Robert C. Kirsch


Kirsch, Robert C.

Rob Kirsch assists clients with controversial environmental issues at the cusp of law, science, and public policy.

Mr. Kirsch has defended clients in criminal, civil and administrative investigations, and enforcement proceedings. Recent experience includes representation of a Fortune 100 company in simultaneous criminal and administrative investigations, representation of a government contractor involved in investigations by the US Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, negotiation of the first global environmental and contract-based settlement between the Departments of Defense and Justice and a contractor, and the successful defense of a federal contractor, with no penalty, in an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act.

Mr. Kirsch represents clients in judicial and administrative litigation including in cost recovery disputes, state and federal enforcement cases and permit appeals. Recent matters include: a precedent-setting cost recovery matter through the trial and appellate stages involving shareholder, successor, and indemnity claims; a successful three-year permit modification for a major solid waste facility through administrative approval and judicial appeal proceedings; and a vigorously litigated proceeding relating to an application to relicense a controversial nuclear energy facility.

Managing high-profile issues for clients is a focus of Mr. Kirsch's practice. He has represented proponents of facilities before state and federal agencies. That work has included developing permit and permit appeal strategies under state and federal clean air laws, defense of IPP operators in administrative and civil proceedings, defending and attacking administrative decisions in judicial appeals, defense of development clients against claims of coastal damage, and complex due diligence work in facility acquisitions.

Mr. Kirsch has pursued many innovative permit applications and appeals. He advises about the environmental aspects of mergers and acquisitions, real estate transactions, SEC disclosure requirements, the implications of Sarbanes-Oxley and other environmental reporting obligations. He has counseled clients under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Oil Pollution Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the clean air and clean water acts, as well as state and federal laws relating to radioactive materials.

Mr. Kirsch represents industrial as well as research and development clients using state and federal self-disclosure policies and has been involved in disclosures implicating more than 100 locations in the United States. He currently serves as common counsel in multiple Superfund proceedings, has led common defense efforts involving more than 1,000 parties, and recently ensured 25 years of positive cash flow for one client group, building the first solar energy facility on a CERCLA landfill site.

Between 2004 and 2015, Mr. Kirsch led a WilmerHale pro bono team representing six men held at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. That team consistently prevailed in major US courts, including the Supreme Court (Boumediene v. Bush), the federal district court (November 2008), the first Guantanamo-related habeas corpus trial in the United States, and the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (2010)—receiving the only ruling that court has issued in favor of a Guantanamo prisoner out of the more than 20 such decisions issued to date. In 2009, Mr. Kirsch negotiated the first resettlement from Guantanamo to an EU nation where the man was not a citizen. All six WilmerHale clients are now free.

Honors & Awards

  • Listed as a leading lawyer in environmental law in the 2004-2017 editions Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business, with a source calling him "one of the finest environmental lawyers" and a "great authority on environmental matters."
  • Selected by his peers for inclusion in 2006-2017 editions of the Best Lawyers in America.
  • Named a "New England Super Lawyer" (formerly "Massachusetts Super Lawyer") in the 2004-2016 issues of Boston Magazine.
  • Listed in the 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 editions of Who's Who Legal: The International Who's Who of Environment Lawyers
  • Named one of three 2008 "Lawyers of the Year" by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
  • Recipient of the Boston Bar Association's 2007 President's Award for pro bono work on behalf of clients detained at Guantanamo Bay.
  • In the 2011-2012 Best Law Firm rankings by U.S. News - Best Lawyers, Mr. Kirsch is described by a client as "a very trustworthy, problem-solving lawyer who attempts to find a fair resolution of issues."
  • Recommended as a leader in his field in the 2006-2009 editions of PLC Cross-border Environment Handbook.

Publications & News


May 26, 2017

WilmerHale Lawyers and Practices Recognized in 2017 Edition of Chambers USA

Chambers and Partners announced its rankings for the 2017 edition of Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business, with WilmerHale listed among the nation's best in 50 practice area categories. Chambers also ranked 86 WilmerHale lawyers as leaders in their respective fields.

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.

August 15, 2016

WilmerHale Lawyers Named Among the 2017 Best Lawyers in America®, Six Recognized as Lawyers of the Year

Best Lawyers in America®—a respected peer-review publication in the legal industry—recognizes 101 WilmerHale lawyers and names six partners as Lawyers of the Year in its 23rd edition.

June 1, 2016

Supreme Court Provides for Judicial Review of Army Corps Determinations

On May 31, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States held that final determinations by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the presence or absence of “waters of the United States” can be appealed to the courts.

May 27, 2016

WilmerHale Lawyers and Practices Recognized in 2016 Edition of Chambers USA

Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business announced its final rankings for the 2016 edition, with WilmerHale ranking among the nation's best in 47 practice area categories. Chambers also ranked 82 WilmerHale lawyers as leaders in their respective fields.

May 28, 2015

EPA and Army Corps Issue Final Rule on "Waters of the United States"

Yesterday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers released a final rule defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act, or “waters of the United States.”

May 19, 2015

WilmerHale Practices, Lawyers Ranked Among Nation’s Best by Chambers USA

Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business announced its final rankings for the 2015 edition, with WilmerHale ranking among the nation's best in 46 practice area categories. Chambers also ranked 86 WilmerHale attorneys as leaders in their respective fields.

June 9, 2014

WilmerHale Representing Analog Devices in Pending Acquisition of Hittite Microwave Corporation

WilmerHale is representing its longtime client Analog Devices, Inc., a global leader in high-performance semiconductors for signal processing applications, in its proposed acquisition of Hittite Microwave Corporation.

May 20, 2014

EPA Final 316(b) Rule Establishes Standards for Cooling Water Intake Structures at Existing Facilities

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday released its final rule on cooling water intake structures for existing power plants, refineries and factories.

July 16, 2013

Environmental Groups Petition EPA to Regulate Stormwater Discharges

On July 10, 2013, a group of environmental organizations (including American Rivers, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and Natural Resources Defense Council) petitioned the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to impose sweeping stormwater permit requirements on commercial, industrial and institutional sites in EPA Region 1 (New England), 3 (Mid-Atlantic) and 9 (Pacific Southwest).

Speaking Engagements

  • French Cultural Center Stage Reading - "Peur(s)" (a play inspired by Supreme Court case Boumediene v. Bush) with WilmerHale and Barclay Damon, Boston (May 12, 2017)
  • ALI/ABA Impact of Environmental Law Conference (April 19-20, 2013)
  • ALI CLE Hydraulic Fracturing (Podcast) (October 2012)
  • Barnstable County Bar Association Annual Meeting: “Boumediene v. Bush - Habeas Corpus and the War on Terror” (June 2012)
  • Lawrence Bar Association Law Day 2011: “Pro Bono Service - John Adams to Guantanamo” (April 29, 2011)
  • ALI/ABA Impact of Environmental Law Conference, Washington DC (October 14-15, 2010)
  • Office of Military Commission: “Practical Steps to Leverage Your Advocacy for Your GTMO Clients” (June 10, 2010)
  • Red River Theatres Law Day: The Response: “The First Guantanamo Habeas Trial - Boumediene v. Bush” (May 13, 2010)
  • EU Human Rights/Death Penalty Counselors Meeting: “Procedural Opportunities and Obstacles for Vindicating the Constitutional Rights of Guantanamo Prisoners” (April 14, 2010)
  • New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education: “ISRA/Site Remediation Reform Act” (May 7, 2008)
  • ALI/ABA Impact of Environmental Law Conference, Boston (October 203, 2008)
  • Vermont Bar Association: "Confronting the Hard Edge of War: Representing Guantanamo Prisoners" (June 27, 2008)
  • Franklin Pierce Law School: “Boumediene v. Bush On Writ of Certiorari Argued 12/5/2007” (December 2007)
  • WilmerHale Nine Zeros Breakfast Forum, Washington DC (February 22, 2007)
  • The Massachusetts Nanotech Exchange Nine Zeros Breakfast Forum, Boston (October 4, 2004)

Professional Activities

Mr. Kirsch is a fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

He serves on the board of the Environmental Law Institute. He is a member of the environmental sections of the American, Boston and New Hampshire Bar Associations.

He is a past President and serves as a Trustee of the Mount Washington Observatory.


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JD, cum laude, Cornell Law School, 1983

BS, cum laude, Middlebury College, 1979, Phi Beta Kappa

Bar Admissions


New Hampshire

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