Enduring the Shifting Winds of Politics

The new pro-industry Congress is already gearing up to weaken environmental safeguards. Earthjustice has been here before—and we’re ready for the fight.

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Just two weeks after the election—after anti-environmental forces gained full control of Congress for the first time in eight years—the new leadership is already at odds with the values and hopes of the public.

Though the great majority of  Americans, both Republican and Democrat, value clean air and water and want action on climate change, the Senate’s new leadership, now made up in part by climate deniers, has already announced its aims to weaken environmental safeguards and block long overdue climate, air and water  safeguards. The Senate’s new leadership joins the anti-environment House, which has long been captured by the special interests of the fossil fuel industry, to increase attacks on our air, water, public lands and wildlife protections.

We’ve been here before. Over the years, our cases have weathered the changing winds of politics and have prevailed even in the most hostile of political environments, against the most deep-pocketed of special interests. Political whims and winds change, but Earthjustice’s work—and the values that drive it—stand the test of time.

For example, when President Clinton established the Roadless Rule in 2001 to protect 60 million acres of National Forest wilderness, he captured the values that guided more than a decade of our work fighting to protect that rule: “These last remaining wild areas are precious to millions of Americans and key to protecting clean water and abundant wildlife habitat, and providing recreation opportunities. These unspoiled places must be managed through science, not politics.”

The Roadless Rule was the direct result of a tremendous outpouring of public support. More than 600 public hearings were held around the nation, and similar to President Obama’s Clean Power Plan for climate change action, the Roadless Rule at that time made history with an unprecedented number of public comments in support of it. Despite its overwhelming public support, that rule came under fire from a Congress that tried and failed to unravel it numerous times. When President George W. Bush assumed the White House, he attempted to repeal the rule and replace it with a sham alternative that wiped away its protections—an action that Earthjustice challenged in court and defeated. The Roadless Rule stands today because of our work, which upholds core American values no matter the outcome of the latest election.

This time, the anti-environmental leadership is setting its sights on EPA’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Though the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants, incoming majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell has made it clear that stopping the EPA’s legally-obligated actions is just one of the many attacks against our air, water, public lands and wildlife safeguards that we’ll see in the 114th Congress. They will also try to take advantage of loopholes, anti-environmental riders in spending bills, exemptions, and subsidies to let polluters off the hook, stop action on climate change and gut protections for our water, air and wildlife.

That’s why Earthjustice’s work in the courts to force government action, make polluters clean up their messes and hold dirty energy industries accountable is now more important than ever. Together with your help, along with environmental champions in the House and Senate, we will continue defeat the onslaught of underhanded political maneuvers by those who would sacrifice our health and environment for campaign contributions, ideological gain or political theater.

These courtroom fights remain the last lines of defense for many of this nation’s cornerstone environmental and public health protections. Our tools—our nation’s landmark laws and the best attorneys in the country—are ready for the fight.

Trip Van Noppen served as Earthjustice’s president from 2008 until he retired in 2018. A North Carolina native, Trip said of his experience: “Serving as the steward of Earthjustice for the last decade has been the greatest honor of my life.”