2007 Press Releases

Press Release

Friday, July 06, 2007


UC Berkeley Law School Professor Awarded $400K Environmental Prize

UC Berkeley Law School Contact: Susan Gluss, media relations director, (510) 642-6936 sgluss@law.berkeley.edu

Berkeley, CA —July 6, 2007… Emeritus Professor Joseph L. Sax, the James H. House and Hiram H. Hurd Professor of Environmental Regulation at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, has been named a co-recipient of the 2007 Blue Planet Prize, an international environmental award sponsored by the Tokyo-based Asahi Glass Foundation.

Blue Planet Prizes are awarded to two individuals or organizations each year that make outstanding achievements in scientific research and applications that help solve global environmental problems. The second prize winner, Dr. Amory B. Lovins, is chairman and chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute. Each winner receives a cash award of 50 million yen, or approximately $407,000.

Professor Sax began his environmental legal work in the mid-1960s before environmental protection was even recognized as a legal field. He authored the ground-breaking Michigan Environment Protection Act, popularly known as the "Sax Act," the world's first modern environmental law drafted on the basis of public trust doctrine.

The Sax Act, recognized as a catalyst of the environmental movement, ensured ordinary citizens' standing in environmental litigation. It states that "any person, partnership, corporation, association, organization, or other legal entity, may maintain an action in the circuit court for the protection of the air, water and other natural resources and the public trust therein from pollution, impairment, or destruction." The Sax Act later became the model for similar statutes in more than a dozen other states and the basis for international environmental law.

"The prize recognizes that environmental conservation is among the most urgent global issues and provides encouragement to all those who seek resolution of environmental problems," said Sax. "It is particularly gratifying…to acknowledge the role that the rule of law plays in implementation of scientific achievement in the governance of our societies, and in assuring justice to those who have suffered environmental harm."

"Professor Sax made public trust doctrine one of the key principles in environmental law, both domestically and internationally," said Cymie Payne, director of the Global Commons Project and associate director of Berkeley Law School's California Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CCELP). As an example, Payne noted that the Supreme Court of India cited Sax's writing in support of its own application of the doctrine.

"This is simply the latest in a series of well-deserved accolades Professor Sax has received over his remarkable career," said Rick Frank, executive director of CCELP.  "Joe Sax has been a source of inspiration and invaluable guidance to generations of environmental law students, practitioners, and policymakers." 

Sax has written extensively about issues of environmental law, including conservation, water law, animal rights, and public land use. He is the author of five books on environmental law issues, including the classics: Mountains Without Handrails and Defending the Environment. Sax's numerous environmental awards include:

  • Environmental Quality Award, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1976)
  • Elizabeth Haub Environmental Prize, Free University of Brussels (1977)
  • William O. Douglas Legal Achievement Award, The Sierra Club (1984)
  • Environmental Law Institute Award (1985)
  • Distinguished Water Attorney Award, Water Education Foundation (2004)

The Asahi Glass Foundation was founded in 1933 to promote advances in the chemical industry, and has since diversified its funding program to support research in all natural sciences. To learn more about Asahi Glass Foundation and the Blue Planet Prize, go to http://www.af-info.or.jp/. This year's prize ceremony will be held in Tokyo, on October 17-18, 2007.

About University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall)

For over a century, Berkeley Law School has prepared lawyers to be skilled and ethical problem-solvers. The school's curriculum — one of the most comprehensive and innovative in the nation — offers its J.D. and advanced degree candidates a broad array of nearly 200 courses. Students collaborate with leading scholars and practitioners working on complex issues at more than a dozen interdisciplinary centers, institutes, and clinical programs. For more information about the nation's premier public university law school, visit http://www.law.berkeley.edu/

Editors : To contact Professor Sax directly, call 510.642.1831. Email: jsax@law.berkeley.edu.