Peter J. Kirsch

Peter Kirsch’s practice focuses on regulation and development of transportation infrastructure and other public sector projects.  Peter represents clients ranging from local governments to the private sector and public interest groups in negotiations and litigation over land use entitlements, the environmental impacts of infrastructure projects, and compliance with federal transportation law and regulations.  He litigates cases before administrative agencies, numerous state and federal trial and appellate courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  He represents airport sponsors and local governments before Congress and federal administrative agencies.

For 30 years, Peter has been involved in the development of airport infrastructure – including many of the new commercial airports in the United States as well as dozens of airport expansions, redevelopment projects, and development of land for non-aeronautical projects.  He advises airports on financial matters, regulatory compliance, leasing, land use issues, environmental impacts, and relations with their host communities.  He has litigated all of these issues in federal and state trial and appellate courts and in Part 16 proceedings before the FAA.

Increasingly, Peter provides counsel to airports on creative and precedent-setting revenue-generating projects in the development of land and in concession arrangements.  Public-private partnerships have become a focus on his practice in recent years, and he has represented both airports and private sector investors in airport management and development projects.

For a wide range of infrastructure projects, Peter advises clients on compliance with federal environmental laws, with a particular focus on the National Environmental Policy Act and on the regulatory strings that come attached to federal funding of transportation infrastructure or use of federal lands.

Representative Experience

Paine Field, Everett (Seattle area), Washington
Represented both the airport sponsor and the private sector operator in a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership to accommodate commercial airline service for the first time to a large industrial airport in suburban Seattle; work for the sponsor included federal environmental review, negotiations with the private terminal developer, and work on relations with nearby communities; representation of the private sector developer at the same airport included negotiations with air carriers and financial partners in development of the terminal and crafting of terminal use regulations.  This project was awarded the 2019 Innovation Project of the Year by the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships.

Dallas Love Field Airport, Texas
Assisted the sponsor in creation and defense of complex gate allocation methodology at an airport whose terminal capacity is capped by federal law; including drafting allocation procedures and assisting with defense of state and federal litigation among carriers, the FAA, and the sponsor over that allocation approach

Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Illinois
Represented the airport sponsor in preparation of environmental documentation for reconstruction and renovation of entire terminal and gate complex and in related negotiations; representation on complex federal regulatory matters concerning airport operations and development and negotiations for construction of a nonstop transit link from the airport to the Chicago Loop; successfully represented the sponsor in the dismissal of inverse condemnation litigation over noise impacts from operations at a new runway

Southern Nevada Supplemental Commercial Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada
Providing counsel for effort to plan for a second commercial service airport for Las Vegas and southern Nevada; counseling on preparation of environmental documentation, planning, and federal regulatory efforts involving coordination among several federal agencies; providing continuing advice on federal regulatory compliance and airspace protection for both the proposed new airport and for McCarran International Airport (LAS); also providing counsel on federal regulatory compliance for LAS

Palm Beach County Department of Airports, Florida
Representing the sponsor of four southern Florida airports on a wide range of federal regulatory and litigation matters for more than 20 years, including multiple lawsuits over noise impacts between residents of Town of Palm Beach and the owner of Mar-A-Lago; FAA Part 16 proceedings regarding compliance with federal grant assurance obligations at the general aviation airport; assistance with preparing noise and land use compatibility plans; negotiations with users of the general aviation airport; and counseling on general matters of federal environmental compliance

Friedman Memorial Airport, Hailey (Sun Valley), Idaho
Represented the proprietor of one of Idaho’s largest commercial airports in the planning, environmental review, and development of a replacement airport and in federal compliance, noise, and environmental problems at the existing airport

Hollywood Burbank Airport, California
Represented City in decades-long effort (including more than a dozen lawsuits) to secure noise relief and to control growth at this southern California airport; represented client in successful negotiation of development agreements to resolve 40-year old dispute over control and authority of future development of airport, the result of which will be the development of a new passenger terminal for the first time in more than 80 years

Westchester County Airport, White Plains, New York
Successfully negotiated a terminal use agreement to provide for controlled growth of passenger service in a politically contentious environment; secured federal approvals for unique arrangement by which proprietor retained control over all terminal facilities and scope of commercial operations

Houston Hobby Airport, Texas
Assisted proprietor in negotiations of a new use-and-lease agreement by which dominant carrier funded, designed, and built new terminal for initiation of international service

Cincinnati-Blue Ash Airport, Ohio
Successfully navigated federal and local approvals for the closure of an outdated and underused general aviation airport and the conversion of the airfield into a new regional park; defended litigation challenging those approvals

Professional and Civic Activities / Awards

  • Best Lawyers in America® for Litigation - Environmental (2021-2024)
  • Board of Trustees, The Denver Foundation (2020–Present) 
  • Airport Consultants Council (Board of Directors 2018–Present; Members Foundation 2019–Present)
  • Colorado Board, Trust for Public Land (2012–Present; Vice Chair 2016–Present)
  • Best Lawyers in America® for Litigation - Environmental (2021-2022)
  • Board of Directors, Conservation Colorado and Conservation Colorado Education Fund (2004–2006, 2010–2019; Chair 2012–2016) (including service with predecessor, Colorado Conservation Voters)
  • Board of Trustees, Denver Botanic Gardens (2012–2017)
  • Denver Cultural Council (2014–2016)
  • Super Lawyers®, Aviation and Aerospace Law; Environmental Law; Land Use/Zoning Law (2012–2023)
  • Board of Trustees, Museum of Contemporary Art - Denver (2005–2012)
  • Board of Trustees, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (2004–2010; Chair 2006–2008)
  • Board of Trustees, Oberlin College (2000–2007; Executive Committee 2003–2006)
  • Chair, Bromwell School CDM [Governance] Committee (2002–2004)
  • Board of Trustees, River Network (1993–2002; Chair 1999–2001)
  • Chair, Transportation Section, International Municipal Lawyers Association (1996–1997)

News & Publications


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Handbook on Public Private Partnerships in Transportation, Vol I. Competitive Government: Public Private Partnerships
January 2022
Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell
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Education and Clerkships

J.D., University of Chicago, 1984
Law Clerk, Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, 1984–1985
B.A., with highest honors, Oberlin College, 1979

Bar and Court Admissions

District of Columbia
Many Federal District Courts, Courts of Appeals
United States Supreme Court


P3 Airport Projects: An Introduction for Airport Lawyers (Second Edition)

P3 Airport Projects: An Introduction for Airport Lawyers

FAA Proposals for Safety Management Systems Discussion Paper

Guide to Airport Noise Rules and Use Restrictions