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 September 2010, 11:13 AM
Consumers will get info on what's in their household cleaners

A few months ago, I told you about our tough legal fight in New York to force household cleaner manufacturers to reveal what chemicals they are putting in products that we use every day in our homes.

Today, I am glad to report that our work has persuaded the state of New York to take action. The Commissioner of New York's Department of Environmental Conservation last week told manufacturers to disclose what their products contain and any health risks they pose, the first such request ever made by regulators in any state. (You can send Commissioner Pete Grannis a note of thanks here.)

This is a huge win for consumers that wouldn't have happened without strong legal pressure.

You might recall from my previous column that a long-forgotten state law requiring manufacturers to come clean was unearthed by former Earthjustice attorney Keri Powell a few years ago. Following her discovery, Earthjustice and our coalition partners mounted an aggressive legal and advocacy campaign that ultimately triggered the state's decision to start enforcing this important right-to-know law. A big thanks go out to our supporters, who held green-cleaning parties in their homes and helped generate nearly 40,000 emails to decision-makers and cleaning product companies.

But, this isn't just a victory for New York state. Because many of the manufacturers doing business in the state of New York sell their products throughout the U.S., we all stand to benefit. After all, Procter & Gamble's Mr. Clean products and other national brands are the same whether you're in Poughkeepsie or Portland.

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18 August 2010, 1:56 PM
EPA prepares move against those who pollute at our expense

Too often in the last two decades, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has gnawed big polluters like a toothless tiger. But 20 years after Congress endowed the agency with new tools to protect people from dangerous air pollution, the EPA is finally preparing to bite down hard.

The EPA is expected to finalize over the next few years a series of pollution control rules that could cut global warming pollution, improve air quality and protect the health of millions of Americans. But only if the agency gets it right—and big polluters will be fighting to make sure it doesn't.

This is especially true in the case of coal-fired power plants, which are targeted by many of the forthcoming rules. The coal and utility industries have retained an army of lobbyists and congressional champions to kill pollution controls and convince the American public that burning massive amounts of coal and protecting the environment aren't mutually exclusive.

But they are.

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22 July 2010, 12:08 PM
Chlorpyrifos is in same chemical family as Nazi nerve agents

<Update: Read the San Francisco Chronicle story on this issue.>

Terri Carawan's health problems began in 1984, soon after the spraying started. Her skin became inflamed and her burning, itching eyes were nearly swollen shut with fluid. Despite tremendous fatigue, she struggled with sleeplessness.

It turns out that the telephone company where Terri worked as an operator had recently hired a pest control service to deal with lice and other insects in the building. Every month, they sprayed a pesticide called chlorpyrifos throughout the premises, including on the switchboard Terri operated.

In one of my first cases as a young lawyer, I represented Terri after her exposure to chlorpyrifos, recovering her medical expenses and lost wages and getting the spraying stopped. More than a quarter century later, while most indoor uses of chlorpyrifos have been banned due to risks to human health, the pesticide is still sprayed liberally—nearly 10 million pounds per year—on corn, oranges, and other crops in fields and orchards across the United States.

Today, I am proud that Earthjustice, along with NRDC and Pesticide Action Network, is filing suit to get this dangerous pesticide banned for good.

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15 July 2010, 9:54 AM
Report from agency's Inspector General exposes unlawful delay

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fallen far behind in one of its most important responsibilities: to protect the American public from toxic air pollutants. The New York Times recently reported on a new study from the agency's Inspector General which found that the EPA is currently violating federal law by failing to put these protections in place. Because of the EPA's failures to set vital clean air standards, millions of Americans still face appallingly high risks of cancer, birth defects and other devastating illness—all because of exposure to toxic air pollution that can and should be controlled.

This grim news does not result from an oversight or an accident. As the EPA recognized in its response to the report, the Bush administration intentionally cut the agency's budget for controlling toxic air emissions by 70 percent. Time was spent instead on reducing protections: a federal court observed in 2006 that the EPA under Bush was "devot[ing] substantial resources to discretionary rulemakings, many of which make existing regulations more congenial to industry, and several of which since have been found unlawful."

It is hardly surprising that when the Bush administration cut the budget for reducing toxic air emissions by more than half, the staff could not do their job. As a result, health protections that Congress required the EPA to issue years ago have never been put in place, the toxic pollution continues unabated, and people go on suffering unnecessarily. One key statistic on that suffering: the Inspector General reports that "1 in every 28,000 people could develop cancer from air toxics exposure."

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17 June 2010, 10:46 AM
President Obama must turn words into action on clean energy

"The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now."

President Obama's words, delivered from the Oval Office on Tuesday night, read like a clear call for national unity as we gather strength to turn the corner to a new, better America. But at this point, they are only words. What we need is action.

Americans are clamoring for it: 71 percent think President Obama and Congress should make the development of clean energy sources a high priority. Based on his speech—"The one approach I will not accept is inaction"—the president appears to be among those numbers. But ultimately, Obama needs to follow his own decree.

The president must outline in far greater detail the clean energy future he says we must embrace, and then he needs to demand that Congress implement. Saying we need that future "even if we're unsure exactly what that looks like" and "even if we don't yet know precisely how we're going to get there" is merely mincing words.

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09 June 2010, 1:29 PM
Vote down Sen. Murkowski's resolution to bail out big polluters
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Yesterday the White House took a firm stand against an effort to undermine the 40-year-old Clean Air Act, reverse a Supreme Court decision, and block the federal fuel efficiency standards that were finalized this past spring, which will reduce the nation's consumption of oil by at least 455 million barrels.
 
The effort at hand is a seldom-used congressional "Resolution of Disapproval" by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), on the Senate floor for a vote tomorrow, June 10. The resolution, which was influenced by oil- and polluter-industry lobbyists, is at the center of a fury of political positioning and partisan politicking. Its purpose is to block the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases, authorized by the Clean Air Act and reaffirmed by the 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court decision.
 
In an official statement yesterday, the White House threatened to veto the resolution if it is passed by the Senate tomorrow. Meanwhile, Sen. Murkowski and her Republican allies held a press conference to solicit public attention and support for this vote. The rest of the Senate and, more importantly, the public, should see through their smoke-and-mirrors routine. After all, the connection between reducing our national dependence on oil and controlling fossil fuel pollution are two sides of the same coin.

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27 May 2010, 8:11 AM
President gives reprieve from exposing Arctic to oil spill potential

Over the last month, while oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico has poisoned thousands of square miles of waters, coasts, fish and wildlife, there has not been much occasion for celebration. Today, there is finally some good news.

The Obama administration's announcement to pause plans by the Shell Oil Company to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in America's Arctic Ocean means these pristine, fragile ocean waters will remain protected for now. Endangered and threatened bowhead whales, polar bears, seals and other wildlife will survive. The Native communities that rely on the bounty of the Arctic Ocean will not face the threat of Shell's operations. No oil will be spilled by Shell and no catastrophic disaster like the one currently happening in the Gulf of Mexico will occur.

This is a victory driven by all of you who saw what was happening in the Gulf and took action to make sure it didn't happen in the Arctic. Your calls and emails made a difference.

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19 May 2010, 11:35 AM
President must step in to prevent Arctic from being next victim

Revelations flooding out of the Gulf oil spill disaster provide damning evidence about the main federal agency tasked with regulating offshore oil leases. Corrupted by its closeness to the oil industry and lax oversight from political leaders, the Minerals Management Service allowed British Petroleum to drill under risk-heavy circumstances, in waters too fragile to sustain a major spill, without an adequate plan to keep a spill from being catastrophic.

Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar is taking small steps to address the inherent conflicts of interest that have crippled the MMS mission, but much more is needed. Most immediately, decisions MMS already has made must be dealt with -- especially with regard to the Arctic Ocean.

Direct intervention from the president and the secretary of interior are needed to prevent the potential for another Gulf disaster from spreading to America's Arctic Ocean, where Shell Oil—with a plan approved by the MMS —is poised to begin drilling this summer. If you think you've heard the president say that there will be no new drilling until the cause of the Gulf blow-out is understood, think again. So far, there has been no reconsideration of the permits to drill in the Arctic this summer.

The reasons for intervention are twofold. First, marine scientists agree that drilling's impacts on the Arctic Ocean have yet to be adequately studied. The Chukchi and Beaufort seas, where the drilling would take place, are among the world's most remarkably wild places; home to many animals, fish, and the native people who depend on them. We have a responsibility to ensure that these American treasures won't be spoiled in the event of a large oil spill like the one unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.

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18 May 2010, 3:27 PM
Life-saving Clean Air Act protections are not bargaining chips

Last week, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) released a long-awaited discussion draft of their climate and energy bill, the American Power Act. Among the bill's big giveaways to polluters was a surprise invitation to exempt dirty old power plants from clean-up requirements for soot, smog, and toxics such as mercury.

To be clear, this attack on the Clean Air Act goes well beyond controversial waivers of EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases. It undercuts safeguards that are slated to save tens of thousands of lives every year. This sweetener for coal plants is poisonous for Americans.

Every year, soot from coal plants kills an estimated 24,000 people and causes hundreds of thousands of cases of asthma and other serious illnesses, especially in children. The vast majority of this suffering, including 90 percent of premature deaths, is preventable with the installation of available, cost-effective pollution controls. However, power companies have managed, often illegally, to keep running dirty coal plants for maximum profit.

Finally, after years of court battles to enforce the Clean Air Act, we are on the verge of a solution. The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to set protective standards that would force long overdue clean-ups. By 2020, EPA estimates that emission reductions from effective implementation of the Clean Air Act will save us $1.2 trillion per year in mortality costs alone.

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04 May 2010, 12:42 PM
In wake of gulf oil spill, Obama must protect Arctic seas from drilling

In just two months, Shell Oil could do in America's Arctic Ocean what British Petroleum has done in the Gulf of Mexico—drill an environmental time bomb without being able to defuse it or deal with the consequences of it going off.

In both cases, we're talking about exploratory offshore oil drilling under conditions so extreme that the risks are unreasonable and the consequences severe.

For gulf coast residents, the impact of BP's exploratory oil drilling explosion is tragic: 11 drill workers lost their lives, fishermen are losing their livelihoods, and the impacts are increasing daily. Two weeks later, the environmental consequences are building offshore in an oil mass the size of Puerto Rico. Growing daily by more than 200,000 gallons, the oil is killing sea birds and attacking the habitat of more than 400 animal species. It threatens four coastal states and could become—in the words of President Barack Obama—an unprecedented environmental and economic disaster.

We can't afford to witness another such disaster in the Arctic, where exploratory drilling has been greenlighted by the Obama administration and could begin as early as July 1.

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