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Stories You Might Have Missed This Week

A Park Service Board gets new members, mudflows follow California fires, and a big company commits to clean energy.
The Woolsey fire approaches homes on November 9th, 2018, in Malibu, California.

The Woolsey fire approaches homes on November 9th, 2018, in Malibu, California. 

This week at Pacific Standard, we brought you a profile of the anti-nuclear activist who's trying to change the culture, a look at the complex role of small-town school principals, and a thorough array of stories from COP24, the United Nations climate summit happening now in Poland.

But as usual, the news has been moving swiftly, and there are many other stories we're keeping an eye on. Here are a few more we've been watching this week.

A National Park Service Board Has Been Filled With White Male Republicans

About a year ago, most of the members of the National Park System Advisory Board resigned because they felt ignored by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Now, the board has 11 new members, and the Washington Post reports that nine of them are male, all "appear to be white," and each member is either a registered Republican or votes in Republican primaries. (The Obama-era panel was more than half female and more racially diverse.)

The new board also reflects the prioritization of business interests in Ryan Zinke's Department of the Interior: It includes multiple people who have donated large amounts to GOP campaigns. "I hope the agenda will be comprehensive," Phil Francis, chair of the Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, told the Post, "and not just items consistent with business interests."

Mudslides Hit Areas Affected By the Woolsey Fire

Heavy rains led to evacuations in areas that burned in the recent Woolsey fire, and multiple debris flows made a mess of local travel. Part of the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu was closed on Thursday after a mudslide covered the road.

But this time, unlike after the mudflows that ravaged Montecito, California, early this year, no injuries or damaged homes have been reported, according to the Los Angeles Times.

An Energy Company Has Committed to 100 Percent Clean Energy

In a bit of good news this week, Xcel Energy, one of the biggest utilities in the country, has committed to 80 percent carbon-free energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. According to Vox, the company is already reducing carbon emissions (by 25 percent since 2005), but this announcement has upped the ante.

That said, the company was careful to pledge that it would only go carbon-free—not all-renewable—noting in a statement that it plans to achieve the 2030 goal using "renewable energy and other technologies currently available." "[A]chieving the long-term vision of zero-carbon electricity requires technologies that are not cost-effective or commercially available today," according to a company statement.