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Just a fracking well exploding into flames — nothing to see here!

Early on Tuesday morning, a Chevron-owned natural gas well in Greene County, Pa., burst into flames – and more than 72 hours later, it’s still burning. One contractor for Chevron is missing and presumed dead, and another was injured in the explosion.

Chevron has flown in experts from Houston’s Wild Well Control to put out the fire, and crews spent yesterday removing overheated pieces of metal that kept reigniting. Today, they await heavy-duty water tanks to extinguish the blaze, which could be delayed by the winter storms afflicting the region. Last year, five surface well blowouts with fires were "wild" enough to require the expertise of Wild Well Control.


These endangered animals want to help you set the mood with their sexy mating calls

Hopefully by now you have used these flirting tips to attract yourself a potential mate. Now, you need to set the mood in your love nest. Might we suggest this oh-so-sexy video that the Center for Biological Diversity put together of endangered animals making their mating calls?

Read more: Living


The week in GIFs: Creepy gross-out edition

This week had a pretty high ick factor. (Last week: Carrie Brownstein.)

Giant rats are one of the animals most likely to survive climate change:


America's natural gas system is really leaky, which is bad for its pants the climate:

Read more: Living


Winter warriors: As Sochi heats up, will athletes turn to climate activism?

A shirtless spectator watches Sweden's Charlotte Kalla compete during the women's 10K classical-style cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Kalla won the silver medal.
AP/Jae C. Hong

As you watch the victorious athletes lean down to accept their medals in Sochi this week, consider this: Those podiums can become platforms for powerful political action. Think back to 1968, when Tommie Smith and John Carlos flashed the black power salute after winning gold and bronze in the 200 meter sprint in Mexico City. They were demonized for doing it, but the image left an indelible mark: Two of the world's greatest athletes reached outside of themselves and took a stand for human rights, despite the inevitable backlash.

In the lead-up to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia's draconian antigay laws sparked protests worldwide. Some called for teams to boycott the games. Billie Jean King, the U.S. envoy to the games, said that the LGBT community needed "a John Carlos moment." Athletes vowed to flash six fingers from the podiums, referencing Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which states: "Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement."

The International Olympic Committee has stated that this type of political statement has no place at the games, and so far, we have seen only minor acts of defiance. But athletes surfaced another cause this week: More than 100 Olympians have signed a letter calling on world leaders to get serious about fighting climate change.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Mutated fish have adapted to freakish amounts of toxic waste

Brian Gratwicke

The good news is that after four decades of factories dumping toxic waste into New Bedford Harbor, fish there are still alive, even thriving. The bad news is that the 3-inch-long Atlantic killifish are full of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), now-banned chemicals that were used in electrical equipment, paint, and plastics. (Poor killifish! They were already soaking up mercury, and now this.)

A new paper in BMC Evolutionary Biology explains that the killifish have evolved to survive the Massachusetts harbor’s pollution. One of their receptor proteins has dulled so that PCBs no longer kill them. Cool, right? Not so fast, says Vice:

[T]he presence of killifish at New Bedford has had some impacts higher up on the food chain. Though they thrive in the sediment, they still carry extremely dangerous doses of PCBs that are transferred to larger fish, and ultimately humans, when they’re preyed on.

Read more: Living


The top 3 flaws with the State Dept.’s Keystone study

One, two, three hands holding numbers

When the State Department issued its environmental impact statement on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline two weeks ago, the media's main takeaway was that State had found the project would not significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. But as environmental advocates have dug deeper into the report in the days since, they have concluded that State made several flawed assumptions and decisions. Moreover, even its own findings show potential contributions to global warming if the pipeline moves forward.

To save you the trouble of reading an epic amount of bureaucratese (the report itself runs 11 volumes, and then there are all the critiques), here are environmentalists’ three major complaints:

1. The questionable assumption that tar-sands development is inevitable


America’s natural gas system is super-leaky, and that’s bad news for the climate

natural gas bus in DC
Beechwood Photography

Like a free-riding bus passenger whose expired ticket gets overlooked by the driver, the natural gas industry has been getting a free pass from the EPA for its global warming impacts for well over a decade.

A new mega-analysis of 20 years worth of research suggests that the EPA is underestimating the fossil fuel's climate impacts by 25 to 75 percent.

The problem with the EPA's math doesn't concern the burning of natural gas, which produces less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels (but way more than solar panels or wind turbines). The problem is in the leaky systems that extract and transport the fuel.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Solar is keeping California’s lights on as hydro dries up

solar panels

We told you recently that wind turbines kept the heaters working in Texas during a cold snap that shut down several natural-gas power plants. And now we have similar superhero news from that other great renewable energy source -- the sun.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that solar energy is helping to meet California's power needs amid a drought that has caused hydroelectric supplies to shrivel:


Gallery exhibit lets you experience just how disgusting cities can smell

Geoffery Kehrig

Did Dickensian London really smell like cold porridge and desperation? Was Paris in the 1700s all croissants and roses? Daring Atlantic reporter John Metcalfe recently plunged his nose into “Urban Olfactory,” an exhibit at SPUR in downtown San Francisco, to find out.

As it turns out, Paris in 1738 smelled like “skunked red wine, wet cats, and gingivitis-tinged sputum, all bubbling in an open sewer on a record-setting summer's day,” according to Metcalfe. The exhibit’s perfumes range from pleasant spices and cedar (Strait of Bosphorus and Louis XIV’s court, respectively) to downright nasty French countryside shit and San Francisco smog. Writes Metcalfe:

One snort [of “Pollution”] and I could see why governments crafted anti-smog laws; the acrid stink, like a Hefty bag overflowing with cigarette butts, was so strong you could almost chew it.

Read more: Cities


Froggy went a courting: Rev. Billy’s climate protest heads to trial


Last October, the Reverend Billy was arrested for preaching into a megaphone inside a branch of Chase Bank in Midtown Manhattan. He'd been accompanied by a gang of golden frogs -- the first known species to become extinct as the direct result of climate change. The frogs and the Reverend were there to call attention, through singing and dancing, to Chase Bank’s ranking as the largest lender in the world for new coal plant construction.

Reverend Billy -- an activist and performance artist actually named Bill Talen -- is no stranger to arrest, but what happened next was unusual. Instead of the usual order to do community service, the District Attorney of the City of New York charged Talen and the group’s choir director, Nehemiah Luckett, with riot in the second degree, menacing in the third degree, unlawful assembly, and two counts of disorderly conduct. The Chase branch manager had told the DA’s office that he had mistaken the protest for a robbery, and that several bank customers and employees were reduced to tears by the experience. The two now risked serving up to a year in prison.

The next court date for the duo is Feb. 27. But in the meantime, the prosecution changed its charges and offered a new sentencing recommendation -- one day of community service for Talen, and six months of not getting arrested for Luckett -- if both agreed to plead guilty.

What happened in the meantime, and why did the prosecution change their tune? Talen recently answered my questions over the phone.

Q. Well, first things first. Are you going to plead guilty?

A. Hell no.