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SDG&E Wildfires, Mexico Avoids Tariffs, Legendary Running Coach

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SDG&E says there is a 100% chance it will start or contribute to a major wildfire in the future. Also, Trump defends his deal with Mexico to avoid tariffs, how drinking water helped identify the remains of a missing Vietnam War soldier, the monarch butterfly may have fallen to below a critical level, a new book profiles Hall of Fame running coach Bob Larsen who got his start in San Diego and the San Diego Fringe Festival presents a unique show from Iceland called “A Box in the Desert.”

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Temperatures are soaring around San Diego. Today. Cal Fire says there's a heightened fire danger assistant chief Jason Rich is asking for San Diego's to be extra careful to help prevent a fire from starting.

Speaker 2: 00:13 We have an abundance of are annual grasses, annual grasses, uh, typically catch fire first. They move our fire, they're very susceptible to when they burned fast, they burn hot and they, they really carry the fire.

Speaker 1: 00:24 He says, cal fire stations are all currently fully staffed and ready to deploy resources here and across the state if needed. There are several large blazes burning across the state as we speak. Firefighters have managed 30% containment of the largest, a 2000 acre blaze burning about 50 miles northwest of Sacramento. Meanwhile, the sky fire forced the evacuation of six flags, magic mountain amusement park and the Santa Clarita Valley. Sunday nine people were sent to the hospital for smoke inhalation. That fire is now 70% contained back, closer to home. No reassuring news from San Diego Gas and electric on its role and its equipment. Sparking a future wildfire voice of San Diego reports the utility says it's 100% sure it will cause or contribute to another catastrophic wildfire in the county within the next 20 years. Voice of San Diego, reporter Rye Revard reported the revelation and joins me now with more. Welcome Bri. Hi, thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: 01:23 So first, how did you uncover this prediction by the utility? So in one of their new regulatory filings, they have to make a whole bunch of filings with state utility regulators. They said, hey, we're now going with a model for wildfires where we think, you know, we should expect a wild fire that's caused or contributed to by our equipment every 20 years. You know, they have a one in 20 year model, but hasn't the utility done a lot to prevent a future fire? They have, they have a state of the art weather forecasting system. They have people walking up and down the lines trimming vegetation. Um, they also are doing upgrades to their infrastructure, so it's less likely to cause a fire or it's easier to shut off when there are fire conditions and they are shutting off the power, um, to some areas of the county when it's too hot or too dry or too windy.

Speaker 1: 02:10 Um, which are all things that they say, um, you know, have contributed to the reason they haven't started at or contributed to a fire in the first 12 years. And so far it's, it's seems successful. Um, it's, you know, you have to wonder though, you know, how much of that is luck? All of this a costing, what about 1.5 billion? I understand. Yeah. So far. Um, which you know, sort of pales in comparison to the amount of damage that a major fire can cause. Right. And have any of these preparations included putting power lines underground? Yeah. Uh, there's a lot of undergrounding I think something around in the neighborhood of 60% of SDG and e system. Um, I think that's the figure they'd given me is underground there. They're doing a lot to put, uh, lines underground. But, but it sometimes doesn't, um, you know, it's hard to do that economically in areas with few customers, which tend to be the areas where you have the highest wildfire risk.

Speaker 1: 03:00 Like in the middle of San Diego, you know, you're underground aligned, you've served blocks and blocks of people, dozens of people. But out in the back country, if you wanted to underground stretches and stretches of lines, you might only catch, you know, a couple of customers because they're so far apart. So the economics are different, you know. What about the preservation of human life? Has there been any regulations put in place to ensure that human life and safety hold more value than profit for utility companies like Sdg Annie who say they are 100% sure there power lines will cause or contribute to a catastrophic fire? Well, so I think SD genie would say that everything that they're doing is attempting to save a human life. When people say that, you know, a lot of people are really upset about the shutoffs, um, in certain parts of the county.

Speaker 1: 03:45 We did another story about that last week. Um, but you know, Sdg and e says those people will say, hey, they're just trying to reduce their liability. They're shutting off power cause they don't want to upgrade their equipment or they're not, they don't have full faith in their equipment. Well as will say, well yeah, you know, we are turning off power because if the power line is a nerd it's not going to start a fire. And so there's this interesting crossover between what people say is their liability and what they say is their duty not to start a fire because their liability only comes when there's a fire. So they sort of do go hand in hand. The, the public safety and the trying to avoid a catastrophic financial hit to the company. They're, they're sort of one in the same cause. The, the event is the fire Sdg and e has a prediction as to how much another wildfire would cost the utility.

Speaker 1: 04:33 Talk to us about that. Yeah. So, so these are models and, and you know the percentages, you know how they come up with these things. They told me they ran a whole bunch of different models and different scenarios and this is what they came up with this or one in 20 year, you know, wildfire event that they, that they thought they could be involved in. And um, when they did that modeling, they found, you know, actually, you know, if there's going to be one of these big fires, you know, when we looked at conditions for fire, when they look at climate change, when they look at the way fires have moved in the past, um, you know, where things haven't had been burned. They say, yeah, we're going to cause we think an enormous or contribute to an enormous amount of damage. Um, you know, more than one point $5 billion there.

Speaker 1: 05:12 I'm sort of average for a major event would be in the $3 billion range, mid $3 billion. I understand the company wants to raise rates in relation to all of this. Why does the utility think this is needed? So what they're saying, it's an interesting argument. They're saying our investors don't have a lot of confidence in us right now because you know, they've, we've seen fires in this service territory over a decade ago. We'd saw fires in northern California, we saw fires to our north and Southern California in the Edison Service territory. And so investors are sort of not sure that they want to continue to invest in utilities as vested. You need saying we know that premium, you know, a sort of percentage increase in our rate of return to help reassure investors. And, and I think some re, you know, some readers and listeners are going to be like, well they're just looking out for their bottom line.

Speaker 1: 05:57 The company. Many would argue back that by ensuring investors, they're able to borrow money more cheaply. And so when they can borrow money more cheaply, they can pass those savings, or at least not those higher costs on to customers. And is this desire to increase rates related to the CPU not letting SDG and e pass on cost of the 2007 wildfires to 10 to rate payers? Yeah. So this was a big thing in 2007 a you, you followed it a lot. They couldn't, they, they paid a lot of, for a lot of the damage in the liabilities, um, using their own insurance. But there was a chunk of money, a couple hundred million dollars that they couldn't get their insurance company to pay for. And so they said, hey, we need to raise rates to pay for this. The CPEC said no, and SDG and e has been quite upset ever since. Um, and the other utilities in the state view that as a big risk, they view this sort of unfunded liability that they would face in the case of a fire, um, as, as a big risk to their bottom line. And, um, I think this rate case and the fire model that's in it have everything to do with, with that. I've been speaking with voice of San Diego reporter Rye Revard right. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 3: 07:07 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 Just what could change along our border with Tijuana as a result of last week's political drama over a possible terrorists on Mexico, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was in Tijuana over the weekend and his approach to Mexico, US relations is in stark contrast to president Trump's where Trump had threatened punitive trade tariffs. If Mexico does not do more to stem immigration from Central America. Lopez Obrador called for cooperation. NPOS, Carrie Kahn, who by the way used to be part of our KPBS news from here. It is here in our border region covering developments and joins me now via Skype carry. Good to talk to you.

Speaker 2: 00:39 Hi Allison. It's great to be with you guys.

Speaker 1: 00:42 So now both United States and Mexico are celebrating this deal that was reached on Friday to avert the trade tariffs and President Donald Trump has claiming a political victory. But some observers say the deal reached on Friday, added very little to what was already in place. What exactly did it add?

Speaker 2: 00:58 Well, I think there's an evaluation period that they're talking about that they'll have markers to see. They're looking for an immediate drop in the number of Central American migrants that actually make it to across the u s border. So they're sort of, uh, milestones and markers they didn't really have before. But it's true. There isn't a whole lot difference. There's commitments from Mexico that they'll do more. Mexico really jumped in and ran to Washington and really tried to appease the Trump administration. And I think maybe there are members in the Trump administration who didn't feel like they were getting that sort of cooperation, that attention from Mexico. And so those sorts of things are new, I believe.

Speaker 1: 01:40 Well over the weekends, Lopez Obrador held a rally and to fauna and, uh, that was billed as a unity rally. And we have a little tape of, of what he said there. Let's listen.

Speaker 3: 01:50 I Bet I see them. They don't know what is Ho no, they live on, hey, Borneo Serato. She known [inaudible] Franca.

Speaker 1: 02:05 So that was a Mexican President Lopez Obrador telling a crowd in Tijuana that he's not raising a closed fist to president Trump, but he's rather extending an open hand. But last year on the campaign trail, he said Mexico wasn't going to do the dirty work of a foreign government on migration, so how's he treading this line? Carrie? How was his message received

Speaker 2: 02:27 when Lopez Obrador was campaigning for president? He did take sort of a stronger dance when it came to Trump and his threats and now that he's become president, he takes a very conciliatory stance with him. He always says things like, we just heard, I don't want he the love and peace president. He does not want confrontation. Confrontation is not the way for neighbors to behave. And that comment, they, the clip that you played, I kind of interpreted in head saying, I'm not going to do this to you. President Trump don't do it us. And there was lots of contradictory statements in the rally on Saturday. The whole thing was billed as this unity in defense of Mexico and celebrating our friendship with the US. We can say one thing and then there'd be another message there. It's an interesting line that he walks.

Speaker 1: 03:20 And do you think that the response was also mixed in the sense that some people would rather that he took a, uh, a more aggressive stance in response to president Trump?

Speaker 2: 03:28 Well, I do. There are people in Mexico that are not happy with a stance, but I have to always catch that with overwhelmingly the people of Mexico support Lopez Obrador, you know, his approval ratings, Alison as high as 80%. If you look at certain polls, that's unheard of in the political class, in the opinion class. And in former officials, they're not too happy with a lot of it and say, what did Mexico get out of this? We just gave in a lot. But the people are strongly behind him. And that rally was huge in Tijuana. He's there, went on for blocks downtown.

Speaker 1: 04:04 So bearing in mind that the agreement suggests there might be more, uh, immigrants now being held in Mexico rather than being allowed across the border with the remain in Mexico policy. What kind of investments has Lopez Obrador said he will make to help the local communities deal with the influx of Central American migrants?

Speaker 2: 04:22 Absolutely none. That's that. Those are all the big questions. And uh, on top of that, the immigration budget and the budget for the refugee agency, which is called Kumar, has been slashed, you know, Lopez Obrador came into power, uh, vowing to cut down on corruption and also have an austere government. And boy, he has really done that pledge and he, he's cut the budget of both of those agencies. It's, it's unclear where this stepped up. Enforcement is going to come from, especially the national guard and this number that we keep hearing of 6,000, the national guard isn't even up and running yet. It's going to be constituted from existing police forces, which have a whole host of its own priorities. Not to mention, um, combating drug trafficking. The whole thing that's going on with the gas pipeline, thefts, commenting that, you know, where are these troops going to come from that are going to go down to the border and one are they going to get there?

Speaker 1: 05:20 Hmm. Well, just in the little time we have left, Carrie, just let's touch on the business aspect of this because businesses on both sides are breathing a sigh of relief because the tariffs were averted. But president Trump has dangling the prospect of renewing them if immigration doesn't go down. So I mean, do you think that this, this ongoing threat of Paris is going to affect commerce on the border?

Speaker 2: 05:44 I've talked to different business leaders. I went all the way past Mexicali all the way to Tijuana and I talked to some business people and it was interesting at first when this first started happening, workers alike and business leaders are, oh, this is just Trump, nothing's going to come out of it. He always, you know, blusters backs down. Then when it got closer, people were concerned and I talked to this us, um, farmer that had amazing operations in the Mexicali Valley and he just said, you know, we can't operate in this uncertainty. Business hates uncertainty and this is just a mess and this has to be settled. So they're not happy about the continued, the continued threats about this. The, I went to a Macula Dora of a man who, um, manages like 45 Makela doors in the Baja California region, and he wasn't as concerned. He said, he brings down clients that will set up shop and he said he only had one person, one business saying they were going to hold off and wait. That he had several others that said they were going to come down and they weren't concerned because their investments are longterm and any sort of tariffs that would be slapped on Mexican products, exports would take months to years for that to take an effect. So people weren't that concerned. So you get mixed emotions. I think the uncertainty is what upsets mostly businesses will carry. Thanks so much for your good reporting along the border there. You're welcome. Nice to talk to you, Alison. Very con and prs international correspondent from Mexico.

Speaker 1: 00:00 More than a half century ago. A young Navy reservist died in a plane crash in Vietnam. For years, government scientists couldn't identify his remains in part because he was adopted and they couldn't match his DNA to blood relatives. Finally, they turn to an emerging technique that linked his bones to the drinking water. In the places where he grew up, they'd be denken reports from the American Home Front project

Speaker 2: 00:25 at a funeral home in Montebello, California. Sun Mourners pause to ring a ship's bell before signing the guest book. Many in this crowd of waited 52 years to pay their respects to fall in Navy reservist. Rowel Garah. He was just 24 when his plane went down northwest of Denang for his former fiance, Mary Barrow. Summer Lot. The loss is still fresh. I was 22 years old and I had never before experienced someone. The man responsible for bringing revel guera home. His best friend mostly sit silently with his family in a front row. Pew. I visited Reuben Valencia at his home a few days before the service. This is something I made momentos of Garah. We're everywhere.

Speaker 3: 01:14 It's a photograph of my best friend role and myself. Back in 1965 when I got married, Raul was my best man.

Speaker 2: 01:23 Shortly after that, Valencia was drafted to the Marine Corps and deployed to Vietnam. Garris signed up for the reserves and got a job as a sports editor at a local paper. Then in 1967 he too was shipped off to war. The navy assigned him to serve as a reporter in the field. The friends kept in touch, writing letters back and forth.

Speaker 3: 01:43 I would always tell him, don't worry about me. I'm going to get home. I know I'm going to come home.

Speaker 2: 01:47 Valencia did come home with a purple heart for injuries he received in combat, but Raul Guara did not return and for 40 years his remains were in the wreckage of the plane in the mountains of Vietnam, inaccessible to American investigators.

Speaker 3: 02:02 There was always something inside me that I kept on saying that he was there. He was somewhere there.

Speaker 2: 02:09 In 2005 there was a break in the case of farmer had come across the crash site. Other passengers on the plane were quickly identified, but Raul Garris journey wouldn't be so simple. Turned out he'd been adopted from Mexico and no blood relatives were available to provide a positive DNA match. It was a surprise even to his closest friends.

Speaker 3: 02:30 Never, never knew that. My friends mother, that I had always known as being his mother, was not his biological mother.

Speaker 2: 02:41 The science to finally bring guera home wouldn't catch up for over a decade. John Bird is laboratory director with the defense POW MIA accounting agency. The Pentagon department responsible for recovering, identifying, and reuniting fallen service members with their families. Bird's team used an emerging forensic called stable isotope analysis.

Speaker 4: 03:02 In this case, we were looking at oxygen and oxygen isotopes in your body. Come from your drinking water.

Speaker 2: 03:08 The water we drink leaves a signature in our bodies. Researchers can match the skeletal record with maps of places where drinking water has been tested.

Speaker 4: 03:17 We knew that Ronald Garrett grew up and Ensonata Mexico and then he moved up into southern California. We found, uh, data from studies that had already been done of water supplies from northern Mexico and southern California than we were able to show the ratios we got from the bone matched very favorably

Speaker 2: 03:39 early in 2019 after 52 years, Reuben, Valencia, God, word his friends remains, were finally coming home. He choked up at the memory of hearing the news. Hard to talk. Yeah, really, really happy, but hard to talk about it. Girl was laid to rest with full military honors at a cemetery that Valencia can see up on a hillside when he looks at is sliding glass back door in Los Angeles. I'm Libby Dank, man. This story was produced by the American Home Front project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veteran's funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.

Speaker 5: 04:23 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 The last two years have not been kind to the monarch butterflies living along the west coast. KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson says, the population of the iconic incept plunged below 30,000 this year. The insects future prospects appear dim.

Speaker 2: 00:19 Normal Heights front yard is a certified natural habitat.

Speaker 1: 00:23 If it's not food, it's not in the yard. It's got to be food for somebody. Uh, whether it be a butterfly, a certain type of butterfly of be birds. Um, it really needs to be either a host plant or a nectar plants.

Speaker 2: 00:36 Ramy Misskey embraces the tranquil activity that surrounds her home.

Speaker 1: 00:40 It's just my little, everything's okay spot

Speaker 2: 00:44 sprinkled among the colorful plants are different kinds of milkweed. That's important as a Misskey because outback Kay and watched the little critter via duck. She's got an entire greenhouse devoted to raising and releasing monarch butterflies. She separates eggs from tiny caterpillars, separates tiny caterpillars from larger ones. They're just robbing us. Once the caterpillars have finally eaten enough, they look for a place to hang and form their colorful chrysalis. Then Zoom Musky waits for the orange, black and white butterfly to emerge.

Speaker 1: 01:16 Yeah. So this guy's got a little more ways to go and and with the cooler darker, whether he might light a little bit longer.

Speaker 2: 01:24 Zoom mosquito welcomes a couple hundred monarch butterflies into the world every month. She says caring for the iconic insects consumes or weekends and she's willing to spend enough money to make sure there's plenty of milk

Speaker 3: 01:36 lead on hand for the process. Monarchs are probably one of the most, if not the most valuable insects in the world. Bryce Simmons works at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. People spend a lot of money to plant monarch gardens. They pay a lot of money to go see monarchs in Mexico and over wintering or in the eucalyptus grows here and they have very strong values. Semans helped develop a model that predicts the health of the monarch butterflies populations both in the east and western United States. It turns out that the models that we used to describe how a population changes through time are the same as if we're modeling fish or monarch butterflies.

Speaker 2: 02:15 Those models show a steady and dramatic decline of monarchs on the West Coast. The population topped 1.2 million in the 1990s and Semon says the number of migrating monarchs is currently on

Speaker 3: 02:27 perilous perch. What they use as an is that an extinction threshold or a point at which the population would hit it and most likely it would now be in a vortex and extinction vortex where it won't be able to pull out and they use it as a number 30,000 individuals, 30,000 monarchs. We'll just, this last winter we were below that pesticide storms and now even climate change are posing problems for the colorful butterfly. What was once a friendly habitat is turning more hostile because in really dry hot, uh, years, milkweed doesn't grow so well across the range of where it normally would and they're obligated breeders on Milkweed, they have to have milkweed in order to reproduce. And so to some extent, wherever the milkweed isn't, the monarchs can't be,

Speaker 2: 03:13 but someone says it's the migration behavior that's likely at risk of going extinct, not the butterfly itself. Volunteers count the migrating butterflies when they gather it over wintering sites. Typically a grove of eucalyptus trees near the coast, but many historic wintering spots in San Diego County and elsewhere, no longer attract monarchs. The ones here we're pretty sure are not migrating at all. John Merriman runs butterfly farms in Encinitas and he raises monarchs to share their story with local children. He knows that the colorful insects face challenges, especially early in their lifecycle. When other insects like flies, pose a threat and there's bacterial infections, there's viral infections, I think get in a mold or mildew or fungus it that's going to probably kill them. Uh, so there's, there's a lot that things go wrong and that's before, that's before any predators even. But he says monarchs are also good at survival. The milkweed they eat makes them noxious to most birds and they're persistent. Friendly. Social behavior might be why the term social butterfly remains popular. It's a really prolific butterfly. They're serious about reproduction. While the monarchs are resilient, they do require a milkweed for their survival. But fortunately for them, there is plenty of milkweed in southern California. Eric Anderson KPBS news.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Temperatures are soaring around San Diego. Today. Cal Fire says there's a heightened fire danger assistant chief Jason Rich is asking for San Diego's to be extra careful to help prevent a fire from starting.

Speaker 2: 00:13 We have an abundance of are annual grasses, annual grasses, uh, typically catch fire first. They move our fire, they're very susceptible to when they burned fast, they burn hot and they, they really carry the fire.

Speaker 1: 00:24 He says, cal fire stations are all currently fully staffed and ready to deploy resources here and across the state if needed. There are several large blazes burning across the state as we speak. Firefighters have managed 30% containment of the largest, a 2000 acre blaze burning about 50 miles northwest of Sacramento. Meanwhile, the sky fire forced the evacuation of six flags, magic mountain amusement park and the Santa Clarita Valley. Sunday nine people were sent to the hospital for smoke inhalation. That fire is now 70% contained back, closer to home. No reassuring news from San Diego Gas and electric on its role and its equipment. Sparking a future wildfire voice of San Diego reports the utility says it's 100% sure it will cause or contribute to another catastrophic wildfire in the county within the next 20 years. Voice of San Diego, reporter Rye Revard reported the revelation and joins me now with more. Welcome Bri. Hi, thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: 01:23 So first, how did you uncover this prediction by the utility? So in one of their new regulatory filings, they have to make a whole bunch of filings with state utility regulators. They said, hey, we're now going with a model for wildfires where we think, you know, we should expect a wild fire that's caused or contributed to by our equipment every 20 years. You know, they have a one in 20 year model, but hasn't the utility done a lot to prevent a future fire? They have, they have a state of the art weather forecasting system. They have people walking up and down the lines trimming vegetation. Um, they also are doing upgrades to their infrastructure, so it's less likely to cause a fire or it's easier to shut off when there are fire conditions and they are shutting off the power, um, to some areas of the county when it's too hot or too dry or too windy.

Speaker 1: 02:10 Um, which are all things that they say, um, you know, have contributed to the reason they haven't started at or contributed to a fire in the first 12 years. And so far it's, it's seems successful. Um, it's, you know, you have to wonder though, you know, how much of that is luck? All of this a costing, what about 1.5 billion? I understand. Yeah. So far. Um, which you know, sort of pales in comparison to the amount of damage that a major fire can cause. Right. And have any of these preparations included putting power lines underground? Yeah. Uh, there's a lot of undergrounding I think something around in the neighborhood of 60% of SDG and e system. Um, I think that's the figure they'd given me is underground there. They're doing a lot to put, uh, lines underground. But, but it sometimes doesn't, um, you know, it's hard to do that economically in areas with few customers, which tend to be the areas where you have the highest wildfire risk.

Speaker 1: 03:00 Like in the middle of San Diego, you know, you're underground aligned, you've served blocks and blocks of people, dozens of people. But out in the back country, if you wanted to underground stretches and stretches of lines, you might only catch, you know, a couple of customers because they're so far apart. So the economics are different, you know. What about the preservation of human life? Has there been any regulations put in place to ensure that human life and safety hold more value than profit for utility companies like Sdg Annie who say they are 100% sure there power lines will cause or contribute to a catastrophic fire? Well, so I think SD genie would say that everything that they're doing is attempting to save a human life. When people say that, you know, a lot of people are really upset about the shutoffs, um, in certain parts of the county.

Speaker 1: 03:45 We did another story about that last week. Um, but you know, Sdg and e says those people will say, hey, they're just trying to reduce their liability. They're shutting off power cause they don't want to upgrade their equipment or they're not, they don't have full faith in their equipment. Well as will say, well yeah, you know, we are turning off power because if the power line is a nerd it's not going to start a fire. And so there's this interesting crossover between what people say is their liability and what they say is their duty not to start a fire because their liability only comes when there's a fire. So they sort of do go hand in hand. The, the public safety and the trying to avoid a catastrophic financial hit to the company. They're, they're sort of one in the same cause. The, the event is the fire Sdg and e has a prediction as to how much another wildfire would cost the utility.

Speaker 1: 04:33 Talk to us about that. Yeah. So, so these are models and, and you know the percentages, you know how they come up with these things. They told me they ran a whole bunch of different models and different scenarios and this is what they came up with this or one in 20 year, you know, wildfire event that they, that they thought they could be involved in. And um, when they did that modeling, they found, you know, actually, you know, if there's going to be one of these big fires, you know, when we looked at conditions for fire, when they look at climate change, when they look at the way fires have moved in the past, um, you know, where things haven't had been burned. They say, yeah, we're going to cause we think an enormous or contribute to an enormous amount of damage. Um, you know, more than one point $5 billion there.

Speaker 1: 05:12 I'm sort of average for a major event would be in the $3 billion range, mid $3 billion. I understand the company wants to raise rates in relation to all of this. Why does the utility think this is needed? So what they're saying, it's an interesting argument. They're saying our investors don't have a lot of confidence in us right now because you know, they've, we've seen fires in this service territory over a decade ago. We'd saw fires in northern California, we saw fires to our north and Southern California in the Edison Service territory. And so investors are sort of not sure that they want to continue to invest in utilities as vested. You need saying we know that premium, you know, a sort of percentage increase in our rate of return to help reassure investors. And, and I think some re, you know, some readers and listeners are going to be like, well they're just looking out for their bottom line.

Speaker 1: 05:57 The company. Many would argue back that by ensuring investors, they're able to borrow money more cheaply. And so when they can borrow money more cheaply, they can pass those savings, or at least not those higher costs on to customers. And is this desire to increase rates related to the CPU not letting SDG and e pass on cost of the 2007 wildfires to 10 to rate payers? Yeah. So this was a big thing in 2007 a you, you followed it a lot. They couldn't, they, they paid a lot of, for a lot of the damage in the liabilities, um, using their own insurance. But there was a chunk of money, a couple hundred million dollars that they couldn't get their insurance company to pay for. And so they said, hey, we need to raise rates to pay for this. The CPEC said no, and SDG and e has been quite upset ever since. Um, and the other utilities in the state view that as a big risk, they view this sort of unfunded liability that they would face in the case of a fire, um, as, as a big risk to their bottom line. And, um, I think this rate case and the fire model that's in it have everything to do with, with that. I've been speaking with voice of San Diego reporter Rye Revard right. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego International Fringe Festival is in full swing and KPBS arts reporter and Beth Armando has been something the diverse array of shows available at the festivals. New homebase of Balboa Park, one show a box in the desert, comes from Iceland and involves virtual reality best speaks with two of the artists, none of Gunnar's and asked her Agusta son,

Speaker 2: 00:22 Nana, you are here in San Diego, but you also run the Reykjavik fringe festivals. So talk a little bit about what defines fringe, what makes something a fringe festival. I've gotten to know a lot about them and the past year that I've started running the Reykjavik French and there's more than 200 fringe festivals around the world and they all operate in a different way from one to another, but mostly they're open, uh, arts festivals. So they're open for any type of art. It's not limited to, theater is not limited to dance, it's not limited to comedy, it's, it's everything and it's, it's a really good breeding ground for experimental arts of any kind. So people that are testing out new material or new new people that are trying to break into the art scene. Uh, so it's a really exciting playground of, of art, of all kinds. Really Aster. Explain what this show a box in the desert is about. What can people expect from this?

Speaker 3: 01:27 The underlying theme of a box in the desert is, well, there's a few of them. This trust, um, freedom of freedom of choice. Whether there is such a thing to begin with, your challenges, you to question authority as well. Also the what it has going for it as well as this, this novelty of it happening in virtual reality. So one person at a time can, can only enter it and they find themselves stuck within a box in the desert.

Speaker 4: 01:55 Oh, hi. Hello. Who are you waiting long. We just wanted to give you some time to get a tested. So how do you like your new home? Inside the box? You're completely protected. Everything is taken care of and no harm ever come to you.

Speaker 3: 02:19 Then there are conflicting, uh, entities which tried to persuade them to either escape the boxes or you know, find comfort within it and then the, then it's their choice whether they, which, which entity they they listened to.

Speaker 2: 02:35 So what is it like performing a show that is virtual reality in a fringe festival because you're not getting that same kind of audience feedback in the sense of you have this large group of people applauding or reacting. So what does this kind of experience like for an artist?

Speaker 3: 02:52 It can be tr, uh, trying to kind of have the headset on and to be within this roadshow reality world. I personally take every chance I get to kind of step out of it because the audience, uh, sometimes it is transported to a totally different world within the world. So they don't see us Kinda stepping out of the, the character per se. Also the character is someone that when when they, when they communicate directly to the audience member, usually at the end of the end of the experience, the audience member is, is quite happy to be rid of that character. But a, there's usually like plotters afterwards. Yeah. And that's what I was going to say. Like one of us is usually around to kind of receive them and then get feedback from the event. And that that's usually where we kinda get to the, the payoff that all performers strive for.

Speaker 2: 03:45 So this is being performed for one person at a time. It's a 20 minute show you're already sold out. So where did this idea come from to put something like this together? Because it's unique. So I wrote a 200 play for a stage a few years ago and I'll start here, performed in it. But my, uh, partner, boyfriend, boyfriend grime and life and crime, he works with virtual reality as a day job on is very good at it. And he was just like, well, I kind of want to take that show on and put it in virtual reality. So I just thought, yeah, yeah, you do that honey. That's great. So He created the whole world within it with the whole digital world. And then I got in touch with Asta who I knew from before

Speaker 3: 04:34 we, we met, we met working at a, at a hamburger joint in London. So,

Speaker 2: 04:41 uh, so I asked him if you want it to be a part of, of turning that play into a virtual reality show. We kind of had no idea how that was going to go to start with, but we got a tiny bit of grant from [inaudible] in a bank in Iceland to a pet it up for culture night and Reykjavik couple of years ago. And yeah, I had like a 12 hour run and a day where we alternated performing. And that was interesting. And then after that applied to be a part of the Reykjavik fringe, but that was supposed to take place for the first time that year. That ended up getting canceled. And then I decided, well why don't I just run the French? So we performed again and since then we've been kind of, it's been really well received wherever we, it's kind of overwhelming.

Speaker 2: 05:30 We didn't really expect any of this as who's just supposed to be a small thing. Well, first on a stage and then just for one, one day culture festival. But now we're being, we have toward the Tu Berlin move toward the, to Stockholm, London, Brighton. Now we're here in San Diego. We were in La last week and we're taking it back to Reykjavik French, uh, at the end of this month. And then we have some offers to go to other places. So this is a kind of thing that sounds like each person is going to have a very different experience and the same person going through twice could have a very different experience. Yeah, definitely.

Speaker 3: 06:07 Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And that's, that's the beauty of it. And there's a beauty of, of immersive and interactive theater, not just for the, for the audience, but for the performance as well. Especially especially with, yeah. Well then you, you're always on your toes and you know, never know what this audience member or, or these audience members are going to do. And it's really fun, you know? Uh, yeah, it keeps, it keeps it fresh.

Speaker 2: 06:34 I mean, as the performer, it's kind of like a personality test for like, you know, some people, some people come and really happy, some people are maybe angry or sad or you know, and, and they kind of bring that into the experience with them. And uh, I mean because they are getting this juxtaposition juxtaposition of like, you know, do this or to the other thing and then they don't know who to trust and they kind of, it's really interesting to see where they take it and then the audience can actually influence the story quite a bit. We have several endings, um, and quite fun. Like, because it's a, it's so new that it's not really genre defined. You know, we, we think of it as theater in virtual reality, but we took her to a games festival and I've got an award actually has the best game. So we're like, oh well I suppose for a game and midspan compared to a escape rooms as well. So it's sort of, it's sort of like crossing the boundaries between playing games or playing theater is, is, is linked as well. So there's a really interesting take on like what kind of audience we're drawing towards US Navy week, getting people that are interested in computer games, but we're also getting people that are interested in new media and, and uh, and people that are interested in how theater is developing. So that's, that's a really

Speaker 1: 07:53 fun thing too. That was Beth Edmondo speaking with acto Nana Gunnar's and asked her [inaudible] about their San Diego friends show a box in the desert, which has sold out all performances, but you can check out Beth's videos highlighting other shows running at the fringe through Sunday.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.