Trip Van Noppen's Blog Posts

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Trip Van Noppen's blog


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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S BLOG

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

Learn more about Earthjustice.

Trip Van Noppen is Earthjustice's President who leads the organization's staff, board and supporters to advance its mission of using the courts to protect our environment and people's health. Growing up near the Linville Gorge and the Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina, he developed both a love of the natural world and a passion for fighting economic and social injustices. He feels that doing this work at Earthjustice, with its national and international impact, is the opportunity of a lifetime. When he is not working at Earthjustice, he loves to hike, see great theatre and be with loved ones.
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25 February 2014, 12:50 PM
Years of activism resulted in historic Clinton executive directive
President Clinton signs Executive Order 12898 in 1994. (EPA Photo)

In 1982, when I was a young lawyer in North Carolina, the state had to clean up miles of roadsides where toxic PCBs had been illegally dumped. The state decided to dispose of the toxic waste in a landfill which it proposed to place in a predominantly low-income African-American community in Warren County, far from where the clean-up was occurring. The decision sparked protests from the community, and activists from the broader civil rights world joined the fight.

That fight in Warren County crystallized for many in the environmental and civil rights communities a recognition of the pattern of subjecting communities of color and low-income communities with the environmental and public health burdens of our industrial society. From this seed and others like it, the environmental justice movement was born.

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11 February 2014, 1:15 PM
Fossil fuel industry seeks to protect bottom line by quashing solar growth
Workers install solar PV panels on top of a building. (NREL / Craig Miller Productions and DOE)

(Clarification: This column references a letter by California Public Utilities Commissioner Mark Ferron, who said public utilities would likely “strangle” rooftop solar if they could. In a separate part of the letter, he blamed the fossil fuel industry for preventing a national policy on climate change and energy, which as the column points out, is evidenced by the industry’s national attack on distributed energy sources like rooftop solar.)

Last month, departing California Public Utilities Commissioner Mark Ferron sounded the alarm on an anti-clean energy trend gathering momentum across the U.S.

In a sharply worded letter to the commission, which regulates all of the state’s privately owned electric and gas utilities, he warned that The fossil fuel industry public utilities would likely "strangle" the growth of rooftop solar energy if they could. Ferron advised his colleagues to avoid putting the interests of utilities over those of the public. He was referring to a growing war on solar being waged by utilities across the nation fearful of the threat to their basic business model.

From California to Colorado to North Carolina and other states, many generators of centralized fossil fuel energy are trying to prevent individual Americans from producing clean, renewable solar energy on their own roof tops. They would deny us the opportunity to participate in the greater goal of shifting away from polluting, climate-altering fossil fuels.

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28 January 2014, 8:45 PM
President can't rely on fossil fuels to achieve climate change goals
President Obama delivers the 2014 State of the Union Address. (White House Photo)

(The following is a statement from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen in response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address.)

We are encouraged that President Obama made climate change a centerpiece of his speech tonight. We applaud his commitment to facing this challenge, for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.

President Obama has taken courageous actions so far to back this commitment. His leadership in achieving strong clean car standards has been a huge accomplishment, and we are thrilled with his leadership in tackling carbon pollution from power plants, the nation’s largest source of climate change pollution. And tonight, the President went further and affirmed that we can’t allow destructive energy development on our pristine public lands.

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16 January 2014, 4:52 PM
A letter to President Obama
The president signs a letter to congressional leaders after signing a bill into law. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama has said we need “an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.” However, a zealous pursuit of an “all of the above strategy” seriously undermines the president’s ability to achieve a far more important goal that he has set: to lead this country and the world toward smart policies that combat climate change.

On one hand, the president has courageously laid out a critical climate action plan to tackle the paramount issue of our times and has made important strides in reducing our carbon pollution. “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” he said in January 2013. His response has laudably included the first carbon standards for power plants, historic clean car standards that save Americans money at the pump, and a plan to reduce other carbon pollution sources. “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult,” he said. “But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it.” We all should support and encourage this leadership by the president and do whatever we can to help achieve those goals.

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10 January 2014, 5:47 PM
Remembering a great man of passion and integrity
Fred Meyer 1931-2013

The Board of Trustees and staff of Earthjustice express our profound sorrow and deepest sympathies to the family for the loss of our great friend and longtime trustee, Fred Meyer. Fred was a rock and source of great wisdom, fidelity, clarity and constancy of vision, accountability, perception, humor, compassion and worldly acumen and knowledge.

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23 December 2013, 3:27 PM
Our litigation forces protections where political leaders fail us
Many environmental and public health safeguards still await approval, more than a year after the election. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The White House “systematically” delayed finalizing a host of environmental and public health safeguards for political reasons before the 2012 election, reported The Washington Post last February. With many of these rules still awaiting approvals more than a year after the election, the Post recently revisited its investigation into the politics of continued White House delays.

The latest article, by Juliet Eilperin, delves into the findings of a new independent report that concludes President Obama’s White House has injected new layers of White House intervention, politics, and control over basic federal agency duties and regulations. Among the hostages of this political slowdown are Environmental Protection Agency responsibilities to protect the public from toxic coal ash waste, cement factories and other industrial facilities, and smog.

While some in Washington, D.C., would see these environmental rules as opportunity for politicking and power play, elsewhere in the nation, communities and families are feeling the pain of delay.

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05 December 2013, 6:01 PM
A true visionary who never gave up hope
Mandela in Johannesburg, 2008. (South Africa The Good News)

Around the world, people are pausing to remember and honor Nelson Mandela, who passed away today.

My memory is traveling in South Africa during apartheid; hiding in the back of cars to go into “coloured only” and “black only” areas; meeting with lawyers in the anti-apartheid struggle who had been banned from law practice and from their homes; visiting “blacks only” hospitals and neighborhoods; and being refused service at a “coloured only” restaurant because of the color of my skin. All the while, Mandela was in prison, breaking rocks and inspiring a movement for justice.

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15 November 2013, 5:03 PM
As Thanksgiving nears, we have much to give thanks for
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean. (NASA)

The approach of Thanksgiving is a good time to step back from the fast pace of our fight to protect the Earth and its people, and reflect on the many reasons to be grateful. Please join me and share what’s on your gratitude list by leaving a comment at the end of this piece.

My personal list starts with being thankful for the millions of people in this country and around the world who are standing up to polluters and to government agencies that fail to do their jobs. Citizens in record numbers are educating one another, advocating for change and going to court to enforce the law in order to end climate pollution, habitat destruction and poisoning of communities. Without citizen enforcers, environmental damage would go unchecked.

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10 October 2013, 11:42 AM
For our economy and communities, we must live by the budget
Mountaintop removal mining is devastating communities in Appalachia. The drive to drill and mine anywhere, by whatever extreme means, is a disastrous substitute for a coherent American energy policy. (Chris Jordan-Bloch)

The following blog post by Trip Van Noppen originally ran on the Huffington Post on October 8, 2013.

The most damning and decisive report yet on humankind's contribution to climate change was delivered by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change little more than a week ago. The report, the most precise yet thanks to advances in scientific monitoring, confirms that climate change impacts are outpacing previous projections for ocean warming, the rate of glacial ice melt in the arctic, and sea level rise. But the biggest takeaway of the report is the unprecedented step it takes in setting a carbon budget.

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11 September 2013, 12:19 PM
High above this great nation, you can see the struggles we face
An airplane passes over Desolation Canyon, UT. (Ecoflight)

“If you want to see the places we’ve helped protect, ask for a window seat.”

So reads my favorite Earthjustice message, decorating airports across the country. It’s true: 35,000 feet is a great vantage to see the forests, mountains and river canyons that are intact, unroaded and resilient thanks to our legal work with many allies.

But on a recent flight, I also saw a different, far more disturbing picture: the ravages of fossil fuel extraction and burning. I took off from San Francisco bound for D.C. As we climbed over California, one of my favorite sights, the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains, was obscured by thick smoke—the result of massive fires brought on by drought and rising temperatures, increasingly common as fossil-fueled global warming settles in.

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