Rachel Jacobson

Special Counsel

Rachel Jacobson

Rachel Jacobson advises clients facing complex regulatory and litigation challenges related to compliance with environmental laws, Superfund cleanup, natural resource management and energy development. Throughout her career, she has worked closely with 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 30 years in the federal government, holding senior positions at the US Department of Defense (DOD), Department of the Interior (DOI) and Department of Justice (DOJ).

Ms. Jacobson served as the Deputy General Counsel of Environment, Energy and Installations at the DOD, overseeing all activity pertaining to environmental, energy, natural resources and installations, including environmental compliance and cleanup, natural resource management, endangered species protection and litigation, energy procurement and siting, domestic and international basing, military construction, and historic preservation. In this capacity, she advised senior-level policy officials in the DOD and its three military departments.

Prior to joining the DOD, Ms. Jacobson served at the DOI from 2009-2014. As Principal Deputy Solicitor, she led the negotiation of the 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 a suite of post-spill early restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico. From 2008-2009, Ms. Jacobson served as Director of the Impact-Directed Environmental Accounts program at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, managing mitigation portfolio for environmental restoration and habitat conservation.

Ms. Jacobson previously spent more than 20 years at the DOJ as a supervisor and litigator in the Environment and Natural Resources and Civil Divisions. 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. 

Honors & Awards

  • Selected by peers for inclusion in Best Lawyers in America for environmental law (2018)
  • 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 (1987, 1996, 1999, 2002)
  • US Department of Justice Special Achievement Awards (1988, 1994, 1998, 2001, 2005)
  • 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)

Publications & News


December 5, 2017

Environmental Protection Agency Will Not Pursue Financial Assurance Rule for Hardrock Mining

On December 1, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will not promulgate a final rule requiring hardrock mining facilities (i.e., facilities for the extraction, beneficiation, and processing of metals and non-metallic, non-fuel minerals) to establish financial assurances under Section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.

November 9, 2017

Key Takeaways From WilmerHale's Recent Women in Energy and Infrastructure Conference

On November 2, WilmerHale held its inaugural Women in Energy and Infrastructure–Powering the Future conference in Washington DC. The event and pre-conference dinner drew more than 100 attendees and provided a forum for women thought leaders to discuss legal and policy issues impacting energy and infrastructure companies and exchange ideas related to powering development. Speakers included senior government officials, in-house counsel, government affairs representatives, agency and Congressional staff, and other influencers.

October 18, 2017

Ninth Circuit Requires US to Pay Defense Contractor Cleanup Costs

On October 4, the Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court for the Southern District of California's decision to allocate to a government contractor 100 percent of cleanup costs for hazardous contamination at a manufacturing facility for failure to consider the involvement of the United States in contributing to that contamination, and remanded the case for additional proceedings.

August 25, 2017

Rachel Jacobson Named Vice Chair of ABA Superfund and Natural Resource Damages Litigation Committee

The SNRDL Committee—part of the ABA's Section on Environment, Energy and Resources—informs ABA members, as well as the general public, on legal issues and trends relevant to natural resource damages under federal and state laws.

August 16, 2017

WilmerHale Lawyers Named Among the 2018 Best Lawyers in America®, Nine Recognized as Lawyers of the Year

Best Lawyers in America®—the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal industry—recognizes 107 WilmerHale lawyers and names nine partners as Lawyers of the Year in its 24th edition.

July 28, 2017

Owner Means Owner: Tenth Circuit Finds US Liable Under CERCLA Based on Title in Lands Subject to Unpatented Mining Claims

The Tenth Circuit on July 19, 2017, in Chevron Mining, Inc. v. United States, reversed a decision by the District Court for the District of New Mexico and held that the United States is liable as an “owner” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act at a series of mining waste disposal sites on former federal land in New Mexico (Questa Site) because it has “owner” liability.

June 27, 2017

DOJ Directive Threatens Availability of Penalty Mitigation Approach

A June 5, 2017, Department of Justice policy directive threatens the ongoing availability of Supplemental Environmental Projects in civil environmental settlements.

June 8, 2017

Andy Spielman and Rachel Jacobson Named Among The National Law Journal's Energy & Environmental Trailblazers

Honorees were selected based on their career achievements and impact on the field of energy and environmental law.

May 17, 2017

EPA Centralizes CERCLA Remedy Selection Authority

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt last week issued a memorandum revising the existing delegations of authority related to implementation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), or “Superfund” law.

April 3, 2017

Trump Order Ushers in the Future of US Energy and Environmental Regulation

On March 28, President Trump launched a sweeping overhaul of US energy and environmental policy.

Professional Activities

Ms. Jacobson is an at large vice chair for the Superfund and Natural Resource Damages Litigation Committee for the 2017–2018 ABA year. She also serves as a member of the DC Bar's Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Section steering committee, Washington University's Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement national advisory board, the Student Conservation Association board of directors, and the International Committee on Monuments and Sites board of trustees.