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Morning Report: Regulators, Insurers Tussle Over Plans for Catastrophe

The foundation of a home in Fallbrook remains standing after the Lilac Fire engulfed a community. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

When it comes to preparing for wildfires, California officials seem to agree we’re living in a “new normal” in which climate change will cause more and bigger fires than we’ve seen in the past.

Yet insurance rates don’t take the future into account – they’re based on what’s happened in the past. Insurance companies say it’s not fair that state regulations don’t allow them to account for the “new normal,” Ry Rivard reports in a new story.

“California home insurers are required to predict future losses based on losses that happened in the past, usually over the past 20 years,” Rivard writes. “When the climate is changing, that doesn’t make sense, the industry argues. If catastrophes become more frequent, the past will no longer tell us much about what will happen in the future.”

But state regulators worry the models the industry wants to use aren’t reliable, and that they could easily be manipulated in order to justify rate hikes.

It’s not just insurance companies, of course, that are trying to predict when and where the next fires might happen. The New York Times breaks down the ways fire departments and others are using data and artificial intelligence to inform the way they respond to disasters.

That includes a program “developed by the WiFire Lab at the San Diego Supercomputer Center that makes fast predictions about where active fires will spread next. The program, known as FireMap, pulls together real-time information about topography, flammable materials and weather conditions, among other variables, from giant government data sets and on-the-ground sensors,” the Times reports.

San Diego Likely to Throw Out Styrofoam Recycling Plan

Years ago, the city thought a recycling program for plastic-foam food containers and packing material was the way to go. It would help consumers and restaurant owners who wanted to continue using inexpensive Styrofoam and only cost the city $90,000 a year. Not so bad, right?

Now, that loss is anticipated to be much higher, and with profits from other recycling expected to go away, city officials seem ready to give up on the plan.

In the latest Environment Report, Ry Rivard breaks down where San Diego stands in the world of recycling, and gives us an update on the San Diego County Water Authority’s dream of building its own pipeline.

Hunter Wants Case Against Him Tossed Out

Rep. Duncan Hunter has responded to the federal case against him in a few ways since the Union-Tribune first began reporting questionable spending by his campaign several years ago.

He’s written the charges off as an honest mistake. He’s blamed his wife. And he’s said the prosecution is politically motivated.

In a new filing on Monday, Hunter’s lawyers played up that last accusation in an attempt to get the case against him thrown out.

In a motion to dismiss the case, they argue that the case against Hunter should be dismissed because two prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office attended a political fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in 2015.

The filing argues those prosecutors “attended because they were supporters of celebrity candidate Clinton, wanted to be at an intimate event with her, show their support for her candidacy, and have an opportunity to meet her. The totality of their conduct calls into question the loss of impartiality in the investigation of Congressman Hunter and at a minimum creates the appearance of a conflict of interest. Subsequent events call into question the integrity of the indictment.”

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby and Megan Wood.

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