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In Conversation

What Does The 2016 Election Mean For The Environment?

Earthjustice’s courtroom fights remain the last lines of defense for many of our crucial public health protections and the nation’s cornerstone environmental laws. No one is above the law. What Earthjustice does—go to court to force government action, make polluters clean up their messes, and hold dirty energy industries accountable—is now more important than ever. Trip Van Noppen, Earthjustice President, spoke with Martin Hayden, VP of Policy & Legislation, and Abigail Dillen, VP of Litigation for Climate & Energy, on what lies ahead for Earthjustice. This conversation, a teleconference with Earthjustice members, was held on November 15 and moderated by Minna Jung, VP of Communications.

The Speakers:
Trip Van Noppen.
Trip Van Noppen President
Abigail Dillen.
Abigail Dillen VP of Litigation, Climate & Energy
Martin Hayden.
Martin Hayden VP, Policy & Legislation
Minna Jung.
Minna Jung VP, Communications

Conversation Highlights:

When presidential transitions take place, the role of the courts become all the more clear, and all the more vital and essential.

Trip Van Noppen:

We at Earthjustice have confronted presidential administrations and executive branches in the past that were hostile to environmental progress. We have worked through many presidential transitions, going back to the Carter to Reagan transition, and moving forward to the Clinton to Bush transition. And now this one.

When transitions have taken place, the role of the courts become all the more clear, and all the more vital and essential. That will certainly be true as we move forward to defend the fundamental laws that we have, to defend the recent policy gains, and to defend access to the courts themselves—the basic right of citizens to use the courts will be in jeopardy.

We are ready for it, and it is what we know very well how to do. If you know this organization, you know that during the entire eight years of the George W. Bush administration, we successfully overturned dozens of attempted environmental rollbacks, when the executive branch adopted regulations that violated the underlying laws, or failed to act in the way that the underlying laws require. We expect to have that kind of thing happen again.

We're proud of the role we've played in the past on this. And we're confident of the role we'll play in the future.

Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg gives oral arguments at the New York State Court of Appeals in a case determining the right of towns to ban oil and gas development within their borders.
Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice
Deborah Goldberg, Managing Attorney of the Northeast office, gives oral arguments at the New York State Court of Appeals in a case determining the right of towns to ban oil and gas development within their borders. Learn more

The Trump campaign never had any detailed substantive positions on energy, climate, or the environment in its public materials. But we know that the president-elect himself, his supporters, and the Republican party platform have very explicitly expressed a great deal of hostility to the goals that we all have been proceeding to accomplish through the life of this organization and through the last few years.

On climate change, the president-elect and his campaign were very explicit about overturning the Clean Power Plan, removing the United States from the Paris international climate agreement, overturning the very important water rule that the administration finalized in 2015, and stimulating a fossil-fuel energy development revolution in the country, promising to restore coal, oil drilling and gas drilling on public lands, in the oceans, and elsewhere.

We've also seen since the election that the transition team for the future of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is headed by a very prominent, very outspoken climate change skeptic, Myron Ebell. So that's a sign that this was not just campaign rhetoric and is indeed serious.

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The courts are a level playing field. They are the best place to fight back against overwhelming financial and political influence disparities.

Trip Van Noppen:

When we're in federal court, the amount of corporate contributions or the amount of TV advertising that's taken place don't matter. It is the place that is the most level playing field.

We can have two lawyers from Earthjustice in the court on one side of the room, and two dozen lawyers from the oil companies, federal governments, state governments, trade associations on the other side of the room—but it's a level playing field because the judge is listening to the facts, interpreting the law, and deciding the agency or the company violated the law based on the facts and the law. The innuendo doesn't matter. The facts matter. It's not like a political debate where, apparently, the facts can have no bearing at all.

Our underlying environmental laws are quite strong. And federal court judges are not shy about enforcing them. They're viewing their roles as 'law enforcer', not as whether they're environmentalists or not. It hasn't really mattered, historically, what their views are about any particular environmental issue. It has to do with their view of the law and their role as judges to interpret and apply the law, no mater who's violating it.

And that's why we win cases in courts all over the country, at all levels.

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Our values of partnership and justice at Earthjustice cause us to stand in solidarity with all who are speaking out against racism and bigotry.

Trip Van Noppen:

This is a crucial time for our planet; it's a crucial time for our country; and it's a crucial time for our communities. It is a good time for us all to be all together and in conversation.

This election outcome is bigger than Earthjustice, and it's bigger than the environment. We stand in solidarity with a much broader effort to hold on to the values and the fundamental laws that we have and the policy gains that have been made across many issue areas throughout recent times and including, in particular, during the recent administration.

Our values of partnership and justice at Earthjustice cause us to stand in solidarity with everyone else who is speaking out against the racism, bigotry, misogyny, anti-immigrant, and religious bigotry that have often be expressed by or have been implicit in the statements of the president-elect, his campaign, and his allies and supporters, some of which we continue to hear today, that's fundamentally at odds with our mission to protect the right to a healthy environment for all people.

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What lies ahead for Earthjustice?

Trip Van Noppen:

In the immediate remaining two months of the Obama administration, we will be smart and aggressive about getting all the last remaining last policy gains that we can. The president and his staff have promised to stay hard at work on that agenda right up until Inauguration Day. And we are working on many vital issues.

Probably the most high profile is trying to secure permanent withdrawal of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from future oil drilling; we're working with a broad coalition on that. We're also working for a positive decision in our work with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on the Dakota Access pipeline. And there are many others.

Jan Hasselman, Staff Attorney in the Northwest office, speaks outside the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on September 6 following a hearing in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's fight against the Dakota Access pipeline.
Michael Kennedy for Earthjustice
Jan Hasselman, Staff Attorney in the Northwest office, speaks outside the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on September 6 following a hearing in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's fight against the Dakota Access pipeline. Learn more

But as we do this kind of work, we will be smart about it; we don't want to push the administration to do something that would be quickly overturned by the new Congress in a way that would cause lasting damage to the law and to the ability of a subsequent administration to make progress. We need to not only be aggressive, but also to be smart on what we are acting on.

We will look to re-tool our organization for defense of our basic values, of our environmental laws and policies, and the environmental gains and health protections that we've worked to secure over the last eight years.

Many of our lawyers and advocates have been working on a proactive federal policy agenda that now faces some roadblocks. We will deploy all of our resources—litigation, policy, advocacy and communications—to maximum effect, to defend our laws and policies. This means working with existing partners and cultivating new ones, across the board of all issues we work on: climate change policies, energy development policies, clean energy policies, air and water pollution, toxic chemicals and pesticides, protecting public lands, wildlife and oceans. All those have significant federal policy agendas, and are items we're working on and will need to defend as the new administration takes place.

This is a long-term, full four-year effort. This isn't something that begins and ends in the first 100 days of the administration. While there will be some big policy signals and some dramatic actions early, much of this will be grinding along over the next four years.

Defense is not enough. We need to find the ways where we can still make forward progress. The problems are too great to rely on defense for the next four years and live with the current status quo.

There are places and venues where we can continue to make progress. In recent years on clean energy issues, because of the vacuum of federal policy driving the transformation of our electric grid and energy system, we have become much more involved in many states, particularly in their utilities commissions. There are fruitful avenues for additional work in many of the states—not only in the utilities commissions, but in other state court and state legislature venues, where we have not been heavily invested. We have not yet been a major player in the state-level environmental coalitions, even in some of the states where we've been very busy in federal law issues and federal land protections. But we have offices around the country with the capability to get much more involved in states where progress can be fruitful.

Adrian Martinez, Staff Attorney in the Los Angeles location of the California office, at Porter Ranch, California. Martinez assisted Porter Ranch community members as they went before the South Coast Air Quality Management District hearing board.
Dave Getzschman for Earthjustice
Adrian Martinez, Staff Attorney in the Los Angeles location of the California office, at Porter Ranch, California. Martinez assisted Porter Ranch community members as they went before the South Coast Air Quality Management District hearing board. Learn more

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U.S. energy policy is a function of what states and cities do. State energy proceedings are places where good lawyers make the difference between good decisions and bad ones. And we are making that difference.

Abigail Dillen:

We have robust work going on in the energy sphere in many states—that's where we've had to work in the absence of comprehensive federal legislation—and not only for that reason: the way that we make energy policy in this country (which is to say, the decisions about what kind of energy we're going to use: fossil fuels or genuinely clean energy) those are decisions that are largely made by state regulators and largely made in energy commissions.

U.S. energy policy is a function of what states do and of what cities do. Energy commissions tell utilities companies, our power companies, what they can and can't do, what they can and can't charge us as customers.

And the way they make those decisions are in trial-type proceedings, where we have a right to intervene, to be at the table and to make a case—with evidence, with experts, where we can cross-examine what hostile utilities are saying when they say that they have to put more money into old coal plants or build new gas plants, rather than investing in the clean energy of the future. These are places where good lawyers make the difference between good decisions and bad ones. And we are making that difference.

In states that matter more than ever after we've seen the results of this election, we've been working for many years in the Midwest—Michigan, Indiana—in Kentucky and in West Virginia, forums that are generally considered tough venues for progressive environmental policies, but we have been winning very important decisions and blocking investments in new and existing coal-fired power plants. And we expect that to continue. This hasn't been a function of intervention by the Obama administration—we have been capitalizing on the alignment of environmental and economic arguments. That's just a fancy way of saying: clean energy is cheaper than coal power at this point. And it's quickly becoming competitive, and sometimes cheaper, than gas power.

We've also been making enormous headway against utilities' efforts to block the rise of solar energy and other distributed resources. We've kept in place policies that reward rooftop solar customers, reward investments in energy efficiency, in states from New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, to Massachusetts—and of course in the leader states of California and New York, where we can make vanguard progress. In a state like California, one of the largest economies of the world, as we push the envelope to invest in energy storage and scale up the solutions that will be relevant around the world, we're making the difference that matters, not only in the U.S., but globally. These are the kind of wins that we will keep delivering in these next four years, because we still have key structural advantages.

Shannon Fisk, Managing Attorney of the Coal Program, during proceedings in Ohio to fight proposals by utilities that could cost customers billions of dollars, while guaranteeing profits for corporate shareholders
Courtesy of 'Years of Living Dangerously'
Shannon Fisk, Managing Attorney of the Coal Program, during proceedings in Ohio to fight proposals by utilities that could cost customers billions of dollars, while guaranteeing profits for corporate shareholders. Learn more

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Earthjustice will keep delivering clean energy progress.

Abigail Dillen:

One of the key structural advantages we have to continue clean energy progress is that dirty energy is dirty. We have been able, over the last eight years—and about 15 years of litigation prior to that—to start forcing fossil fuel power to internalize its own costs.

There's been a lot of talk about how this Trump administration could dismantle all of the progress of the Obama administration. But when we're talking about basic Clean Air Act protections, basic Clean Water Act protections, those are rules that will take significant process to undo, and I think the courts will hear very favorably that we can't have a vacuum of basic health and safety protections while the Trump administration tries to revisit those. We will have very powerful arguments against weakening them, both in the courts and in the court of public opinion.

Secondly, we have market forces on our side. Clean energy is cheap. And there's a big world of investors who recognize it as the future and who are investing in these solutions. And that means we have allies in industry. This isn't environmentalists against all of the job-creating and economic forces in the country. We have more jobs in the solar industry than in the coal mining industry, a fact that President Obama has liked to tout. But there are so many more positive news than that.

Solar, demand-response—these are all burgeoning industries that are creating jobs and that have powerful allies on their side, including big industrial manufacturers and major retailers like Walmart, who love the cheap electricity that renewables can provide.

Isaac Moriwake, Staff Attorney in the Mid-Pacific office, stands on the roof of his home in Oahu. In July, Earthjustice and clean energy advocates prevailed when Hawai‘i’s Public Utilities Commission rejected the $4.3 billion sale of the state’s main utility company to out-of-state profiteers.
Matt Mallams for Earthjustice
Isaac Moriwake, Staff Attorney in the Mid-Pacific office, stands on the roof of his home in Oahu. In July, Earthjustice and clean energy advocates prevailed when Hawai‘i’s Public Utilities Commission rejected the $4.3 billion sale of the state’s main utility company to out-of-state profiteers. Learn more

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We cannot afford to wait four years to act on climate. We will act as quickly as we can.

Abigail Dillen:

This year, many people have come to feel a sense of urgency in the face of climate change. The kind of awareness and the kind of global response that we've seen to the climate change threat has been extraordinary. So for most of us, the prospect of four years of moving backwards—or even staying in place—is simply untenable. In the U.S., we are slated to commitment 20% of the overall emissions reductions that are contemplated in the Paris Agreement. We need to deliver on that, and we need to do so much more.

That's why Earthjustice is not going to be satisfied with just a defense role. We are going to be actively forwarding progress here in the U.S., and working very closely with counterparts abroad to ensure that we're making all the progress we can around the world.

Adrienne Bloch, Fossil Fuel Staff Attorney in the California office, near Mosier, Oregon, following the derailment of an oil train on June 3.
Photo by Earthjustice
Adrienne Bloch, Senior Fossil Fuels Attorney in the California office, near Mosier, Oregon, following the derailment of an oil train on June 3. Earthjustice attorneys have been at the forefront of the battle to stop proposed fossil fuel export terminals in the Pacific Northwest fed by railways. Of six proposed coal export terminals in Oregon and Washington, Earthjustice and our coalition partners have now stopped five. Learn more

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We will leverage our international work to advance progress and make a global impact.

Abigail Dillen:

The world is watching the U.S., and we can be helpful in informing the world about what's happening here and enlisting their support. We do this all the time when we work successfully abroad to shine an international spotlight on things we think are going wrong and to pressure foreign governments to act differently—we know this playbook.

There are two obvious opportunities for us to expand our international work. One is to do more work abroad to support efforts that will advance progress in many things, particularly on climate. Our International Program has good work of that kind underway in many of the top-emitting and some of the top fossil-fuel producing countries, like Australia on coal. But there's also another opportunity of bringing the gravitas of international law home to the U.S., if indeed we see what we're expecting—or at least preparing for an unprecedented assault on our environmental laws and our human right to a healthy environment.

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Trip Van Noppen:

We're going to look at every other nook and cranny for where we can make a difference. We may be looking at opportunities internationally—we've expanded our international work, taking the fight against coal to many other countries, and supporting lawyers and activists in other countries who are opposing coal mining and coal-burning power plants. There is more of that work that we can be doing and making a global impact.

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Rules that implement the Endangered Species Act and other bedrock environmental laws may be attacked. But we will be there waiting for them on the other side, in court.

Martin Hayden:

The Secretary of the Interior does not have the power to change the law. In other words, they cannot change the Endangered Species Act unilaterally.

They can change the regulations that implement that Act. But any change in regulations has to go through public notice and comment rulemaking—and will also be susceptible to legal challenges by us, at the end of the day, once those rules go 'final.' This was the primary role that Earthjustice played in knocking out almost all of President George W. Bush's rollbacks that he tried to do with his entire tenure, and, I would add, particularly within the space of issues in the Interior Department.

From an agency perspective (as Congress can change the laws), for rules coming out of the EPA, if a rule has come together through the regular rulemaking process, unless Congress changes that process, they have to follow the same way to undo it. George W. Bush tried to make a lot of shortcuts (and these guys may make the same choice)—and we successfully met them in the courts. [Note: Agency policies and guidance are less durable than formal rules, as they did not have to go through the rulemaking process to be created and that isn’t required to change them either.]

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There will be threats to our public lands on how they’re managed and how they’re used.

Trip Van Noppen:

There is strong public support for keeping the public lands public. The threat of selling off our public lands is something that would get a lot of pushback from that public. As a national issue, that would have to happen through Congress. While there's a lot of rhetoric around it and there's strong support for it in a few places in the West, there's no national support for it.

There will be threats to the public lands on how they're managed and how they're used. There will be threats to open them up to more development of different kinds, and we will be resisting. Our focus and our strength is working on national and state-level policies that affect how lands are managed and how species are protected across all kinds of lands.

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Martin Hayden:

While there will undoubtedly be bills that want to try to give lands away, I think the power of the White House will line up more behind more drilling, more mining, more logging proposals in various and sundry vehicles.

We work with on-the-ground partners for an economically just transition and to fight energy poverty.

Abigail Dillen:

An economically just transition is one of the most important questions facing the whole progressive community, and this election has underscored that. The most important thing that could happen in Coal Country right now, is for Republicans and Democrats alike to step up and to start putting money for the inevitable transition that's underway—for re-training, to revitalize that economy.

Earthjustice is working within the constraints that we have to address this question in some way. As coal companies go bankrupt, we are intervening in those bankruptcies and trying to ensure—and having some success—that these companies are not leaving behind environmental devastation, un-reclaimed mines, for communities and under-resourced states to clean up (or, more unfortunately, to not clean up) and to make sure clean up is ongoing. And we're getting some creative agreements that are putting out-of-work miners to work on reclamation. These are good jobs that are delivering real environmental gains.

The other thing that we're doing is making common cause with consumer groups and others who do recognize that coal is not going to be fueling the economy in states like West Virginia, and that there needs to be an energy transition. One of the worst things that could happen is that all the benefits of clean energy accrue in places like California, and all the losses that go with the transition are felt in West Virginia.

So we're working with local groups, such as West Virginia Sun, who are interested in avoiding extremely high electricity bills, relative to incomes there. (We see energy poverty in West Virginia that is just astonishing—some people are paying 40% of their paycheck just to keep the lights on and their homes heated.) At the same time, the groups see the possibility of jobs that clean energy can bring. We're working with these groups, in the commissions, to get new clean energy—and solar, in particular—projects approved, and to stop investment in the most expensive, dirty, old coal plants that are leaving people with electricity bills that they cannot afford to pay.

Jessica Ennis of Earthjustice, foreground left, Robin Dutta, representative for MD D.C. VA Solar Energy Industries Association, middle, and Luke Clippinger, Maryland delegate for district 46, and sponsor of the community solar bill, outside of the Maryland State House in Annapolis on May 12, 2015, after the bill's signing.
Matt Roth for Earthjustice
Jessica Ennis, Senior Legislative Representative (second from left), Robin Dutta, representative for MD D.C. VA Solar Energy Industries Association, middle, and Luke Clippinger, Maryland delegate for district 46, and sponsor of the community solar bill, outside of the Maryland State House in Annapolis on May 12, 2015, after the bill's signing. Learn more

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On judicial vacancies and the courts.

Martin Hayden:

The Senate Judiciary Committee's strategy of obstruction—not just on the Supreme Court, but in the very slow drip of occasional nominees for the lower courts over the last few years—is unfortunately going to pay off. And President Trump is going to have a lot of seats he can fill.

Under the current rules, that the Democrats had changed, only Supreme Court [nominees] can be filibustered, not appellate and district court [nominees]. District courts have never really been filibustered, but appellate courts and U.S. District Court of Appeals have been.

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Trip Van Noppen:

President Obama has been able to get many judges confirmed at the district court and court of appeals level during the past eight years, even though the last two years have seen a massive slowdown. We have seen a very substantial shift in the make-up of many of the courts of appeals in the country during this past eight years, that will start to erode gradually over the next four years.

It's worth remembering that the most important court for many of our cases and our issues, the D.C. Circuit of Appeals—that hears all Clean Air Act cases, the Clean Power Plan, and many, many other environmental cases—has had all its vacancies filled and now has a strong majority of Democratic appointees, which was not the case for a long time. Similar patterns are true in many of the other circuits. So that is who we're dealing with now if we go to court right now, and the changes to that will be gradual over the next four years time, but not immediate.

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On the electorate and the environment.

Trip Van Noppen:

Fundamentally, this past election was not about the environment. There was very little actual campaign debate or scrutiny of environmental issues. There was almost no mention of climate change, and basically no mention at all of other environmental issues during the presidential debates. The environment was not a high profile part of either side's campaign discussions. There were very sharp, high profile divisions on other issues that occupied the public debate and that primarily motivated the voters.

I think it's always been true that the vast majority of Americans place a very high degree of importance on clean water, on clean air, and on protecting public lands. The challenge for us has been, not necessarily how does the public feel about these issues taken in isolation, but how do they rank them when they're deciding who to vote for, and on what issues will they base their vote. To the extent that we can keep working on those issues and do a better job of working in the places where there's a lot of potential to switch voters around, we will make progress.

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Minna Jung:

One of the strengths of Earthjustice is that we are very strong storytellers. These stories talk about the people at the heart of the environmental issues on which we litigate. These are people who are working on behalf of these environmental issues, to solve these environmental problems. And these are also the people who are most affected by these environmental harms.

Effective storytelling and very smart, targeted dissemination strategies will help to get the attention of the audiences that we need to reach in the next four years. But that being said, before we decide how we get to the audiences, we have to understand where they're coming from and what issues in the environment can motivate them to change a vote, or at least, act on the particular issues we need them to act on.

Andrea Delgado, Senior Legislative Representative on the Policy & Legislation team, consults with Clean Air Ambassadors, who were in Washington, D.C., to bring their stories to members of Congress. The ambassadors came from states across the country to join in the work to secure stronger clean air protections.
Matt Roth for Earthjustice
Andrea Delgado, Senior Legislative Representative on the Policy & Legislation team, consults with Clean Air Ambassadors, who were in Washington, D.C., to bring their stories to members of Congress. The ambassadors came from states across the country to join in the work to secure stronger clean air protections. See their stories

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Both state and federal elections in 2018 will be of tremendous significance.

Martin Hayden:

In the Senate, Democrats will be defending 23 [Democratic] seats [and two Independent seats], versus only eight for the Republicans; so it's a cycle where the Republicans have an advantage. And a number of the most vulnerable Democratic seats are in states that Trump won this year.

So the key thing, for not just Earthjustice, but for the whole environmental community, is to hold senators both accountable to the environmental votes when they come (and then show them the appreciation for doing the right thing), but also help them do the right thing by generating support for the positions we're asking them to take from their constituents.

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Trip Van Noppen:

During 2018, the majority of the country's governors will be up for election or re-election—there will be vacant seats of incumbents running for re-election. So, the state governments will be crucial in the scenario we're talking about because of roadblocks in federal policy during what we expect of the Trump administration.

It's very important to be thinking about state-level elections during 2018 on their own terms, because of wanting to have pro-environmental policies in the state-level, but also because after 2020, these state governors and legislatures will control the post-2020 redistricting of the federal House as well as the state-level legislative seats. The parties in power in the various states for the redistricting after 2020 is one of the very fundamental things about our future that we have to keep our eye on.

I encourage everyone to think about what state elections will mean in 2018, as well as the federal ones.

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There are very important environmental laws on the books that haven't always been brought down to the community level and enforced.

Abigail Dillen:

One thing is clear from this past election: there are a lot of communities in this country who felt left behind.

The truth is that we do have very important environmental laws that are on the books that haven't always been brought down to the community level and enforced. And Flint [in Michigan] is the most high profile and one of the most tragic examples. But it is not anomalous.

Earthjustice already recognizes that we want to put more resources into making sure that the standards for clean air, for clean water, for effective public investment in infrastructure that creates jobs—that all of those things actually happen and come to life off the page, so we are working much more directly with communities. It is important that we go to places where our message isn't getting heard, and not only build bridges, but actually give service and make changes that will be recognized.

Marianne Engelman Lado, Senior Staff Attorney in the Northeast office (left), and client Esther Calhoun stand on train tracks that brought toxic coal ash to Perry County, predominantly African-American and one of the lowest-income in Alabama.
Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice
Marianne Engelman Lado, Senior Staff Attorney in the Northeast office (left), and client Esther Calhoun stand on train tracks that brought toxic coal ash to Perry County, predominantly African-American and one of the lowest-income in Alabama. Learn more

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Action is the answer. We will be working with all of you and with all of our allies to preserve everything we can, and to continue to make progress. Thank you.

Trip Van Noppen:

No matter how you feel about this election personally, and in terms of your values and our collective values, despair is not the answer. Action is the answer. We will be working with all of you and with all of our allies—the ones we have currently, and many new allies—to preserve everything we can, and to continue to make progress.

It's important that the Obama administration hear from you in the remaining sixty days, on the things that you care about and that you want to see them doing. There are action items that you can find at earthjustice.org/action.

They need to hear from people to support the final steps that they want to and can still take. Over the next four years, there will be many, many times when the administration in a decision-making context is taking comments on actions, and the comments that are in the record matter—they matter for future litigation, they matter for members of Congress, and members of the executive branch are gauging public opinion.

So when you have action alerts coming to you from Earthjustice, please act on them, because they do matter. There will be calls to contact senators because an attack on the fundamental laws are taking place, and we need those votes to block those attacks. It will be very important for your senator to hear from you when that's taking place. Be heard at the federal level in these kinds of ways.

And, it's increasingly important for people to be directly, personally involved in their local and state elections, and local and state environmental issues. We're going to need some ground-up rebuilding after this election. Thank you for all that you already do, and for thinking about new ways that you can take action.

Thank you for your friendship and support to Earthjustice.

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Minna Jung: Hello and welcome to an Earthjustice Member Teleconference. I’m Minna Jung, the Vice President of Communications for Earthjustice. We host these teleconferences regularly so that all of our supporters can learn more about the specific issues Earthjustice fights for, such as clean energy, healthy communities, and protecting wild lands and wildlife.

For today’s call, our plan all along had been to focus on the results of the 2016 election and what those results mean for the environment. And now, one week past from the election results, we have had to adjust our plans on what we were going to cover today, to talk about the result that seemingly no one anticipated: President-elect Donald Trump.

So we have switched up our program and speakers. First, you will hear from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen on what lies ahead for Earthjustice under a Trump administration. Then, you will hear from Vice President of Litigation for Climate & Energy Abbie Dillen on what options lie ahead for Earthjustice in focusing more on state-level work. And, Vice President of Policy and Legislation Marty Hayden will answer your more detailed questions about federal policies in the new administration.

Minna Jung: Trip, let’s start with what Earthjustice has already said publicly about the election results. Your statement on Earthjustice’s website says some negative things about President-elect Trump. “Gravely concerned,” was how you described our reaction to last week’s election results. Can you go a little deeper into that, and talk about what that grave concern is based on?

Trip Van Noppen: Thank you to everyone who is joining us on the call today. This is a crucial time for our planet; it's a crucial time for our country; and it's a crucial time for our communities. And so it is a good time for us all to be all together and in conversation.

This election outcome is bigger than Earthjustice, and it's bigger than the environment. We stand in solidarity with a much broader effort to hold on to the values and the fundamental laws that we have and the policy gains that have been made across many issue areas throughout recent times and including, in particular, during the recent administration.

Our values of partnership and justice at Earthjustice cause us to stand in solidarity with everyone else who is speaking out against the racism, bigotry, misogyny, anti-immigrant, and religious bigotry that have often be expressed by or have been implicit in the statements of the president-elect, his campaign, and his allies and supporters, some of which we continue to hear today, that's fundamentally at odds with our mission to protect the right to a healthy environment for all people.

In terms of the specific environmental positions and plans of the incoming administration, as you all know very well, there was very little actual campaign debate or scrutiny of these issues. There was almost no mention of climate change, and basically no mention at all of other environmental issues during the presidential debates. The Trump campaign never had any detailed substantive positions on energy, climate, or the environment in its public materials. But we know that the president-elect himself, his supporters, and the Republican party platform have very explicitly expressed a great deal of hostility to the goals that we all have been proceeding to accomplish through the life of this organization and through the last few years.

On climate change, the president-elect and his campaign were very explicit about overturning the Clean Power Plan, removing the United States from the Paris international climate agreement, overturning the very important water rule that the administration has fairly recently finalized, and stimulating a fossil-fuel energy development revolution in the country, promising to restore coal, oil drilling and gas drilling on public lands, in the oceans, and elsewhere.

We've also seen since the election that the transition team for the future of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is headed by a very prominent, very outspoken climate change skeptic, Myron Ebell. So that's a sign that this was not just campaign rhetoric and is indeed serious.

We at Earthjustice have confronted presidential administrations and executive branches in the past that were hostile to environmental progress. We have worked through many presidential transitions, going back to the Carter to Reagan transition, and moving forward to the Clinton to Bush transition. And now this one. When those types of transitions have taken place, the role of the courts become all the more clear, and all the more vital and essential. That will certainly be true as we move forward to defend the fundamental laws that we have, to defend the recent policy gains, and to defend access to the courts themselves—the basic right of citizens to use the courts will be in jeopardy.

That's the basic picture, and that is why we're concerned.

Minna: You have already alluded to what Earthjustice has gone through before, dealing with administrations and government leaders that are hostile to the environment on many levels. What do you see as Earthjustice's role in the coming days, months, and weeks. What lies ahead for the organization, and what are the next steps?

Trip: Right after the election last Thursday, we convened an all-day meeting of our senior staff. It was followed by an all-day meeting of our Board. All of that was to develop an action plan for this coming period of time that we're talking about. The senior staff has solidly embraced the plan that the Board has endorsed and enthusiastically supported. The plan has three phases.

The first phase is the immediate two remaining months of the Obama administration. We want to be smart and aggressive about getting all the last remaining last policy gains that we can, during the last two months of this administration. The president and his staff have promised to stay hard at work on that agenda right up until Inauguration Day. And we are working on many vital issues.

Probably the most high profile is trying to secure permanent withdrawal of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from future oil drilling; we're working with a broad coalition on that. We're also working for a positive decision in our work with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on the Dakota Access pipeline. And there are many others.

But as we do this kind of work, we want to be smart about it; we don't want to push the administration to do something that would be quickly overturned by the new Congress in a way that would cause lasting damage to the law and to the ability of a subsequent administration to make progress. We need not only to be aggressive, but to also be smart on what we are acting on.

Phase two is to re-tool our organization for defense of our basic values, of our environmental laws and policies, and the environmental gains and health protections that we've worked to secure over the last eight years.

Obviously, many of our lawyers and advocates have been working on a proactive federal policy agenda that now faces some roadblocks. We will deploy all of our resources—litigation, policy, advocacy and communications that work on federal policy issues—to maximum effect, to defend our laws and policies. This means working with existing partners and cultivating new ones, across the board of all issues we work on—climate change policies, energy development policies, clean energy policies, air and water pollution, toxic chemicals and pesticides, protecting public lands, wildlife and oceans. All those have significant federal policy agendas, and are items we're working on and will need to defend as the new administration takes place.

This is a long-term, full four-year effort. This isn't something that begins and ends in the first 100 days of the administration. It will take them time to get organized. They don't come in with a ready team to take action on everything they're trying to do. The Congress will have to get organized, so while there will be some big policy signals and some dramatic actions early, much of this will be grinding along over the next four years.

We are ready for it, and it is what we know very well how to do. If you know this organization, you know that during the entire eight years of the George W. Bush administration, we successfully overturned dozens of attempted environmental rollbacks, when the executive branch adopted regulations that violated the underlying laws, or failed to act in the way that the underlying laws require. We expect to have that kind of thing happen again.

It is the role that people expect of us. Our partners throughout the environmental community are looking to us for this. We heard at our Board dinner on Friday night, a speaker refer to our role here as the "tip of the spear of defense against attempted rollbacks." We're proud of the role we've played in the past on this. And we're confident of the role we'll play in the future.

One caveat to that is the threat to access to the courts. There has been, for a long time among our opponents, an attempt to restrict the right of citizens to use the federal courts to enforce the law against agencies that are breaking the law or that are not enforcing the law against polluters. That comes in the shape of legislation restricting the power of courts to use remedies in certain kinds of cases, restrict the awards of attorneys fees when we prove that the agency or polluter violated the law, and restrict citizen standing. It's been a very aggressive program, and it hasn't succeeded in many bills; that has been prevented from occurring because of the Senate. That effort will accelerate; there will be an executive branch in sympathy to that. We will be fighting alongside not just our environmental allies, but all of our allies who use public interest litigation as a tool—groups like the ACLU, Public Citizen, public interest trial lawyers, and many, many others. We are already in coalition with them, but it will need to be a much more robust effort.

The third part of our action plan– the first part being the remaining Obama administration, and the second part being our classic role of defense—is that defense is not enough. We need to find the ways where we can still make forward progress. The problems are too great to rely on defense for the next four years and live with the current status quo.

There are places and venues where we can continue to make progress. In recent years on clean energy issues, because of the vacuum of federal policy driving the transformation of our electric grid and energy system, we have become much more involved in many states, particularly in their utilities commissions. There are fruitful avenues for additional work in many of the states—not only in the utilities commissions, but in other state court and state legislature venues, where we have not been heavily invested. We have not yet been a major player in the state-level environmental coalitions, even in some of the states where we've been very busy in federal law issues and federal land protections. We have offices around the country with the capability to get much more involved in states where progress can be fruitful. Obviously, that will be true in more of the so-called "Blue States." But not only in the "Blue States"; there are pockets of possibilities among many different states, depending on the issue.

This shift won't happen overnight, but we're beginning to map out what that will be and what may involve. In addition, we're going to look at every other nook and cranny for where we can make a difference. We may be looking at opportunities internationally—we've expanded our international work, taking the fight against coal to many other countries, and supporting lawyers and activists in other countries who are opposing coal mining and coal-burning power plants. There is more of that work that we can be doing and making a global impact.

Minna: Abbie, Trip just gave insight into what it looks like to not just play defense, but also to play offense and to work more at the state-level. Give us sense of what that would look like based on our previous experience of working in states, the signs of optimism in terms of making a difference at that level, and—given the fact that we already have regional offices—what are the differences between where we're trying to get to, versus what we're doing now.

Abigail Dillen: We have robust work going on in the energy sphere in states for the reason that Trip said—that's where we've had to work in the absence of comprehensive federal legislation—and not only for that reason: the way that we make energy policy in this country—which is to say, the decisions about what kind of energy we're going to use, fossil fuels or genuinely clean energy—those are decisions that are largely made by state regulators and largely made in energy commissions. This is where we've needed to work, and it means that we have existing resources that are in the form of great lawyers, great communicators and great policy lobbyists (who are increasingly working in statehouses), who are ready to scale up. There's already been a substantial investment.

This year has been so remarkable in many ways, but not in the least in a sense of urgency that so many people have come to feel in the face of climate change. The kind of awareness and the kind of global response that we've seen to the climate change threat has been extraordinary. So for most of us, the prospect of four years of moving backwards—or even staying in place—is simply untenable.

As negotiators meeting in Marrakech now [for the UN climate conference] are wondering what the role of the United States will be, I'm glad to have the opportunity to speak with you. I hope we will spread the word—I hope we'll spread it around the world—that U.S. energy policy is a function of what states do and of what cities do. The people who are on the frontlines of protecting us in the face of climate change, are by and large very motivated to do so.

What does this state-level work look like? Energy commissions are basically telling utilities companies, our power companies, what they can and can't do, what they can and can't charge us as customers. And the way they make those decisions are in trial-type proceedings, where we have a right to intervene, to be at the table and to make a case—with evidence, with experts, where we can cross-examine what hostile utilities are saying when they say that they have to put more money into old coal plants or build new gas plants, rather than investing in the clean energy of the future. These are places where good lawyers make the difference between good decisions and bad ones. And we are making that difference.

In states that matter more than ever after we've seen the results of this election, we've been working for many years in the Midwest—Michigan, Indiana—in Kentucky and in West Virginia, forums that are generally considered tough venues for progressive environmental policies, but we have been winning very important decisions and blocking investments in new and existing coal-fired power plants. And we expect that to continue. This hasn't been a function of intervention by the Obama administration—we have been capitalizing on the alignment of environmental and economic arguments. That's just a fancy way of saying: clean energy is cheaper than coal power at this point. And it's quickly becoming competitive, and sometimes cheaper, than gas power.

We've also been making enormous headway against utilities' efforts to block the rise of solar energy and other distributed resources. We've kept in place policies that reward rooftop solar customers, reward investments in energy efficiency, in states from New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, to Massachusetts—and of course in the leader states of California and New York, where we can make vanguard progress. In a state like California, one of the largest economies of the world, as we push the envelope to invest in energy storage and scale up the solutions that will be relevant around the world, we're making the difference that matters, not only in the U.S., but globally. These are the kind of wins that we will keep delivering in these next four years, because we still have key structural advantages.

The first advantage is that dirty energy is dirty. And it imposes costs on us. We have been able, over the last eight years—and about 15 years of litigation prior to that—to start forcing fossil fuel power to internalize its own costs. There's been a lot of talk about how this Trump administration could dismantle all of the progress of the Obama administration. But when we're talking about basic Clean Air Act protections, basic Clean Water Act protections, first of all, those are rules that will take significant process to undo, and I think the courts will hear very favorably that we can't have a vacuum of basic health and safety protections while the Trump administration tries to revisit those. We will have very powerful arguments against weakening them, both in the courts and in the court of public opinion.

We also have market forces on our side. Again, clean energy is cheap. And there's a big world of investors who recognize it as the future and who are investing in these solutions. And that means we have allies in industry. This isn't environmentalists against all of the job-creating and economic forces in the country. We have more jobs in the solar industry than in the coal mining industry, a fact that President Obama has liked to tout. But there are so many more positive news than that. Solar, demand-response—these are all burgeoning industries that are creating jobs and that have powerful allies on their side, including big industrial manufacturers and major retailers like Walmart, who love the cheap electricity that renewables can provide.

We have the opportunity with clean energy to build very strong coalitions of labor, of industry, of faith, of health groups that will create a bulwark against even the strongest efforts to revive the coal industry and put the wind at the back of other fossil fuels.

Minna: We would like to spend the rest of our time taking questions from our callers. The first two questions come from Anne, for Marty Hayden, Earthjustice's Vice President of Policy & Legislation. Her first question is, "How much power does the Secretary of Interior have?" And her second question is, "How much damage to the Environmental Protection Agency and to the Endangered Species Act can one four-year term do, regarding policies that we already have in place."

Martin Hayden: The Secretary of the Interior does not have the power to change the law. In other words, they cannot change the Endangered Species Act unilaterally.

They can change the regulations that implement that Act. But any change in regulations has to go through public notice and comment rulemaking—and will also be susceptible to legal challenges by us, at the end of the day, once those rules go 'final.' This, as Trip said earlier, was the primary role that Earthjustice played in knocking out almost all of President George W. Bush's rollbacks that he tried to do with his entire tenure, and, I would add, particularly within the space of issues in the Interior Department.

So, the upshot is that they can go after the rules that implement the Act. But we can be there waiting for them on the other side.

From an agency perspective (as Congress can change the laws), for rules coming out of the EPA, if a rule has come together through the regular rulemaking process, unless Congress changes that process, they have to follow the same way to undo it. George W. Bush tried to make a lot of shortcuts (and these guys may make the same choice)—and we successfully met them in the courts.

Minna: We've received a few questions about having President Obama establish National Monuments in specific places. Steven in Oregon asks, "Can you talk about the likelihood of National Monuments in the next 60 days?"

Marty: The likelihood is high that we are going to see more National Monuments out of the administration. I don't know we'll see everything we thought we would see, but I know that Bears Ears in Utah, the Grand Canyon, and Gold Butte in Nevada, are still very much in play inside the administration. And, there's the possible expansion of a National Monument out in Oregon that's also still in play, the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

Minna: Maria from New York asks, "We hear all the time about reaching the point of no return. Are we there yet? How close are we, and what is four years going to do in terms of delaying that?" I think the "point of no return" is referring to global warming, the two degree target and all the other different targets.

Abbie: We cannot afford to wait four years. I think we can take some part from the comments that Chinese diplomats are making right now about China's continuing commitment and eagerness to reduce emissions and be a leader on clean technologies. We're hearing very positive statements about the rest of the world's commitment to working on climate, no matter what the U.S. does. In the U.S., we are slated to commitment 20% of the overall emissions reductions that are contemplated in the Paris Agreement. We need to deliver on that, and we need to do so much more. Two degrees, I think, most people recognize is a somewhat arbitrary goal. 1.5 degrees is perhaps conservative enough.

Have we reached the "point of no return"? We have to recognize that all of these estimates and modeling are just that. We don't precisely understand how this is happening. What we do know is we keep hitting threshold milestones more quickly than we'd like to. This is a situation where we have to be acting as quickly as we can. We have to take the most conservative view of what's needed.

And that's why Earthjustice is not going to be satisfied with just a defense role. We are going to be actively forwarding progress here in the U.S., and working very closely with counterparts abroad to ensure that we're making all the progress we can around the world.

Minna: Eleanor from New York asks, "In two years, we have midterm elections for Congress. How much clout can Earthjustice generate in order to ensure good Democrats are up for the Senate in 2018, and to take it back." This question can be broadened to: how much clout can we generate to ensure strong environmental leaders are back in Congress as soon as possible?

Marty: The Democrats are defending, if I'm remembering correctly, 22 or 23 seats, versus only eight for the Republicans; so it's a cycle where the Republicans have an advantage. And a number of the most vulnerable Democratic seats are in states that Trump won this year.

So the key thing, for not just Earthjustice, but for the whole environmental community, is to hold senators—and I'm primarily focusing on the Senate here—both accountable to the environmental votes when they come (and then show them the appreciation for doing the right thing), but also help them do the right thing by generating support for the positions we're asking them to take from their constituents.

Trip: During 2018, the majority of the country's governors will be up for election or re-election—there will be vacant seats of incumbents running for re-election. So, the state governments will be crucial in the scenario we're talking about because of roadblocks in federal policy during what we expect of the Trump administration.

It's very important to be thinking about state-level elections during 2018 on their own terms because of wanting to have pro-environmental policies in the state-level, but also because after 2020, these state governors and legislatures will control the post-2020 redistricting of the federal House as well as the state-level legislative seats. The parties in power in the various states for the redistricting after 2020 is one of the very fundamental things about our future that we have to keep our eye on.

I encourage everyone to think about what state elections will mean in 2018, as well as the federal ones.

Minna: In a follow-up question to the forecasting that you just did in terms of what our focus will be and what our clout could be for the entire environmental movement, in terms of future elections. Deborah from California points out that, in the past, when we've faced formidable congressional odds, we've relied on a moderate Republican strategy to protect the environment. In terms of the future areas of focus that were just outlined, how much do all of our strategies have to change, now that we may not have this moderate Republican strategy to rely on going forward. And if there's something else we can do, what replaces that?

Marty: I can speak to that, during my career here in Washington, D.C., the moderate Republicans in both the House and Senate, have, frankly, been exterminated by their own party; they've been taken out in their primaries over the years, more than anything else. They're not in the numbers they used to be.

We are always fighting anti-environmental riders in the appropriations bills—and in the House Interior appropriations bill, this last time around, interestingly, we got some of our better votes out of Republicans than we've have in a long time. We got a number of votes, including on endangered species issues, that were in the twenties—in terms of getting up to mid-twenties of moderate Republicans voting with us. That is the trend I would like to see continue, because I would really like to rebuild that moderate base, and the community—not just Earthjustice—we do need to make common cause with more Republicans. That's not to make common cause with the far right wing, but those who are more moderate, not to be afraid to be moderate. That's been an issue for a long time.

In terms of what do we have to contend with today, particularly in the Senate, the filibuster is going to be key. Forcing the proponents of weakening our environmental laws and safeguards to get 60 votes. We have 48 Democrats still—though obviously not all of them vote with us every time. And there are still a handful of Republican votes (it will be hard to get more than one or two on most things in the Senate) that we occasionally get as well.

Minna: Pulling back a bit from the fight in Congress, Pamela from Texas states, "We can really leverage the international community, since Trump has essentially abdicated world leadership on this front." Do we have any thoughts or ideas about how we might do this, and be more on the international stage?

Abbie: We have a fantastic International Program. The good news is that we do have allies both in the diplomatic corps and within governments of foreign countries, as well as advocates (our counterparts) in many countries. The world is watching the U.S., and we can be helpful in informing the world about what's happening here and enlisting their support. We do this all the time when we work successfully abroad to shine an international spotlight on things we think are going wrong and to pressure foreign governments to act differently—we know this playbook.

We have not generally employed this strategy in the U.S., because the U.S. has not historically be tremendously responsive to that kind of pressure. But we're in uncharted territory now. I was just speaking this morning with the managing attorney of our International Program [Martin Wagner] about how we might be applying human rights law in the U.S. over the next four years.

There are two obvious opportunities for us internationally. One is to do more work abroad to support efforts that will advance progress in many things, particularly on climate. And we have good work of that kind underway in many of the top-emitting and some of the top fossil-fuel producing countries, like Australia on coal. But there's also this other opportunity of bringing the gravitas of international law home to the U.S., if indeed we see what we're expecting—or at least preparing for an unprecedented assault on our environmental laws and our human right to a healthy environment.

Minna: I'm struck by the fundamental point of this next question: Will from Florida asks, "How can we as individuals fight back against almost unlimited power and money in the fossil fuel industry?" The word that jumped out at me in the question was 'unlimited', as this is a challenge that Earthjustice is familiar with, in terms of facing interests that are far more well resourced than us.

Trip: That hits right on one of Earthjustice's strongest strengths. When we're in federal court, the amount of corporate contributions or the amount of TV advertising that's taken place don't matter. It is the place that is the most level playing field. We can have two lawyers from Earthjustice in the courtroom on one side of the room, and two dozen lawyers from the oil companies, federal governments, state governments, trade associations on the other side of the courtroom.

It's a level playing field because the federal judge is listening to the facts, interpreting the law, and deciding the agency or the company violated the law based on the facts and the law. The innuendo doesn't matter; the facts actually do matter there. It's not like a political debate where apparently the facts can have no bearing at all.

Our underlying environmental laws are quite strong. And federal court judges are not shy about enforcing them. They're viewing their roles as 'law enforcer', not as whether they're environmentalists or not. It hasn't really mattered, historically, what their views are about any particular environmental issue. It has to do with their view of the law and their role as judges to interpret and apply the law, no mater who's violating it. And that's why we win cases in courts all over the country, at all levels.

The courts are the best place to fight back against overwhelming financial and political influence disparities. We don't have same level playing field in Congress or in the executive branch.

Minna: Randy from Maryland asks, "What is Earthjustice doing to make it easier for folks who are adversely affected by our switch to clean energy—coal miners, for example?" This is a question about economically just transition, especially given our role in working for the clean energy transition.

Abbie: It's one of the most important questions facing the whole progressive community, and this election has underscored that. I don't want to overstate what Earthjustice can do, given what we're good at and given our power over where federal money goes. The most important thing that could happen in Coal Country right now, is for Republicans and Democrats alike to step up and to start putting money for the inevitable transition that's underway—for re-training, to revitalize that economy.

We are working within the constraints that we have to address this question in some way. As coal companies go bankrupt, we are intervening in those bankruptcies and trying to ensure—and having some success in this regard—that these companies are not leaving behind environmental devastation, un-reclaimed mines, for communities and under-resourced states to clean up (or, more unfortunately, to not clean up) and to make sure clean up is ongoing. And we're getting some creative agreements that are putting out-of-work miners to work on reclamation. These are good jobs that are delivering real environmental gains.

The other thing that we're doing is making common cause with consumer groups and others who do recognize that coal is not going to be fueling the economy in states like West Virginia, and that there needs to be an energy transition. One of the worst things that could happen is that all the benefits of clean energy accrue in places like California, and all the losses that go with the transition are felt in West Virginia.

So we're working with local groups, such as West Virginia Sun, who are interested in avoiding extremely high electricity bills, relative to incomes there. (We see energy poverty in West Virginia that is just astonishing—some people are paying 40% of their paycheck just to keep the lights on and their homes heated.) At the same time, the groups see the possibility of jobs that clean energy can bring. We're working with these groups, in the commissions, to get new clean energy—and solar, in particular—projects approved, and to stop investment in the most expensive, dirty, old coal plants that are leaving people with electricity bills that they cannot afford to pay.

Minna: This question asks something that I think we have all been examining: Cynthia from Virginia asks, "Are there any inroads to Trump supporters and their children, when it comes to environmental issues? And how can we get their attention so that they care about the environment?"

I would like to respond to this question from the communications perspective. There is a lot of processing going on in the world and in our country about trying to understand what's happened. I still think there are things we're learning about who supported President-elect Trump, and there are still a lot to learn about what was motivating them in terms of the vote. For example, I don't think it's possible to say that all of them don't care about the environment; we need to get a more sophisticated understanding of the attitudes towards different issues.

In terms of how we can get their attention so that they care about the environment, I think one of the strengths of Earthjustice in our communications is that we are very strong storytellers. The way we tell stories is to talk about the people at the heart of the environmental issues that we litigate. These are people who are working on behalf of these environmental issues, to solve these environmental problems. And these are also the people who are most affected by these environmental harms.

Effective storytelling and very smart, targeted dissemination strategies will help to get the attention of the audiences that we need to reach in the next four years. But that being said, before we decide how we get to the audiences, we have to understand where they're coming from and what issues in the environment can motivate them to change a vote, or at least, act on the particular issues we need them to act on.

Marty: And, where Donald Trump Jr.is concerned, we know he is an avid hunter and fisherman, and likes the outdoors. And he does have some relationship with some of the hunting and fishing groups out there. And that may be why, early in the campaign, shortly after the takeover of the [Malheur National Wildlife] refuge in Oregon, Donald Trump said something along the lines that he didn't support giving our public lands over to the states; that they're important for Americans. It was never quite clear what fell under his definition of "public lands," but that might be a reflection of his kids', particularly Donald Trump Jr. 's, affinity for the outdoors.

Abbie: I agree with Minna that there is a lot more to understand—but one thing is clear: there are a lot of communities in this country who felt left behind.

The truth is that we do have very important environmental laws that are on the books that haven't always been brought down to the community level and enforced. And Flint [in Michigan] is the most high profile and one of the most tragic examples. But it is not anomalous.

Earthjustice already recognizes that we want to put more resources into making sure that the standards for clean air, for clean water, for effective public investment in infrastructure that creates jobs—that all of those things actually happen and come to life off the page, so we are working much more directly with communities. It is important that we go to places where our message isn't getting heard, and not only build bridges, but actually give service and make changes that will be recognized.

Trip: Fundamentally, I don't think this election was about the environment. As I mentioned in the beginning, it was not a high profile part of either side's campaign discussions. There were very sharp, high profile divisions on other issues that occupied the public debate and that primarily motivated the voters.

I think it's always been true that the vast majority of Americans place a very high degree of importance on clean water, on clean air, and on protecting public lands. The challenge for us has been, not necessarily how does the public feel about these issues taken in isolation, but how do they rank them when they're deciding who to vote for, and on what issues will they base their vote. To the extent that we can keep working on those issues and do a better job of working in the places where there's a lot of potential to switch voters around, we will make progress.

Minna: Sandra in Massachusetts asks, "There are a number of judicial vacancies that have been going on since President Obama's administration. Does Obama have any clout during this lame duck session to make a difference on these judicial vacancies, or are his hands completely tied?"

Marty: Unfortunately, he doesn't, because it's up to the Senate Judiciary committee to confirm the nominees, which no one is expecting them to do. Their strategy of obstruction—not just on the Supreme Court, but the very slow, drip of occasional nominees for the lower courts over the last few years—is unfortunately going to pay off. And President Trump is going to have a lot of seats he can fill.

Under the current rules (and I expect the new Congress will keep it the same, at first) that the Democrats had changed, you can only filibuster the Supreme Court [nominees], but not appellate and district court [nominees]. District courts [nominees] have never really been filibustered, but appellate courts and U.S. District Court of Appeals have been.

Trip: To reflect back a moment, the president has been able to get many judges confirmed at the district court and court of appeals level, during the past eight years, even though the last two years have been a massive slowdown, as Marty noted. We have seen a very substantial shift in the make-up of many of the courts of appeals in the country during this past eight years, that will start to erode gradually over the next four years, in the scenario that Marty has just described.

It's worth remembering that the most important court for many of our cases and our issues, the D.C. Circuit of Appeals—that hears all Clean Air Act cases, the Clean Power Plan, and many, many other environmental cases—has had all its vacancies filled and now has a strong majority of Democratic appointees, which was not the case for a long time. Similar patterns are true in many of the other circuits. So that is who we're dealing with now if we go to court right now, and the changes to that will be gradual over the next four years time, but not immediate.

Minna: We've had a bundle of questions about public lands. Jay from Idaho asks, "What's the potential for the transfer of public lands from federal government to state governments?" And, Barbara from New York asks, "Regarding the Endangered Species Act, can we switch strategy to buying the land like the Nature Conservancy does? Can we compensate land owners so that they are incentivized to care about species on their lands?" These are the types of questions about the threats to public lands that many of us are seeing.

Trip: There's strong public support for keeping the public lands public. And the threat of selling them off is something that would get a lot of pushback from that public. As a national issue, that would have to happen through Congress. While there's a lot of rhetoric around it, and there's strong support for it in a few places in the West, there's no national support for it. And as Marty indicated, the president-elect has already spoken to that issue a bit.

There will be threats to the public lands on how they're managed and how they're used. There will be threats to open them up to more development of different kinds, and we will be resisting. But I don't expect to be speaking to you four years from now in a context in which significant amounts of public lands were sold off to states or private buyers.

In terms of buying land, that's not something Earthjustice would do. There are groups like the Nature Conservancy, as you mentioned, and lots and lots of local land trusts that do that. And there's certainly a lot of value to continue to do that. Our focus and our strength is working on national and state-level policy that affects how lands are managed and how species are protected across all kinds of lands.

And on the Endangered Species Act and compensation for land owners question, there are a variety of compensation mechanisms in which landowners get benefits for protecting wildlife and endangered species on their land, ranging from tax incentives for managing the land in a way that is friendly to wildlife, to direct reimbursement, for example if an endangered species-listed wolf kills a rancher's cattle. There's a lot of policy in that regard now, and if you hear landowners complaining about the burdens of the Endangered Species Act, I think they're overstating the case. There's a lot of that kind of incentive already in place.

Marty: While there will undoubtedly be bills that want to try to give lands away, I think the power of the White House will line up more behind more drilling, more mining, more logging proposals in various and sundry vehicles.

Minna: On behalf of Earthjustice, I would like to thank everyone for their fantastic questions and for joining us today. I'm sorry we weren't able to get to all of your questions today.

Before we close the call, I'd like to ask Trip, now that we have the election results and now that we've had the chance to have thoughtful conversations like this one today, and many others like this in the field and in our organization, what more can our supporters to make their voices heard?

Trip: Despair is not the answer, no matter how you feel about this election personally, and in terms of your values and our collective values. Action is the answer. We will be working with all of you and with all of our allies—the ones we have currently, and many new allies—to preserve everything we can, and to continue to make progress.

It's important that the Obama administration hear from you in the remaining sixty days, on the things that you care about and that you want to see them doing. There are action items that you can find at earthjustice.org/action.

They need to hear from people to support the final steps that they want to and can still take. Over the next four years, there will be many, many times when the administration in a decision-making context is taking comments on actions, and the comments that are in the record matter—they matter for future litigation, they matter for members of Congress, and members of the executive branch are gauging public opinion.

So when you have action alerts coming to you from Earthjustice, act on them, because they do matter. We are selective in sending them out, on the issues where we think we can make a difference. There will be calls to contact senators because an attack on the fundamental laws are taking place, and we need those votes to block those attacks. It will be very important for your senator to hear from you when that's taking place. Be heard at the federal level in these kinds of ways.

And secondly, it's increasingly important for people to be directly, personally involved in their local and state elections, and local and state environmental issues. We're going to need some ground-up rebuilding after this election. Thank you for all that you already do, and for thinking about new ways that you can take action.

Thank you for your friendship and support to Earthjustice.

Minna: Thank you, Trip, Marty, and Abbie, for joining us today and for providing some perspective on these recent election results. We could all use as much perspective as possible, now and in the coming days. And, thank you again to our callers for their great questions and for joining us on this teleconference. We appreciate your support and your activism.

Speaking on behalf of everyone at Earthjustice, we have appreciated the outpouring of support and faith in the role that Earthjustice can play, and will play, in the next four years. It has been truly extraordinary for all staff at Earthjustice to see. We thank you so much.

To continue this discussion, please email us at info@earthjustice.org.

Thank you again.

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