Trip Van Noppen's Blog Posts

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

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.


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 September 2012, 8:39 PM
Your voice can help put the environment on the political agenda
Your voice is as important as your vote—there is a lot you can do. (Jason Langheine)

After the summer we have had, my mind is on climate change, what more Earthjustice can do about it, and what’s at stake in this election.

I experienced the effects of climate change this summer during a trip through Colorado. Heat, drought and fire set an almost apocalyptic tone for the trip. There was no snow on the peaks, stream flows were down, and smoke filled the air. Similar impacts afflicted 60 percent of our nation and spread over three continents; sea ice coverage in the Arctic was at a record low.

Earthjustice is working hard to slow and reverse these climate trends by bringing cases across the country to beat down coal, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and expand the market for renewable energy and efficiency. And with your support we are doing more every day: hiring more attorneys and bringing more cases in more places. We are grateful not only for your support which makes this possible, but also for your advocacy which helps get better rules adopted and enforced.

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18 August 2012, 5:44 PM
U.S. lax about chemicals used in oil and gas operations
A U.S. Air Force chemical dispersing C-130 aircraft drops an oil dispersing chemical into the Gulf of Mexico as part of the Deepwater Horizon response effort. (U.S. Air Force Photo / Tech. Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

In April 2010, a national nightmare began with a blowout into the Gulf of Mexico. But the hundreds of millions of gallons of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill were just the beginning of the disaster. We are still learning about the real damage, which is much more insidious than tar balls and slicked beaches.

Recently, researchers found that the millions of gallons of chemical dispersants used to break up the oil may disrupt the Gulf of Mexico’s food chain by killing off plankton, the fuel on which marine ecosystems run. At the time of the spill, little was known about the dispersants’ health and environmental effects, but oil executives and government officials justified the risk by arguing that desperate times call for desperate measures.

Welcome to the age of extreme energy, which requires us to risk the health of our bodies and our environment just to keep the lights on. From oil dispersants to fracking fluid, the chemicals used in extreme energy all have one thing in common: We know little about them, and what we do know is worrisome.

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13 July 2012, 9:54 PM
Drilling proposals foreshadow larger struggle over Arctic

(Trip Van Noppen is President of Earthjustice)

Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling plans are premised on a growing legacy of broken promises regarding the company’s ability to protect the fragile Arctic from drilling impacts. And, as in the past, Shell is again asking the federal government to be lenient, accept more empty promises, and let the drilling begin.

This isn’t surprising. It’s a trend we’ve experienced during the last five years of successful legal and public advocacy efforts aimed at keeping Shell out of the Arctic until it proves that it can drill without grievously wounding this magnificent ecosystem.

The latest Shell failure happened a few days ago when Shell announced that one of its two main drilling ships – already in Alaska – couldn’t meet the standards in its air permit from the Environmental Protection Agency. Meanwhile, Shell also is reneging on its commitments to meet Coast Guard standards for its oil spill containment barge. Shell expects the EPA and the Coast Guard to ignore the problems, so Shell can drill this summer.

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18 June 2012, 2:25 PM
Earthjustice delegation focuses on fortifying oceans resilience

(Trip Van Noppen is President of Earthjustice)

More than 130 heads of state, other leaders, and some 50,000 participants from all over the globe are gathering this week in Rio de Janeiro, the most-visited city in the southern hemisphere, for the Rio+20 Earth Summit. I am here with Martin Wagner, head of the Earthjustice International program, and Erika Rosenthal, Earthjustice attorney and veteran of many international environmental negotiations, and we want to share a few glimpses into what is going on as this historic event unfolds.

The summit offers the world an opportunity to deepen and broaden the reach of environmental commitments that are fundamental to sustainable development and reducing poverty around the world, and to support and extend good work that is happening in many countries and under many other international agreements.

Unlike the grand, path-breaking outcomes that the nations accomplished at the first Rio Earth Summit 20 years ago, this summit is focused on improving implementation of existing agreements for better outcomes for the people and the planet. Some in the news media have focused on the lack of grand new treaties, but that narrative misses the point. Although political realities may preclude great leaps forward, and certainly the summit is not producing the sorts of outcomes that it should, we can still work hard for incremental change when the opportunities exist. That’s what Earthjustice is doing at home and that's what we are doing here. In particular here in Rio, we’re pressing for progress on two important issues: ocean protection and reducing fossil fuel use.

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16 June 2012, 11:12 AM
Earthjustice at Rio+20 to seek solutions

(Trip Van Noppen is President of Earthjustice)

It started in 2005, when baby oysters began dying by the billions in Oregon and Washington. At first, the fishermen weren’t worried, hardened by years of dealing with nature’s fickleness. But, when the die-offs continued year after year, seamen and scientists alike started seeking answers.

What they found is that the impacts from carbon pollution that scientists have been warning about for decades are occurring now. It turns out that while the world’s eyes have been trained on the changes to the land, the ocean has been quietly undergoing its own transformation.

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18 May 2012, 4:00 PM
Some of the above are fossil fuels -- and they aren't clean

Sometimes an all-in strategy can tarnish the entire package.

Take for example President Obama’s recent decision to tout an “all-of-the-above” approach to achieving energy independence and lowering gas prices. It’s a catchy, feel-good campaign slogan perfect for banners and sound bites, but it’s a hollow energy strategy. Worse yet, it opens America up for destructive practices by painting the administration into a fossil-fuel corner.

Recently, House Republicans seized on Obama’s vulnerable position by successfully insisting that the administration add “clean coal” to its energy policy website. Never mind that coal is dirty at every step of the process, from mining to burning to disposing of the waste. It’s also the source of 99 percent of mercury from the U.S. power sector and the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S.

Even the coal industry knows that coal is dirty, which is why it has tried desperately to rebrand its baby as “clean coal,” an oxymoron at its finest. The lynch-pin of “clean coal,” carbon sequestration, is wildly expensive and doesn’t address local pollution problems.

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13 April 2012, 3:05 PM
Earthjustice suit pressures company to nix toxic pesticide

Last month—less than a year after Earthjustice sued to protect strawberry field workers from a deadly pesticide—the maker of that pesticide has taken it off the market. This means that those who labor on our behalf can themselves enjoy the fruits of their labor without fear of crippling or even fatal results.

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15 March 2012, 2:13 PM
A symbol of Earthjustice victory protecting marine ecosystems
The "Sacred Cod"

In Massachusetts, a wooden carving of a 5-foot long codfish known as the “Sacred Cod” hangs above the entrance to the State House’s Hall of Representatives, right in the House Speaker’s line of sight. It’s a reminder to all of the importance of the fishing industry to the area, which once overflowed with Atlantic cod and halibut, ocean perch, haddock and yellowtail flounder, but has since been decimated by overfishing, loose regulations and a failure to sustainably manage the ocean ecosystem.

Last week, a U.S. District Court took an historic first step towards restoring not only the Massachusetts fishery but the entire ocean ecosystem by requiring the government to protect Atlantic herring and shad—bottom-of-the-food-chain species that are the basis of the ocean food web for the Northwest Atlantic. This decision, achieved through Earthjustice litigation, will help shape future fisheries management around the nation.

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22 February 2012, 4:46 AM
It's way past time to approve appliance and building standards

In his State of the Union address, President Obama stated that the administration would “not walk away from the promise of clean energy.” The president also recognized that, especially in these tough economic times, “the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy.”

President Obama’s speech brings to mind a pledge he made on the campaign trail, where he promised to reduce electricity demand 15 percent by 2020, saving American consumers $130 billion.
The administration has made good on parts of this pledge. In its first three years under President Obama, the Department of Energy issued energy efficiency standards for products like refrigerators, furnaces, air-conditioners and clothes dryers that will save energy, reduce families’ utility bills and help control greenhouse gas emissions.

Also this month, federal light bulb standards went into effect, and manufacturers have risen to that challenge by rolling out incandescent light bulbs that are 28-30 percent more efficient than those used for decades. Earthjustice was one of the groups that negotiated directly with manufacturers to jointly recommend stronger standards for many of these products, and now we are working to defend these gains against attempts to force a return to outdated technologies.

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17 January 2012, 8:50 AM
Power of law shines through political rhetoric
We will continue to use the law to protect wild places, propel the clean energy economy forward, and safeguard our health.

As 2012 begins and election year politics accelerate, you are probably hearing some gloomy predictions about how our environment will fare this year. There is good reason for the concern: many in Congress are dedicated to eliminating long-standing environmental protections. Fossil fuel industry supporters are pulling out all the financial and rhetorical stops in their lobbying and electioneering.

But I’m not gloomy. Here’s why:

Earthjustice and our allies accomplished great victories in 2011. Our defense of the national forest roadless rule and successes in other cases to protect wildlands and wildlife enable millions of Americans to renew their spirits in wild places across the country, while magnificent and miraculous creatures are better able to thrive on the land and in the sea. By finally achieving safeguards against toxic air pollution from coal-burning power plants after the courts repeatedly ordered action, millions more can breathe healthier air, drink cleaner water, and get their power from cleaner sources.

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