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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15 March 2013, 3:45 PM
Politics have kept key federal court judgeships vacant
Four of the D.C. Circuit Court's 11 seats have been left vacant due to congressional obstruction. (DOJ)

Over the past four years, the federal halls of justice have been left partially hollow as the number of judicial vacancies in the federal courts continues to mount—due to foot-dragging on nominations and partisan filibuster once nominations are made. These vacancies hobble the courts’ ability to do their core work, which includes determining the fate of our most important environmental protections.

Take, for example, President Obama’s nomination of Caitlin Halligan for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In 2010, the president nominated Halligan, praising her “excellence and unwavering integrity,” yet two years later the Senate has twice refused to confirm her to this environmentally critical court. Halligan, a distinguished litigator who has argued five cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, is well-qualified for a seat on the D.C. Circuit. Yet despite bipartisan support and several high profile endorsements from law enforcement organizations and leaders, last week Halligan was forced to suffer through a second politically motivated filibuster that Senate GOP’s justified by willfully misrepresenting her record.

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15 February 2013, 12:34 PM
Americans can’t wait for Congress to address climate change
President Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber on Feb. 12, 2013.  (Chuck Kennedy / White House)

Last week, President Obama demanded that Congress take action on climate change, or else he would.

But, after years of political gridlock on the climate issue, coupled with rising seas and worsening droughts, one thing is clear: the nation simply cannot afford to wait any longer to take action. Though Congress may eventually pull together and pass a climate bill, the president must not wait on that uncertain prospect. He must act now.

After all, today the U.S. is farther from enacting a nationwide plan to reduce carbon emissions than it was four years ago. Congress has failed miserably. And though America’s greenhouse gas emissions are beginning to decline, the rate at which they’re doing so is nowhere near what we need to avoid catastrophic climate change.

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01 February 2013, 4:43 PM
Arctic nations share unique responsibility for slowing ice melt
Reducing black carbon emissions will slow climate change now.
Chukchi Sea, Alaska. (Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com)

As the environmental ministers of the Arctic nations, including the United States, meet in Sweden next week, they have an opportunity to show leadership on an important though less well-known climate pollutant, black carbon (soot).

While carbon dioxide remains the most important, long-lasting pollutant forcing climate change, recent studies have revealed that short-lived climate forcers like black carbon are equally damaging, especially in the Arctic.

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18 January 2013, 4:21 PM
The silence is broken, now is the time to act

On Monday, President Obama’s inauguration will officially mark the beginning of his second term, and with it his second chance at finally taking strong action on one of the most important issues of our time, climate change.

Two months ago, on the night of his re-election and in front of an audience hopeful to move forward on so many issues, the president brought climate change back to the forefront of the nation’s mind by listing it as a top priority for his second term. Now, President Obama must go beyond the mere mention of the issue and use his bully pulpit to make the connection between carbon pollution and extreme weather. Just as Franklin Delano Roosevelt used his first inaugural address to declare war on the Great Depression, Obama must use his own confirmation to declare war on another societal ill that threatens to destroy life as we know it.

Of course, the president’s rhetoric will mean nothing if it is not backed by concrete actions in the next four years. And the time for action couldn’t be more urgent.

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04 January 2013, 4:53 PM
Obama must halt dangerous, misguided operations in Arctic Ocean
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, AK, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island, Jan. 2, 2013. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.)

With one Arctic drill rig shipwrecked on an Alaskan island and the other reportedly under criminal investigation for possibly “operating with serious safety and pollution control problems,” oil giant Royal Dutch Shell is doing a pretty thorough job at proving the quest for oil in the pristine waters of America’s Arctic is just too dangerous, too dirty, and too damaging. The week’s events also prove once again that the U.S. Department of Interior should not have approved drilling in the most remote, dangerous place on the planet. It’s past time for the plug to be pulled on this operation.

The cone-shaped drill rig Kulluk sat in 30 to 40 feet of water along the rocky beach of Sitkalidak Island for the entire week and 18 crew members were evacuated by U.S Coast Guard helicopters. A cast of more than 500 salvage experts is working feverishly to stabilize and rescue the rig.  Further, after delays leaving the Arctic Ocean as winter closed in, Shell reported made its decision to move the rig, which does not have a propulsion system and requires towboats to haul it around, from the port of Dutch Harbor south of Alaska to avoid having to pay Alaska state taxes.

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14 December 2012, 5:39 PM
Earthjustice set to make 2013 the year to powerfully engage climate change

Earthjustice has just won two major victories over fossil fuels that strengthen our resolve to make 2013 the year America turns from these dirtiest of energy sources and moves towards a clean energy future—the only real solution to climate change.

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency reacted to Earthjustice legal action by adopting drastic limits on the amount of soot poured out from coal-fired power plants and tailpipes. This powerful achievement will save thousands of lives a year and slow climate change by reducing pollution that accelerates sea ice melt.

And, a few weeks ago, we learned that the Danskammer coal-fired power plant, one of New York’s dirtiest polluters, will be retired and torn down. Recent Earthjustice legal action helped bring about this happy outcome, aided by flooding from superstorm Sandy, a storm made fiercer by the climate-changing emissions from coal power plants like this one.

But we aren’t basing our climate change plan on more poetic justice. Our plan for tackling climate change is based on the kind of justice we had great success in achieving this year through the courts and the political system.

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17 November 2012, 7:47 PM
It's back on Obama's agenda, along with "all of the above"
President Obama, on election night.  (Christopher Dilts)

Life doesn’t hand you many second chances to make good on promises.

But that’s what the American public, with an assist from superstorm Sandy, has given President Obama: another 4-year opportunity to tackle climate change—the critical environmental issue of our time. He’s now talking about the issue again, after two years of near-silence, and just a few days ago spoke of “an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change.”

President Obama's words aren't quite as bold as those he made four years ago about attacking climate change, but they give us hope that climate change has become a politically viable issue—especially when seen in the context of the election.

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06 November 2012, 9:56 PM
President must unite America to secure prosperity and fight climate change
President Obama now has a second chance to put this nation on course to a prosperous future built on clean energy. (Scout Tufankjian)

The American people have reinvested their faith in a President who now has a second chance to put this nation on course to a prosperous future built on clean energy and with a far-reaching goal of ending mankind’s role in climate change.

In the wake of superstorm Sandy, voters saw—and many continue to experience—the impacts of climate change-induced weather. They are convinced and, like us, demand that President Obama take action to steer us away from the fossil fuels that feed climate change. This is the real path to energy independence.

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04 November 2012, 5:10 PM
Superstorm blows climate change onto national ballot
Lower Manhattan was without power for days.  (Eric Konon)

Hurricane Sandy delivered a lot of pain when it punched into the East Coast. As I write this, a week later, the sea has retreated but the suffering remains. Half of Manhattan is cold and dark. The New Jersey shore is in bits. Parts of Long Island are knocked out.

Having spent most of my life in hurricane country and having lived through many similar blows, I can’t stop thinking about what people are going through to find bottled water and a place to get gas and some sort of help for the elderly and infirm. My heart is with them.

But I’m also thinking about the other knock-out punch that Sandy delivered—to the climate deniers and the climate-avoiding politicians. Sandy is the kind of superstorm that climate scientists have been warning about for decades. They are the new heavyweight champs of the hurricane world, and will reign as long as we fail to challenge the causes of rising sea levels and warming ocean and atmospheric temperatures near coastal mega-cities.

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17 October 2012, 5:57 PM
Congress abandons citizen interests for 'pollution prosperity'

Forty years ago today, against a backdrop of flaming rivers, dying lakes and sewage-choked beaches, our politicians reached across the aisle to pass the Clean Water Act—a law aptly described by the New York Times' Robert Semple as "a critical turning point" in rescuing the nation's waterways from "centuries of industrial, municipal and agricultural pollution." The primary goals of the law were simple and bold: to stop using our nation’s waters as open sewers and end the discharge of water pollution.

This wonderful, landmark law flourished under three decades of bipartisan support, reining in torrents of industrial and municipal discharges, and restoring health to waters great and small across the land.

But some 10 years ago, the clean water tide slowed as polluters gained traction in Congress; and two years ago, with political collaboration at an end, the tide turned. As a result, loopholes and lax enforcement led to the fouling of beaches and rivers with toxic slime, the filling thousands of miles of Appalachian streams with the rubble of mountaintop removal mining; and have allowed dozens of toxic coal ash ponds to exist unregulated among our communities.

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