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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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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20 April 2010, 10:30 AM
EPA embraces science and the law in two strong actions

In Appalachia, moving mountains is easy. What's hard is keeping them where they are. Coal companies have used dynamite's muscle to blast hundreds of the earth's oldest summits into neighboring valleys, permanently altering the landscape. But two recent developments are shaking the foundations of mountaintop removal mining, signaling that perhaps, at long last, what's moving is the mountain of science and law that compels the end of this destructive practice.

In late March, the Environmental Protection Agency took dramatic action in proposing to veto a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Spruce No. 1 mine in West Virginia—one of the largest mountaintop removal projects ever approved—on the grounds that mine operations would violate the Clean Water Act. The action was presaged by an Earthjustice lawsuit filed in 2007 that challenged approval of a Clean Water Act permit for the mine for failing to follow science and the law.

If the EPA does veto the permit, the agency's invocation of the Clean Water Act to curtail operations at the Spruce mine will be an important victory. It could have broader repercussions on mountaintop removal in general. (The agency is currently accepting public comments on the veto proposal. You can take action by telling EPA to follow through with the veto and enforce the Clean Water Act.)

But the good news doesn't end there.

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18 March 2010, 10:59 AM
Cartoon-style confrontation in Hawaii is no laughing matter
Photo credit: The Simpsons, "Who Shot Mr. Burns?"

In a popular Simpsons episode, the diabolical Mr. Burns builds a giant disc to eclipse the sun and force Springfield's residents into round-the-clock reliance on electricity from his power plant. It's pitch-perfect cartoon sarcasm, but with a foot firmly in reality: the fledgling U.S. solar industry faces an array of Burnsian obstacles to its growth across the country.

In Hawaii, for example, Earthjustice is taking on a blatant effort by the state's largest utility to block homes and businesses from installing rooftop solar panels, a move that could strangle Hawaii's burgeoning homegrown solar industry, prevent residents and businesses from saving money, and keep the state addicted to imported oil.

If there is anywhere that should be blazing the trail to a clean energy future, it is Hawaii. The islands are blessed with abundant sun, winds, and waves, yet today rely on imported fossil fuels for more than 96 percent of their energy. Hawaii consumers pay the highest electric rates in the nation. The state is trying to chart a new course, but the utility is resisting change and fighting to limit solar access to the local grid.

In so doing, the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) is holding back much more than just Hawaii. It is hindering an important experiment with solar energy that could provide valuable information to consumers, entrepreneurs, utility owners and policymakers throughout the United States.

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04 March 2010, 11:29 AM
It's time to break industry stranglehold on clean water legislation

A year ago, the 111th Congress looked like a friend to those who care about clean water. I praised Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and others back then for introducing legislation that would restore teeth to the Clean Water Act.

Things moved swiftly as a compromise version of this bill, the Clean Water Restoration Act, passed through the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee last June. Attention then shifted to the House side, where Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) was expected to reintroduce the bill by early autumn.

But, despite promises for quick action, we still do not have a bill in the House. And momentum on strengthening clean water protections has slowly diminished under the weight of industry pressure.

Until now.

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17 February 2010, 4:30 PM
Historic litigation may shine light on toxic ingredients

Do household cleaners contain ingredients linked to asthma, nerve damage and other health effects? Manufacturers aren't telling, but Earthjustice attorney Keri Powell may have uncovered the key to their pursed lips.

While investigating a potential legal strategy, Keri found buried in the pages of a book of New York State statutes a long-forgotten law authorizing the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to require household cleaning product manufacturers to disclose their chemical ingredients and information about the health risks they pose. In other words, pay dirt.

State regulations issued in 1976 made these disclosures mandatory. Such laws are practically nonexistent in the United States, and the New York law has been altogether overlooked.

Until now.

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29 January 2010, 2:31 PM
Congress must seize the historic opportunity lest others reap the rewards
Photo: Pete Souza

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama made it clear—when it comes to the environment, we are at a crossroads. There is historic opportunity for us to lead the clean energy revolution that will transform our societies or watch as others claim the technologies, jobs and environmental benefits that will be its rewards.

President Obama said: "We have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against climate change." But, it's up to Congress to claim that leadership position by passing strong legislation to reduce global warming pollution. No longer can our representatives in Congress subsidize and cater to the fossil fuel industries that force us all to be contributors to this planetary crisis. A strong new law can greatly stimulate the burgeoning renewable energy industry, while preserving and creating tools to clean up polluting industries.

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21 January 2010, 12:25 PM
Focus is on clean energy, natural heritage, and health

Last year, the U.S. government started taking environmental protection seriously again, but as 2010 dawns, we continue to see political and economic interests preventing or stalling critical environmental solutions.

In the face of this opposition, this year Earthjustice is targeting key issues with our legal and advocacy work. Our focus is on three core priorities: building a clean energy future, protecting our natural heritage, and safeguarding our health.

To avoid global warming's worst impacts, we must build a clean energy future. Reducing demand through efficiency and increasing supply from renewable sources of power are cornerstones of the foundation. But these steps are obstructed by the political stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry. Earthjustice is using the law to help break our national reliance on fossil fuels, which we continue to extract, burn, and subsidize heavily with taxpayer money, despite the destructive impact on people and the planet.

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13 January 2010, 11:36 AM
Arm in arm with lobbyists, senator aims to gut landmark law

<Update, Jan. 21>: Sen. Murkowski today declared her plan to exempt polluters from the Clean Air Act. She intends to use a little-known legislative maneuver to nullify the EPA's recent determination that greenhouse gases threaten public health. This move would restrict the Clean Air Act, a powerful and effective law, from being used to hold polluters accountable for their global warming emissions. Earthjustice's Sarah Saylor condemned Murkowski's gambit.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski is on a mission, legislative guns blazing, to shoot holes through the Clean Air Act—one of our nation's strongest and most successful environmental laws. If she prevails, we may lose one of the best tools we have to reduce global warming pollution. Senators may have to decide as soon as Jan. 20 whether to join her.

Industry lobbyists already have. In her scheme to bring down the Clean Air Act, Murkowski's script has been written by a pair of well-connected industry lobbyists whose clients include major coal-burning utilities like Duke Energy and the Southern Company. The Washington Post reports that both lobbyists, who were high-level officials at EPA under George W. Bush, even participated in a closed-door meeting last September to explain details of Murkowski's plan to the staffers of some centrist Democrats.

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18 December 2009, 5:36 PM
Senators try to stop EPA from reducing global warming pollution
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Photo by AFP.

Today, as world leaders, led by President Obama, struggled deep into the night on a plan to fight climate change, a handful of U.S. senators at home were trying to sabotage U.S. climate action. In league with long-time climate science deniers in Congress, they launched an effort to keep the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Led by Alaska's Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), this politically motivated attack targets an "endangerment finding" announced by the EPA on Dec. 7. Sen. Murkowski, aided by Sen. Lindsay Graham and others, are trying to pass a resolution that would nullify this finding.

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16 December 2009, 4:06 PM
U.S. leadership on global warming threatened by compromise in Congress
A coal-fired power plant.

Becoming a grandfather is cause for celebration, unless you're a coal-fired power plant.

Coal plants that predate the Clean Air Act have become the mules of air pollution—set in their ways and not liable to change. Exploiting their "grandfathered" status, these coal plants have refused to implement technologies that are currently available to reduce pollution.

Now, Congress seems determined to let these dinosaurs off the hook all over again.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency's recent Clean Air Act endangerment finding prescribes a strong antidote to global warming pollution—a fact President Obama will surely highlight tomorrow on the final day of climate negotiations in Copenhagen—a political compromise over coal plants threatens to bind EPA's hands just as it begins to act.

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