Areas of Practice
Practice-Specific Experience
  • Georgetown University Law Center, J.D., 1976, Editorial Staff, Law and Policy in International Business
  • Brandeis University, B.A., 1973, Phi Beta Kappa
Bar & Court Admissions
  • District of Columbia

David H. Coburn

1330 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20036
TEL: +1 202 429 8063
FAX: +1 202 429 3902

David Coburn has years of experience serving clients in transportation, environmental, and administrative law matters, including advising on major railroad, pipeline, and other transportation infrastructure projects. He works closely with federal agencies, such as the US Department of Transportation (DOT), Army Corps of Engineers, and the Surface Transportation Board (STB), on the complex regulatory permitting and environmental aspects of each project. He advises clients on the application of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Clean Water Act (CWA), and other laws implicated by infrastructure projects. He also represents clients in federal court litigation that evolves from agency actions on infrastructure projects. 

In addition, Mr. Coburn advises transportation and energy clients on a wide range of regulatory and policy issues, including questions relating to the preemption of state law and the applicability of federal environmental laws and policies.  He also has extensive experience in representing motor carriers in carrier safety actions and other proceedings before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and other agencies. He counsels carriers and shippers on matters related to the surface and air transportation of hazardous materials, including compliance with the federal hazardous materials regulations. Mr. Coburn also represents travel distribution interests on matters relating to the distribution of airline services.

Representative Matters

  • Represents an entity seeking to construct and operate an express passenger rail line. Successfully obtained dismissal of lawsuit challenging on NEPA and other grounds certain federal actions regarding the project. Indian River County v. Rogoff, 201 F. Supp. 3d 1 (D.D.C. 2016).
  • Successfully negotiated major federal and state consent decrees concerning civil penalties, injunctive relief, and natural resource damages for Enbridge’s Line 6B release of crude oil near Marshall, MI. United States v. Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership, et al., 1:16-cv-00914-GJQ-ESC (W.D. Mich. May 23, 2017).
  • Managed the merits and environmental review proceedings before the STB, as well as related litigation, concerning the construction of new rail lines, including successful defense of a hotly contested challenge to a new rail line in Texas.   Medina Cnty. Envtl. Action Ass’n v. Surface Transp. Bd., 602 F.3d 687, 690 (5th Cir. 2010) 
  • Assists infrastructure clients with obtaining construction permits from the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Forest Service, and other federal and state agencies, including advising clients with respect to the agencies’ NEPA review processes, Section 7 consultations with the US Fish and Wildlife, and cultural resource consultations with SHPOs, the ACHP, and tribes.  Sierra Club v. U.S. Forest Service, 828 F.3d 402 (6th Cir. 2016).
  • Earned a favorable ruling in a NEPA and CWA-based challenge to multiple federal agency permits for a client’s domestic oil pipeline before the DC District Court and the DC Circuit. See Sierra Club v. US Army Corps of Engineers, et al., 803 F.3d 31 (DC Cir. 2015).  
  • Represents pipeline companies before the US Department of State with respect to applications for Presidential Permits to construct, operate, and maintain cross-border pipelines between the United States and Canada, including with respect to the State Department’s NEPA, NHPA, and ESA review process for pipeline projects and resulting litigation. Currently assisting with the NEPA process for Enbridge’s Line 67 expansion project, and earned a favorable ruling in prior litigation challenging that same pipeline. See White Earth, et al. v. US Department of State, et al., 14-cv-4726, 2015 WL 8483278 (D. Minn. Dec. 9, 2015); Sierra Club v. Clinton, 689 F. Supp. 2d 1147 (D. Minn. 2010).    
  • Advises clients on  hazardous material regulatory requirements, and has successfully procured special permits from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), including a permit to exempt a major consumer product from certain hazardous material shipping requirements.
  • Represents pipeline trade associations and a pipeline company in litigation concerning a challenge to the DOT’s and PHMSA’s authority to approve emergency response plans for pipeline water crossings.  National Wildlife Federation v. Department of Transportation, 2:15-cv-13535 (E.D. Mich., filed Oct. 8, 2015).  
  • Represents a large Global Distribution System and a travel distribution trade association in various regulatory matters before the DOT pertaining to the distribution of airline services. Currently representing a GDS in a consumer antitrust lawsuit. 
  • Advises clients on the scope of federal railroad preemption and has represented railroad interests in proceedings addressing the scope of federal preemption under the ICC Termination Act.  For example, successfully represented BNSF Railway in a proceeding concerning preemption of certain proposed restrictions on locomotives.  United States Environmental Protection Agency – Petition for Declaratory Order, F.D. 35803 (STB Served December 30, 2014).  
  • Prepared amici brief for four trade associations in Dakota Access pipeline litigation concerning the remedy phase in environmental review litigation involving the Dakota Access pipeline.
  • Advises major real estate developer on NEPA, NHPA, and FRA issues with respect to proposed development of a major project adjacent to Union Station in Washington, DC.
  • Currently advises major motor passenger carrier in variety of regulatory, legislative, and commercial matters concerning interstate bus transportation, including federal funding, reasonable access, and local zoning issues.
  • Represents energy and transportation companies with respect to challenges to state laws or local ordinances that restrict the ability to operate in interstate commerce. Prepared an amicus brief on behalf of energy trade organizations in Portland Pipe Line’s challenge to City of South Portland, ME ordinance that restricts the transportation of heavy crude oil from Canada. Portland Pipe Line Corp. v. City of South Portland, et al., 2:15-cv-00054 (D. ME, filed Feb. 6, 2015).


  • Washington, DC Super Lawyers, for Transportation: Maritime, 2012, 2014-2015

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Professional Affiliations

  • Transportation Committee of the ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, Vice Chair
  • Association of Transportation Law Professionals, Past President and Editor in chief of Highlights