. Now the department and the California Coastal Commission are looking into the results.

Documents detailing the program’s problems were obtained from the state by San Diego Coastkeeper, which is seeking to block construction of a massive new fish farm planned by Hubbs-SeaWorld off the coast near Mission Bay.

Hubbs said it has released more than two million seabass into the ocean, but the hatchery has the capacity and permission to release millions more than that.

White seabass are apparently a difficult species to rear in hatcheries, unlike trout. The seabass have died from fungal and bacterial infections, been euthanized because of fish herpes, bashed themselves to death and been eaten by predators.

The state is looking into whether this level of carnage is to be expected, or whether it should find a different fish to fund.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.