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High energy bills

 February 7, 2023 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Tuesday, February 7th.>>>>

The impact of high energy bills on a reptile museum in Escondido.

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

The Santa Anas are expected to peak today, with winds near the mountains getting up to FORTY to FIFTY miles per hour.

Swimming or surfing could be dangerous today because of the winds and strong rip currents. The Santa Anas might die down later today and the surf and swell will lower Wednesday.

Temps are expected to increase as the week goes on.

It’s predicted to be in the 80s in inland areas by Thursday.


S-D-G-E’s natural gas rate increased by 114 percent in January.

Yesterday (MONDAY) a group of local organizations called on the San Diego City Council to have a public hearing about it.

The city and SDG&E signed a 10 year franchise agreement in 2021

Lori Saldaña (SAL-dawn-yah) is with the Protect Our Communities Foundation.

She says the franchise agreement violates the rights of San Diegans.


“the city of San Diego is behind on compliance and oversight of this franchise agreement.”      

The foundation says that over 300 thousand SDG&E customers have difficulty paying their SDG&E bill and this recent spike has many choosing between heating or eating.


Also yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to investigate the cause of the high gas prices.

He wants to know whether market manipulation drove them up.Newsom said the unexpectedly high energy bills have created an economic burden for residents and businesses.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.Stay with me for more of the local news you need.




High energy rates are having one one surprising impact… for reptiles!

That’s right. Cold blooded animals that require heating lamps are jacking up the heating bill for a non profit that helps rescue the reptiles.

KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne has the story.


The oohs and ahhs of kids fill the Escondido Ecovivarium once again. KPBS visited the reptile museum back in 20-21 when COVID had cut off all in person visits. It also suspended all of their in person educational field trips and replaced it with virtual ones. But seeing the kids' faces light up once again is what Susan Nowicke, the founder of the Ecovivarium, says keeps her going. 

“With these animals, they have that cool factor, and so the kids get really excited about learning and if the teachers let them run with that we can teach every single subject in school with these animals.” Nowicke says the pandemic lockdown was especially tough on her reptile sanctuary. “when you have live animals… you can't turn down the heat and everything else and just go away. You have to keep coming in everyday and taking care of the animals and feeding them and cleaning them and socializing them.” Nowicke says her donations dropped by 80%. And they were denied for grants she thought they’d get.At the same time, more animals were being brought to the sanctuary.“Because of what we work with, there is a bias against these animals and that does come into play sometimes. So we ended up not seeing the grants we thought we would from some of those sources. What we did get was a $69,000 idle loan, that means we have to pay that back.”  But they were able to get a loan that Nowicke used to pay her staff and feed her animals. But it didn’t leave much room for larger expenses. “During that time, the utilities couldn't shut off for noon payment and we let SDG&E know we cant pay the bill. We’re doing everything we can to conserve but we can't pay the bill.” An expense that is vital to keeping most reptiles alive. Nowicke says her bill at that time was between two to three thousand dollars a month. “Now our bill is $6000 - $7000 a month with the new rates and we have that back balance that came due at the beginning of the year.” The back balance - $36,000. Last month, SDGE sent the Ecovivarium a notice to pay the balance or risk disconnection. Nowicke feared this would be the last straw. But because she kept talking with SDGE, the company gave her a 5 year payment plan. “We now have it on a 5 year payment so it's under $1000 a month that we have to pay but our electric bill is way up here so now we're looking at over $7000 a month that we have to pay, which is double what we were paying.” SDG&E says it’s working continuously with customers and small businesses who are struggling to pay their past due bills.. And is committed to finding solutions. Since the start of the pandemic, SDG&E has been communicating and working continuously with customers who struggle to pay their past due bills, including small businesses like EcoVivarium. That ongoing dialogue resulted in a structured payment plan to help this particular business. As a result, it’s not currently at risk of disconnection. We remain committed to finding solutions for customers who are still struggling to recover financially from the pandemic’s economic impacts.” But power isn’t the only problem. Nowicke says other expenses are also on the rise. “Food costs. Some of the things have gone up 400%. And it's not like we can say, ‘oh, we just won't buy that,’ because it's essential for the animals survival and so we try to find cost cutting measures where we can but there’s only so much you can do” In an effort to save on electricity, they’re rotating heating lamps around the enclosures. But she says too many changes can sometimes backfire and end up costing more in vet bills. The Ecovivarium has set up a GoFundMe to help with the outstanding balances and possibly get them into a better location. Right now they are operating out of an old medical office building and using every inch. “We would like every animal to have the maximum amount of space we can give because many of them have been through horrific life stories and they deserve that for the rest of their life. Nowicke thinks they’re keeping their promise of saving the animals and is now excited to get back to the educational promise the nonprofit set out to keep with the community. “Our goal is not only to save these amazing creatures but also to educate the public about them.” TT KPBS News 


Community advocates are calling for Sheriff Kelly Martinez to start body scanning all jail staff… after a sheriff’s deputy was arrested for allegedly having drugs in his car on jail property.

Yusef Miller is the executive director of the North County Equity and Justice Coalition. He says the sheriff’s department has been resistant to the idea …

JAILDRUG 2A (0:19)

“She says we have no data. Now we have data. How much data do we need to say this common-sense action to just scan everyone? It's not a statement to say that all deputies are drug dealers, but in case there is an influx through that staff and deputy route, that we cut it off. 

In an interview with KPBS in January, Martinez said jail staff aren’t the ones bringing drugs in. She said they mainly come through the mail and from inmates during intake.


Coming up.... The push to legalize cruising. We’ll have that story and more, next, just after the break.




The push to legalize lowrider cruising is now at the state level.

A local assembly member announced new legislation yesterday, (monday) to end city bans on the cultural pastime.

Here’s KPBS reporter Jacob Aere with more.


The bill from Assemblymember David Alvarez would repeal sections of the California Vehicle Code, and make cruising legal in cities across the state.

That's good news for Rafael Perez who loves to cruise in his 1951 Chevy Styleline Deluxe around San Diego. He says stereotypes about cruising persist … and change is needed.

“I was pulled over 19 times before I turned 18. Not for once for anything I was cited for … it was always because I was driving a suspicious vehicle – a lowrider.”

As it stands, the vehicle code allows law enforcement to stop drivers from cruising and allows them to halt cars that have been modified if they’re a certain height.

Alvarez says he’s hoping to have a definitive answer on whether Assembly Bill 436 will become law by the end of the year. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.


A delegation of San Diego community college students and administrators is in Washington D.C. right now.

KPBS education reporter M.G. Perez has more on what they are there to do.


The delegation is from the San Diego Community College District… and includes the student presidents of the district’s four colleges…City, Mesa, Miramar and the Continuing Education campus.

They met with former San Diego Unified Superintendent and now US Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten.

Diego ba-THAY is the City College student trustee.

SOT  5:22-5:31 “This is the world we are stepping into, so if we don’t make our voices heard right now, we’re gonna…” 5:35-5:41 “follow whatever is given to us and we’ll have to deal with it later.” 

The group will also meet with San Diego congressional leaders this week…and they plan a watch party of the State of the Union address from their hotel nearby the Capitol. MGP KPBS News

########## NO MUSIC BUMP

An El Cajon man will be in the audience when President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union tonight (Tuesday). He’s the guest of Representative Scott Peters. KPBS military and veteran's affairs reporter Andrew Dyer has more.


Rahmat MOAKtar served with the U.S. Marines as an interpreter for six years during the war in Afghanistan before immigrating to El Cajon in 2016. In 2021 he started volunteering with Afghan Evac, a 

coalition working to help get Afghans out of the country.

Now, they’re working to get Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, a bill that would provide those Afghans with permanent legal status in the U.S.

“They are in limbo right now. There is no — I think there's no pathway for them.”

Mokhtar will join San Diego Congressman Scott Peters at the State of the Union. Peters says America’s credibility is on the line

“The reason I took this up is not just because It's important to stand by our allies — which it is — but it's important to stand by our veterans who uh, this was their war, this was their effort, and these are the people that fought next to them and with them.”

The Afghan Adjustment Act has yet to come to a vote, but Moktar says the bill would mean freedom, safety and survival for the tens of thousands of Afghans still in limbo today.

Andrew Dyer, KPBS.

TAG: K-P-B-S is offering live coverage and analysis of the state of the union, in both English and Spanish. Join us starting at SIX P.M. on K-P-B-S DOT ORG.


That’s it for the podcast today. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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Cold blooded animals that require heating lamps are jacking up the heating bill for an Escondido nonprofit that helps rescue the reptiles. Then, community advocates are calling for Sheriff Kelly Martinez to start body scanning all jail staff, after a sheriff’s deputy was arrested for allegedly having drugs in his car on jail property. Plus, an update in the push to legalize lowrider cruising.