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In Memoriam: David Sive, “Father of Environmental Law”

March 13, 2014

ELI sends its deepest condolences to the family of David Sive, who passed away on March 11.  He was the first recipient of the ELI Award for outstanding contribution to the improvement of environmental law, policy and management. He served five terms on ELI’s Board of Directors from 1970 to 1992—longer than anyone—and chaired the Board for nine years, from 1972-1983, also a record.

A founding partner of the Sive, Paget & Riesel, P.C. environmental law and litigation firm in New York City, David has been regarded as the “father of United States environmental law.” In the early 1960s, he was involved in a landmark environmental case opposing construction of a power plant on Storm King Mountain located on the Hudson River in New York State. The case, Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference v. Federal Power Commission, established some of the basic first principles of standing in United States environmental law and is credited with having helped inspire the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act and the creation of environmental law as a field and career. He has represented public entities, individuals, industry, nongovernmental organizations and the commercial sector in environmental matters ranging from scenic preservation to hazardous waste. He was also a professor of environmental law at schools across the country and a prolific author in his areas of expertise.

He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brooklyn College in 1943 and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Columbia Law School in 1948 where he was recognized as a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar.

Last year, ELI launched the David Sive Society, an ELI fundraising tier of distinction, during a filmed luncheon in New York City where he was honored by other leaders in the field. The video includes a segment shot in 2012 in which David is interviewed by ELI President John Cruden. According to John, “David Sive will be remembered as a leader, educator, and visionary environmentalist. The Environmental Law Institute owes its creation and a great deal of its success to his creative guidance. For me, David was a friend and mentor whom I will always honor.” David’s passing is the second great loss to the environmental legal community this week, as we also mourn the death of Joseph L. Sax, the second recipient of the ELI Award and a professor of law at UC Berkeley.