Rafe Petersen is a partner in Holland & Knight's Washington, D.C. office and is a member of the firm's Government Section. He primarily focuses on litigation and counseling in administrative, environmental and the federal fair housing laws.

Mr. Petersen's environmental practice includes environmental compliance, enforcement and litigation, with an emphasis on water and natural resource issues under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Mr. Petersen assists clients in complex permitting and regulatory issues related to energy development, commercial and residential projects, mining and infrastructure. He is experienced in environmental litigation at both trial and appellate levels and defends clients in enforcement actions in administrative and federal courts. In addition, Mr. Petersen also assists clients in responding to rulemaking efforts by federal agencies and in litigating agency actions under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

For example, Mr. Petersen has assisted clients in the following matters:

  • advising wind and solar energy developers on regulatory requirements and representing such clients in enforcement matters
  • negotiating permits, responding to comments and assisting with preparation of other authorizations (e.g., Environmental Impact Statements) from federal agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, as well as various state and local equivalent agencies
  • obtaining jurisdictional determinations and various types of permits under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act
  • advising clients on public-private partnerships related to water infrastructure
  • defending permits issued for a wide spectrum of activities, including transportation projects, mining operations, offshore drilling, oceanfront restoration, residential and commercial development
  • negotiating incidental take permit coverage under the ESA and MMPA, including approval of several Habitat Conservation Plans
  • participating in federal and state rulemaking related to wetlands, mitigation, stormwater management, water quality and the NEPA, as well as litigation related to federal rulemaking under the APA
  • assisting landowners with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) map amendments
  • defending against both private and federal government enforcement actions concerning stormwater management, impacts to wetland and streams, and "take" of endangered species
  • counseling purchasers, sellers and lenders during environmental due diligence on a wide spectrum of business and real estate deals
  • counseling landowners and material suppliers on regulations related to disposal of hazardous and other materials on property (e.g., coal ash)

Mr. Petersen also assists clients with compliance and litigation related to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He provides advice concerning the requirements of the FHA and ADA and defends multifamily, condominium, hotel, timeshare, student housing, and commercial developers and managers against lawsuits pertaining to construction and design requirements of those statutes, as well as disability and accommodation claims by residents, guests and customers.

For example, Mr. Petersen has assisted clients in the following matters:

  • defended insurance companies against disparate impact claims
  • defended multifamily housing owners and managers against claims brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and private advocacy groups related to the design and construction of communities and portfolios of property (e.g., "pattern and practice" cases)
  • negotiated settlements of various lawsuits related to FHA and ADA violations
  • counseled property owners and managers, banks, hotels and restaurants concerning the FHA and ADA requirements as well as obligations to meet the specific needs of disabled residents
  • advising autonomous vehicle manufacturers regarding ADA requirements for design and operations

Mr. Petersen has published numerous articles on a wide variety of topics, including wetlands and endangered species issues, as well as fair housing issues. He is co-author of the ABA's Endangered Species Deskbook (2nd Edition 2010).

Representative Experience


  • The George Washington University Law School, J.D., with honors
  • University of the Philippines, Fulbright Scholar
  • Hobart College, B.A.
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • District of Columbia
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
Honors & Awards
  • Washington, D.C., Super Lawyers magazine, 2014-2020
  • Outstanding Services Award, American Bar Association (ABA) Military Pro Bono Project, 2012, 2016, 2017, 2020, 2023
  • Holland & Knight Pro Bono All-Star, 2020, 2021
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Fulbright Scholar
  • The Environmental Lawyer, a partnership between The George Washington University Law School and the American Bar Association's Section on Environment, Energy, and Resources, Editorial Board


Speaking Engagements