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Investigating high natural gas prices

 February 8, 2023 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Wednesday, February 8th.

State utility regulators look into why natural gas prices were so high last month.

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


The Board of Supervisors is calling for new bids to clean county buildings.

The contract resulting from the bids will include rules that outline how employees are to be treated.

This comes after janitorial workers held several protests over their treatment by the company who currently provides janitorial services to the county, NOVA.

A county investigation found that NOVA retaliated against workers who were trying to form a union.

Those workers – who’d been fired – have been re-hired.

The county says NOVA can submit its own proposal.


The county will develop a plan to help homeless veterans find a place to live.

The plan will include input from community groups, government representatives and people who have experienced homelessness.

The county also plans to work with partners to find additional resources, remove housing barriers for veterans, offer vouchers and match veterans with housing.

Nearly 700 homeless veterans were counted in the county in last year’s point in time count.


A laptop battery pack caught on fire during a United Airlines flight yesterday.

The fire started shortly after the plane took off from the San Diego airport.

It was headed to New Jersey, but quickly turned around and headed back about 30 minutes after departing.

According to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, flight crewmembers stopped the fire from spreading by putting the burning battery pack into a fire-safe bag.

After the plane made a safe emergency landing in San Diego, paramedics evaluated six people who reported respiratory issues from the smoke.

The F-A-A plans to investigate the incident.


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


California utility regulators are digging into the reasons for this winter’s high natural gas prices.

KPBS Environment reporter Erik Anderson has details.

The California Public Utilities Commission pressed industry officials to explain the record setting price hikes for natural gas. Utility bills for San Diego Gas and Electric customers more than doubled from a year ago. And that’s had a dramatic impact on San Diego resident Patricia Baines who spoke to the commission. Patricia Baines San Diego “I entirely shut my heater off. I keep all my lights off. I don’t even try to put lights on.” The CPUC doesn’t directly regulate natural gas, but the high rates are impacting electricity prices which the agency does watch closely. CPUC President Alice Busching Reynolds called the issue vital. Alice Busching Reynolds CPUC President “Frankly, we don’t know all of the pieces of the puzzle and this issue needs to be studied further.” The collection of industry and regulatory officials agreed that prices soared because of unseasonably cold weather which drove a spike in demand. They also noted that there were pipeline constraints in the west and low storage levels before the winter season began. But the unprecedented price hike also raised questions for Marlon Santa Cruz of the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water. Marlon Santa Cruz Los Angeles Department of Power and Water. “Why is it that the day after senator Bradford sent a letter to the CPUC calling for an investigation, prices were slashed in half from the 20 dollar mark to the ten dollar mark? And as news was brought on about Governor Newsom’s letter being made public, now we stabilize at five dollars, as of yesterday?” The CPUC indicated it is in contact with the Federal Energy Regulatory commission staff to explore whether there’s been any market manipulation. Meanwhile, natural gas prices fell this month and projections hint prices could fall again next month as demand eases.


Employees at La Mesa’s largest employer have voted to unionize.

KPBS Health reporter Matt Hoffman has more on the new representation at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

San Diego’s only east county hospital has voted to unionize more than 14-hundred additional health care workers.. Registered nurses are already represented.. And this new union covers a variety of positions including certified nursing assistants, pharmacy technicians and respiratory therapists. Haba Serrano is an emergency room technician at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. He voted to join SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West and is hoping it will bring better pay and more staff. I'm walking through the hallways people are hugging and smiling they’re excited about this and walking taller A sharp spokesperson issued a statement saying they have more than 17-hundred open positions and since the pandemic, filling them has been a challenge.. They maintain wages are competitive and increased staff pay late last year. MH KPBS News.


San Diego researchers have identified a new species of fish in the deep ocean waters near Costa Rica.

KPBS Environment reporter Erik Anderson says an underwater video and some detective work gained the rare fish, a scientific identity.

Researchers were looking for large ocean mussels when they sent a robotic submarine six thousand feet under the ocean surface.  The target was the Jaco scar near Costa Rica.   Charlotte Seid is the collection manager for benthic invertebrates at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Charlotte Seid Scripps Institution of Oceanography “It’s an area where methane is coming up from the sea floor, but at a slightly higher temperature than the rest of the ocean.  Which apparently is enough to attract animals that normally only like it hot at hydrothermal vents.” The researcher piloting the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s unstaffed submersible has been here before and it didn’t take long to find prime mussel habitat among a minivan sized tangle of worm shells.  Seid points out the tangled habitat anchored on the sea floor in a video recorded by the dive team. “This is a fantastic group of tube worms. So these animals, each one, looks sort of like a piece of pasta but they’re growing together.  They’re anchored in the sediment. They’re getting energy from the chemicals and the microbes that live inside their tubes. And it’s a great place to be a tubeworm. Look at all of them.” It is also where the team recorded video of the newly identified, and pink, eelpout.  The color doesn’t matter much on the ocean floor where it's cold and dark. “There’s probably no need for it to look especially flashy or to have extraordinary camouflage.” The fish looks like a small eel and some species have a downturned mouth reminding some of a sad pouting fish. “You can see they don’t move very fast.  And they don’t go too far from their homes.  Oh.  It’s gone right back into shelter.” Seid says the fish lives six thousand feet under the ocean surface and while the pink fish stands out on video that color really can’t be seen in the dark water.  And they also haven’t been seen outside of this geographically specific underwater habitat. Ben Frable is the manager of one of the world’s largest marine vertebrate collection which is located in San Diego. Ben Frable Scripps Institution of Oceanography “This section is kind of the group of fish, eelpouts and their relatives and so as you can see we have quite a lot of different species.” He’s showing us around what is best described as a fish library.  The shelves, floor to ceiling, are full of underwater creatures perfectly preserved in sealed jars.  This was Frable’s first stop to identify the samples brought back by researchers in 2018.  Since the samples didn’t match up with anything Frable turned to published literature. “I’ve taken a look.  Going through the books.  Going through references.  Trying to match them up.  They’re not really resonating with anything I’m seeing.” So Frable reached out to a colleague in Denmark.  Peter Rask Moller is a curator at the Danish Natural History Museum and he’s considered an authority on deep sea bottom living fishes. “He immediately recognized it as this genus that has only been described in the last 20 years.  It’s called pyrolycus.  Pyro “fire” lycus “wolf.” Rask Moller knew immediately the fish was something new.  Frable says that helps explain the lack of scales and the number and location of sensory pores on their bodies. Those pores are key to helping the fish find food. “These animals are living in environments that are pitch black too, they’re kind of relying on not just their eyes but other organs for sensing movement and prey and food around them.” There are only four samples available to researchers, two in San Diego and two in Denmark.  And Frable says it is a reminder of how little scientists know about life on the ocean floor.  The findings are published in the current edition of the journal Zootaxa. Erik Anderson KPBS News


Coming up.... A graduate from S-D-S-U has been nominated for an Oscar. We’ll have that story and more, after the break.


A playground in southeastern San Diego was destroyed by a fire more than a year ago, and locals are frustrated with the city for taking so long to replace it.

inewsource reporter Crystal Niebla tells us more.

"In November 2021, a fire burned down a playground at Dennis V. Allen Park in the Mount Hope neighborhood of Southeastern San Diego. City officials say they plan on installing a new one this spring, but residents like Dale Huntington say the lag time for the replacement is just another example of residents feeling like an afterthought. MT. HOPE 1: “We continually don't have things, like, created for the kids in this community. Like, when the city does something special, it's gonna be somewhere else.” The city said it’s taken time because its insurance adjuster needed to evaluate the damage and provide funding. For KPBS, I’m inewsource reporter Crystal Niebla."

inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS.


Two weeks ago S-D-S-U graduate Lesley Paterson heard her name read as an Oscar nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay for “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando spoke with Paterson about the long struggle to get the film made and how the nomination has changed her life.

That was Lesley Paterson speaking with KPBS’s Beth Accomando.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” is streaming on Netflix, but can be seen on the big screen at Landmark's Hillcrest Cinemas and Angelika Film Center.


That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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California utility regulators are digging into the reasons for this winter’s high natural gas prices. In other news, San Diego researchers have identified a new species of fish in the deep ocean waters near Costa Rica. Plus, we hear from a San Diego State graduate who has been nominated for an Oscar.