In 1966, Victor John Yannacone, Jr. created the field of environmental law with the successful action against DDT. Together with his wife, Carol Yannacone, he co-founded the Environmental Defense Fund in 1968.
As the attorney and advocate for Vietnam combat veterans in the Agent Orange class action litigation, Yannacone alerted the world to the dangers of dioxin and exposed the inadequacies of government regulation. He established that the real villains in the Agent Orange disaster were the manufacturers of the contaminated herbicides, not the American government.
Yannacone established the “public trust doctrine” as the foundation of environmental common law and saved the Florissant Fossil Beds from developers’ bulldozers, the Oklawaha River System from the Cross-Florida Barge Canal and the Everglades from becoming an international jetport. He stopped the Atomic Energy Commission from flaring radioactive natural gas. As an environmental advocate, he protected the agricultural values of the Hanalei River Valley of Kaua‘i and Suffolk County, Long Island.
He wrote the definitive treatise on environmental law and more than 100 articles. Yannacone has lectured worldwide on topics ranging from ethics and environmental systems science to public education and national energy policy. In addition, he has patent applications pending for non-invasive early detection of breast cancer by means of high-resolution infrared imaging.
Yannacone has been active as a professional musician (baritone saxophone) since 1952. He was a founder and past chair of the Brookhaven Town Council on the Arts and the Patchogue Village Center for the Performing Arts.