Environmental State of The Union: At a Crossroads

Congress must seize the historic opportunity lest others reap the rewards

This page was published 14 years ago. Find the latest on Earthjustice’s work.

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.

For its part in seizing those opportunities, Earthjustice is working to reduce the cradle-to-grave impacts of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. We seek to eliminate mountaintop removal coal mining and to secure the first ever federal regulations for coal ash, and we are challenging dirty coal plants, old and new, to ensure they don’t elbow cleaner, safer sources of energy out of the market.

Defending the Clean Air Act is a crucial part of this effort. Since 1971, the Clean Air Act has been a powerful tool to reduce harmful pollution, which is why we’re challenging the attempts of industry lobbyists and their political allies to enervate the landmark law at a time when it’s most needed.

And keeping with the adage "less is more," energy efficiency remains the cheapest and fastest way to reduce global warming pollution. We are using our legal advocacy to compel the Department of Energy to set strong new efficiency standards for household and commercial appliances, which could eliminate demand for dozens of new coal plants.

"[The] nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy," said Pres. Obama. "And America must be that nation." We couldn’t agree more. The time to invest is now, both in strong legislation to reduce global warming pollution and continued legal advocacy using the powerful environmental laws we already have.


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.”