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


May 3, 2018

Infrastructure Series: NAFTA Renegotiation: Energy Infrastructure and Investor-State Disputes

Negotiations to reshape the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among the United States, Canada and Mexico have recently intensified as various factors—upcoming elections in Mexico in July and in the United States in November; the prospects of a trade showdown between the United States and China—have the three nations pushing to reach an agreement in principle in the coming weeks (although talks are presently on hold until May 7). This client alert was also published by Law360.

March 22, 2018

Infrastructure Series: Cost-Sharing with State and Local Governments

As discussed in previous issues of WilmerHale's Infrastructure Series, the Trump Administration proposes several initiatives to seek and secure long-term changes in the government's approach to funding infrastructure projects.

March 14, 2018

Regulatory Challenges Posed by Emerging Contaminants

In this article by WilmerHale's David Gold, Rachel Jacobson and Heidi Ruckriegle—along with Nikki Delude Roy of Golder Associates—published in the American Bar Association's Water Resources Committee Newsletter, the authors discuss the current and proposed standards for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances in groundwater and other media.

February 8, 2018

Natural Resource Damages for the Entrepreneurial Practitioner: Innovations in NRD Assessment and Restoration

An article written by Rachel Jacobson, Nathaniel Custer and Mark Hanin, published by the ABA's Superfund and Natural Resource Damages Litigation Committee Newsletter, Vol. 13, No. 1, discusses a recent innovation in the natural resource damage assessment process.

February 7, 2018

Ninth Circuit Holds Indirect Discharge of Pollutants Requires Clean Water Act Permit

Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Clean Water Act (CWA) does not require that pollutants be discharged directly from a point source into navigable waters for liability to attach.

January 24, 2018

SCOTUS: WOTUS Rule Suits Belong in District Courts

On January 22, 2018, the US Supreme Court unanimously held that challenges to the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, commonly referred to as the WOTUS Rule (for “waters of the United States”), must be filed in federal district courts rather than directly in federal appeals courts. The case is National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense et al., case number 16-299.

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.

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.