Rachel Jacobson

Rachel Jacobson
Special Counsel, WilmerHale, Washington, DC
Terms served on previous ELI Boards of Directors

Rachel Jacobson advises clients facing complex challenges related to compliance with state and federal environmental laws, 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 2009–2014. 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 2008–2009, 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 the at large vice chair for the Superfund and Natural Resource Damages Litigation Committee for the 2018–2019 ABA year. She also serves as a member of the Leadership Council of the Environmental Law Institute, and as a member of the boards of the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Inc., the Student Conservation Association, the International Committee on Monuments and Sites, and the Environmental Law Institute.