Top news: Greenpeace places protective boulders near Sylt Outer Reef; Anti-environmental riders stuck to US spending bill; US Dept. of Interior forgets to collect oil royalties; Texas reservoir turns blood-red

#Marine reserves: On Tuesday evening, Greenpeace activists began placing large boulders around the Sylt Outer Reef in the North Sea. In 2008, Greenpeace placed more than 150 huge blocks in the sea bed, aiming to prevent destructive fishing in an area which is protected by EU law. Many of these blocks have now sunk beneath the sand, prompting their replacement. Welt Online says that the reef is one of ten protected areas in the North and Baltic seas. However, destructive activities, like fishing with bottom trawling nets or sand and gravel mining, are still permitted. The German government believes the action to be a “legal violation” as the boulders may be counted as interfering with the reef. 

#Anti-environment riders: While many people are breathing a sigh of relief after the US finally reached an agreement on its 2012 spending bill, environmentalists may soon be bracing themselves for a huge fallout. House Republicans stuck many anti-environmental riders on to the bill, hoping they would go undetected. The New York Times writes that the majority of these riders had “nothing to do with spending,” and a lot to do with changing policy.

Worrying examples include Section 453, “regarding the regulation of any greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles”, which would block the recent White House agreement on fuel-efficient vehicles. Sec. 445 would end a moratorium on uranium drilling near the Grand Canyon. Sec. 434 would prevent toxic-ash produced by coal-fired power plants being labelled as hazardous waste. At last count, there were 36 more of these riders on the bill. It is not yet clear which riders made the final cut. More details can be found at the NRDC and EarthJustice.org.

#Oil: The US Department of Interior is having a tough week. Their decision to suspend Charles Monnett, a wildlife biologist, for unspecified “integrity issues” came under intense media scrutiny. The department say the issues relate to his study on polar bears (and an alleged $50 million oversight in research contracts). But now it has emerged that the department itself was called out for failing to collect billions of dollars in royalties from oil companies. The Government Accountability Office named the DoI as being at a “high risk” of fraud, abuse, waste and mismanagement.  It is estimated that losses on royalties from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico between 1996 and 2000 could be as high at US$53 billion. Perhaps if the DoI had actually collected this money rather than allowing oil companies to pocket it, the funds to help protect the polar bears wouldn’t be an issue.

#The end is nigh? While a record-breaking heat wave continues to broil its way across America, signs of the apocalypse are beginning to pop up in Western Texas. LiveScience reports that the waters of a reservoir in San Angelo State Park, once popular for fishing, have turned a foreboding blood-red. The colour, despite being cited as proof that the end of our world is nigh, is actually caused by a bacteria called “chromatiacea”, which thrives in oxygen-deprived water. Thanks to a drought affecting almost 75% of the state, the lake shrank to the size of a pond, and the red, stagnant water filled with thousands of dead fish.