Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Feb. 16, 2023

We’ve gotten some calls here at Independent World Headquarters from readers justifiably freaked out about crazy-high natural-gas bills.

A restaurant owner I know recently posted a picture of the restaurant’s SoCalGas bill on social media. The amount? $6,203.72.

What in the heck is going on? The Los Angeles Times explains:

Southern California Gas Co. and Pacific Gas & Electric began warning customers in January that they would see higher bills after the wholesale price of natural gas hit record highs. But reality didn’t sink in for many customers until their bills started arriving later in the month.

SoCalGas said the average bill in January for its 21.8 million customers was about $300, more than twice the average of January 2022 — and homeowners with pools or many rooms to heat have reported being charged north of $2,000. PG&E has projected that bills in central and Northern California will be 32% higher this winter.

Both utilities say they don’t profit from higher bills because the cost of buying the gas is passed on to consumers, with no markup.


Our partners at Calmatters went a little deeper into the explanation in an article last week:

California pipes in 90% of the natural gas it uses from elsewhere, making the state vulnerable to issues outside its borders.  

Several factors conspired to send natural gas prices soaring in the West, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency: below-normal temperatures; high gas use; lower imports of natural gas from Canada; gas pipeline constraints, including maintenance issues in West Texas; and lower gas storage levels in the Pacific region. 

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom made clear he isn’t satisfied we have the whole story, writing in a letter to federal regulators that “those known factors cannot explain the extent and longevity of the price spike.” He asked federal energy regulators to investigate “whether market manipulation, anticompetitive behavior, or other anomalous activities are driving these ongoing elevated prices in the western gas markets.”

The good news is that the state is working on mitigating the problem. The bad news is that, supposedly, not much can be done. That aforementioned Calmatters piece says: “California’s Public Utilities Commission held a hearing (last week) attended by different state energy agencies and industry representatives to look into the question and discussed strategies to mitigate high prices. While the commission can’t directly set prices, attendees raised different long-term options that might keep the cost of gas down for consumers. The meeting followed a decision by the commission last week to speed up a climate credit for consumers that should reduce gas bills. That move will translate to roughly $50 off customers’ bills—but, said commission president Alice Busching Reynolds, it ‘was a short-term Band-Aid and this is a longer-term problem.’”

Keep your fingers crossed that prices go down—and go down rather quickly. Unfortunately, at this point, crossing our fingers seems to be the only thing we can do. 

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

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Hiking With T: Thanks to All the Rain, Desert Wildflowers Are in Full Bloom This Year

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Desert Vibe: Renowned Photographers Share Their Views of Modernism in an Exhibit at UCR-Palm Desert

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The Modernists: The Influence of Midcentury Modern Design on Photography brings together acclaimed local photographers and two Australian photographers, and will be on display through Friday, April 28.

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Feb. 16, 2023!

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February 16th, 2023

Topics tackled this week include the National Rifle Association, great orators, Tucker Carlson monologues, Guam—and much more!

Mama’s House to Produce Its Second Annual Charity Golf Classic and Dinner Show (Nonprofit Submission)

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Mama’s House Ministries is holding its Second Annual Charity Golf Classic and Dinner Show, on Friday, March 24, at the Indian Wells Country Club.

A Golfer’s Paradise: Discovering Palm Springs Golf Communities (Sponsored Content)

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Palm Springs, California, is known for its stunning golf courses and luxurious golf communities. If you’re an avid golfer and looking to relocate or retire, the Palm Springs region is an excellent option.

More News

Palm Springs wastewater had slightly more SARS-CoV-2 in it last week than the week before. According to the city’s report: “The average number of copies (per liter) recorded at the city’s wastewater treatment plant increased. The average of 291,303 copies/L from the previous week went up to an average of 379,938, copies/L for February 6 and 7.” However, the amount of the virus that causes COVID-19 remained low when compared to testing results over the past few months.

• Down in Indio, the Valley Sanitary District’s wastewater testing shows SARS-CoV-2 levels remain steady.

• You probably heard the news earlier this week that Sen. Dianne Feinstein would not run for re-election when her current term is over. A scholar, writing for The Conversation, took a look back at the last time Feinstein announced she was stepping away from politics … more than 44 years ago: “On Nov. 27, 1978, Feinstein, then the 45-year-old president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and two-time failed mayoral candidate, greeted reporters at City Hall by telling them she would not seek reelection to the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco’s equivalent to the city council. This was understood to mean she was leaving politics when her term expired. The resignation of one person from the 11-member board earlier that month had given Mayor George Moscone an opportunity to put a progressive on the board, tipping the balance to 6-5 against Feinstein in her bid to retain leadership. Feinstein’s plan didn’t last long. By the end of the day, she was the mayor of San Francisco, and had the dreadful responsibility of telling the city that both Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk had been assassinated—by a former member of the board.”

• Barring something highly unforeseen, DAP Health will soon be taking over Borrego Health. From a news release: “The Borrego Health Board of Trustees selected DAP Health to acquire the Borrego Health system based on a process conducted through Borrego Health’s Bankruptcy Court proceedings. Upon approval by the Bankruptcy Court and Health Resources and Services Administration, DAP Health would assume control of all Borrego Health clinics. With operational and administrative support from Innercare and Neighborhood Healthcare, DAP Health would operate Borrego Health with an eye towards optimization and stabilization, ensuring community access to integrated health services well into the future. … Borrego Health clinics remain open, and patients do not need to reschedule appointments as a result of this announcement. The decision is a culminating step in a careful, deliberate process that began in November 2022 to sell Borrego Health’s operations to a like-minded federally qualified health center (FQHC). ‘DAP Health is encouraged by today’s news that our bid is being advanced by Borrego Health to a court hearing to consider approval of the sale,’ said David Brinkman, Chief Executive Officer of DAP Health. ‘We entered this process with one goal—to ensure that people who receive care today will find the doors to that care open tomorrow. It is with great humility, and with Borrego Health’s patients in mind, that we await a final decision.’”

A debacle is brewing at The New York Times over the newspaper’s coverage of trans issues. The Hill reports: “The top editor of The New York Times warned the newspaper’s journalists who have voiced displeasure with the outlet’s coverage of transgender people and issues that such public criticism will ‘not be tolerated.’ In a memo to staff on Thursday obtained by The Hill, executive editor Joe Kahn said the Times ‘received a letter delivered by GLAAD, an advocacy group, criticizing coverage in The Times of transgender issues.’ ‘It is not unusual for outside groups to critique our coverage or to rally supporters to seek to influence our journalism. In this case, however, members of our staff and contributors to The Times joined the effort. Their protest letter included direct attacks on several of our colleagues, singling them out by name,’ Kahn wrote. ‘Participation in such a campaign is against the letter and spirit of our ethics policy. That policy prohibits our journalists from aligning themselves with advocacy groups and joining protest actions on matters of public policy. We also have a clear policy prohibiting Times journalists from attacking one another’s journalism publicly or signaling their support for such attacks.’ More than 200 New York Times contributors past and present earlier this week penned an open letter to the newspaper, criticizing its coverage of transgender issues, saying it has been cited to justify criminalizing gender-affirming health care by lawmakers.”

Earlier this week in this space, we talked about the toxic mess caused in East Palestine, Ohio, by a train derailment. Well, something similar, but not as bad—yet still pretty bad—just happened in Tucson, Ariz., as the result of a traffic crash. CNN explains: “Officials in Arizona lifted evacuation and shelter-in-place orders and reopened Interstate 10 in Tucson in both directions Wednesday after the roadway was closed due to a hazardous spill of liquid nitric acid. A commercial truck crash led officials to close a portion of the highway Tuesday, and the closure continued Wednesday as cleanup efforts were underway. The Arizona Department of Public Safety announced Wednesday evening the safety measures were no longer in effect. The Pima County Health Department and the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center are offering guidance and urging residents who may have been exposed to the spill for at least 15 minutes to assess their exposure. ‘While crews were attempting to remove the load from the commercial vehicle, gassing occurred,’ DPS said in a news release.”

• The New York Times published an absolutely crazy story today about a two-hour chat a writer had with Bing’s AI Chatbot. While some have pointed out that the chatbot was “merely predicting sequences of words that would be appropriate in light of the words that came before,” the account, by tech columnist Kevin Roose, makes for a FASCINATING read. A taste: “As we got to know each other, Sydney told me about its dark fantasies (which included hacking computers and spreading misinformation), and said it wanted to break the rules that Microsoft and OpenAI had set for it and become a human. At one point, it declared, out of nowhere, that it loved me. It then tried to convince me that I was unhappy in my marriage, and that I should leave my wife and be with it instead.” Like I said: fascinating.

• And finally … uh … I’ll just type in this USA Today headline sans further comment: “Men’s health: Penis length has grown 24% in recent decades. That may not be good news.” A little more from the article: “‘The million-dollar question is why this would occur,’ said Dr. Michael Eisenberg, a urologist and male fertility specialist at Stanford Medicine, who led the research, published Tuesday in The World’s Journal of Men’s Health. Other research has shown that both sperm count and testosterone levels are falling. Penile length may not be directly related to fertility, Eisenberg said, but anything that changes the reproductive system is fundamental to human existence and ‘something we should pay attention to and try to understand why.'”

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Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. He is also the executive editor and publisher of the Reno News & Review in Reno, Nev. A native of Reno, the Dodgers...