Rachel Jacobson

Rachel Jacobson advises clients facing complex challenges related to compliance with state and federal environmental laws, including fuel emissions standards and emerging contaminants, Superfund cleanup, natural resource damages, endangered species and wildlife management, land use, and energy development. As a seasoned litigator, Ms. Jacobson has worked throughout her career with several federal agencies, states and tribes on a range of issues, from oil spills and mining cleanup to water rights settlements. Ms. Jacobson joined the firm following more than two decades in the federal government, where she handled some of the largest environmental cases in US history and held senior positions at the US Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of the Interior (DOI) and Department of Defense (DoD).

Immediately before joining the firm, Ms. Jacobson served as the Pentagon’s top environmental lawyer in the position of Deputy General Counsel of Environment, Energy and Installations at the DoD. In this capacity, Ms. Jacobson advised senior-level officials in the DoD and its military departments on the military’s environmental, energy and natural resource legal portfolio, including compliance and cleanup, natural resource management, endangered species protection, energy procurement and siting, military construction, and historic preservation.

Prior to joining the DoD, Ms. Jacobson served at the DOI from 20092014. As Principal Deputy Solicitor, she led the negotiation of the one billion dollar early restoration settlement agreement with BP following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. She was later appointed Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, where she oversaw policy for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service and led the DOI's planning effort for $750,000 of post-spill early restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico. She served as the lead DOI official on ecosystem restoration for the Great Lakes and the Everglades, and she led the US World Heritage program. From 20082009, Ms. Jacobson served as Director of the Impact-Directed Environmental Accounts program at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, managing a mitigation fund for environmental restoration and habitat conservation.

Ms. Jacobson previously spent close to two decades at the DOJ as a supervisor and litigator. She began her career in the DOJ’s Civil Division, Fraud Section as an Honors Attorney, and then spent the majority of her DOJ tenure in the Enforcement Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. During this time, she was at the forefront of some of the largest environmental cases in US history, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Coeur d' Alene Superfund trial. 

Professional Activities

Ms. Jacobson is a fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers. She is the at large vice chair for the Superfund and Natural Resource Damages Litigation Committee for the 2018–2019 ABA year. She serves as a member of the boards of the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Inc., the Student Conservation Association, and the Environmental Law Institute. She is also a member of the Leadership Council of the Environmental Law Institute.


  • Representing a major irrigation district in litigation in federal District Court in California involving the Endangered Species Act and federal decisions supporting Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project
  • Representing a multinational mining company in negotiations with the federal government regarding operational permits
  • Defending a midstream energy company in federal and state Clean Water Act investigations for penalties and natural resource damages regarding a produced water spill
  • Representing an automaker in a precedent-setting agreement with California, thirteen other states and four other automakers to reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, and as intervenor in related litigation in DC Circuit
  • Representing a multinational corporation as a successor in interest to a former chemical plant that operated along a major New England river, resulting in legacy contamination
  • Advising a Native American tribe in connection with potential gaming operations in California
  • Advising a major manufacturer in connection with potential state and federal liability related to PFAS contamination and regulatory developments
  • Represented a Fortune 500 utility company facing a federal criminal inquiry, federal and state regulatory inquiries, congressional demands, and civil litigation following a major explosion
  • Advising a major defense contractor in cost allocation negotiations with the US Navy concerning remediation of legacy pollution at formal Naval weapons site
  • Representing a chemical manufacturer in investigations by the Chemical Safety Board, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and state environmental agencies, arising from chemical releases at multiple facilities
  • Advising a citizens group regarding state and federal permitting of an offshore wind project
  • Representing a consumer products company in connection with mediated multiparty cost allocation associated with remediation of legacy Superfund site in New Jersey
  • Representing a dredging company in connection with an oil spill of the coast of Louisiana
  • Advising a major waste handling company in a Clean Water Act citizens suit on legal issues about whether, under recent US Supreme Court precedent, discharges which flow through groundwater and eventually reach surface waters come within the jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act
  • Advising a public real estate investment trust in the acquisition of contaminated property previously owned by the US military.
  • Advised a global science and technology innovator on the environmental aspects of due diligence associated with the prospective purchase of a chemical company.


  • Selected by peers for inclusion in Best Lawyers in America for environmental law (2018–2022)
  • The National Law Journal's Energy & Environmental Trailblazers list (2017)
  • Recommended by The Legal 500 United States for energy: regulatory (2016, 2017)
  • Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service (2015, 2016)
  • US Department of the Interior Special Act Award (2011)
  • US Department of Justice Special Recognition Award (2007)
  • US Department of Justice Special Commendation Awards (multiple)
  • US Department of Justice Special Achievement Awards (multiple)
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service Certificate of Appreciation (2001)
  • State of Maryland Governor's Citation - Recognized for Natural Resource Damage Recovery, Patuxent River Oil Spill (2003)
  • Army Legal Services Agency Certificate of Appreciation, U.S. Army Environmental Law Division (2007)

Insights & News


  • Education

    • JD, Boston University School of Law

    • BS, Economics, Washington University in St. Louis

  • Admissions

    • District of Columbia

    • Illinois

    • Massachusetts

  • Government Experience

    • Department of Defense

      Office of the General Counsel

      Deputy General Counsel, Environment, Energy and Installations
    • Department of the Interior

      Acting Assistant Secretary, Fish and Wildlife and Parks
    • Department of the Interior

      Principal Deputy Solicitor
    • Department of Justice

      Environment and Natural Resources Division

      Supervisor/Trial Attorney, Environmental Enforcement Section
    • Department of Justice

      Civil Division

      Honors Program Trial Attorney, Commercial Litigation Branch