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ASU Law Announces First Winners of Sustainability-Focused Morrison Prize


Richard N. Morrison, co-founder of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU and founder of the Morrison Prize.

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February 12, 2016

Innovative water policies aimed at protecting the nation’s rivers are the focus of an article that has earned two scholars the first $10,000 Morrison Prize. 

The Morrison Prize, established in 2015, is administered through the Program on Law and Sustainability at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. The prize seeks to recognize the most impactful sustainability-related legal academic article published in North America during the previous year. The prize is named after its funder, Richard N. Morrison, co-founder of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU. 

Dave Owen and Colin Apse co-authored the winning paper, "Trading Dams," which appeared in the UC Davis Law Review in 2015. Their article describes creative new policy approaches for better balancing hydroelectric energy generation and environmental protection on the nation’s river system.

Owen is a professor of Law at University of California, Hastings College of Law and Apse is a freshwater conservation advisor at the Nature Conservancy who is currently working to tackle water scarcity issues in Africa. The two will present their winning paper in a plenary session at the second annual Sustainability Conference of American Legal Educators on May 13, 2016, at ASU Law.

“We’re both thrilled and flattered to receive this award,” Owen said. “And we’re particularly excited to be honored by a law school and university that have become leaders in sustainability research.”

The winning paper’s analysis focuses on river water policy challenges in Maine, but its insightful approaches to addressing these challenges could have application across the globe.

“There are exciting possibilities for the futures of our rivers, not just in Maine, but also in other parts of our country and the world,” Apse said. “We hope that bringing this article to a wider audience will help those possibilities become reality.”

Professor Troy Rule, faculty director of the Program on Law and Sustainability, views the Morrison Prize as a perfect complement to a program devoted to advancing sustainability-related legal research.  

“Furthering the sustainability movement requires as much inventiveness in the policy realm as in the scientific realm,” Rule said. “By rewarding and encouraging sustainability-oriented legal scholarship, the Morrison Prize will accelerate innovation in this rapidly evolving area of law.”

It’s that mission that inspired Morrison to fund his namesake prize.

“Academics get other forms of recognition and awards, but they rarely get the chance to compete for cash prizes,” Morrison said. “So I thought, ‘I can help with that.’ I’m happy to do it.”

The Morrison Prize is open to full-time law professors who have published environmental sustainability-related papers in printed U.S. or Canadian legal academic journals during the contest period. All eligible papers entered into the prize contest undergo independent review and scoring by a diverse group of full-time law professors who teach in environmental sustainability-related areas at four different accredited North American law schools. 

A special mounted display at the Arizona Center for Law and Society, the new home of ASU Law in downtown Phoenix, will honor Morrison laureates and the generosity of Richard Morrison. 

For more information about the Morrison Prize, please contact Lauren Burkhart.

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