Christopher D. Smith

Christopher D. Smith

  • 512.469.6108
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  • Thompson & Knight LLP
    98 San Jacinto Boulevard
    Suite 1900
    Austin, TX 78701 USA
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Chris Smith focuses his practice on environmental enforcement and administrative litigation. Particular areas of expertise include wetlands enforcement actions under § 404 of the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA), Endangered Species Act (ESA) enforcement actions, Texas and Federal Clean Air Act (CAA) enforcement cases and citizen suits, and property and groundwater contamination litigation.

Chris' administrative practice involves contested cases before the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH), Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) permitting matters, Railroad Commission of Texas enforcement proceedings, Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) transmission line siting cases, Texas Department of Insurance enforcement actions, Texas Department of Motor Vehicle franchise disputes, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) enforcement cases, and issues related to the Texas Public Information Act.

Chris also counsels clients on litigation avoidance and environmental due diligence in corporate transactions, including the use of the Texas Environmental, Health, and Safety Audit Privilege Act and the U.S. EPA's Audit Policy to limit potential liability. He also assists clients in conducting internal investigations and audits. In addition to his environmental and administrative practice, Chris represents clients in connection with commercial disputes and state and federal civil litigation.


  • Advised unconventional natural gas exploration and production (E&P) companies on emerging environmental issues related to shale gas in the Bakken, Barnett, Eagle Ford, Fayetteville, Haynesville, and Marcellus shale plays, including wetlands permitting and enforcement in connection with the construction of wells and pipelines, endangered species, hydraulic fracturing, water supply issues, and air regulations in connection with natural gas processing facilities

  • Assisted in legislative effort to pass the Texas Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Act, which provides an innovative financing program to allow owners of commercial and industrial properties to obtain low-cost, long-term loans for water conservation, energy-efficiency improvements, and renewable retrofits

  • Assisted E&P company in-house counsel in conducting internal investigation related to alleged violations of the ESA by company contractors and defended company in threatened prosecution alleging criminal violations of the ESA

  • Regularly advised publicly traded E&P and oil field service companies regarding hydraulic fracturing, climate change, and water issues as they pertain to U.S. Securities and Exchange (SEC) filings and required disclosures

  • Defended refinery in a TCEQ enforcement action alleging violations of regulations promulgated under Title V of the CAA and the Texas State Implementation Plan (SIP); specific tasks included assessing potential exposure, negotiating with the TCEQ, and working with the client to develop a long-term plan to achieve compliance

  • Represented multiple land owners in SOAH contested cases related to the siting of electrical transmission lines before the PUCT and in appeals in Texas state courts; specific issues addressed included the extent to which the route preferred by the utility and alternative routes complied with PUCT statutory and regulatory routing criteria

  • Represented a major manufacturing facility in a TCEQ enforcement action under the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act and an EPA investigation under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA)

  • Represented chemical pipeline company in a lawsuit brought by more than 300 individuals alleging personal injury damages related to a pipeline explosion

  • Advised purchaser of a Texas Retail Electric Provider (REP) on compliance with respect to PUCT REP regulations and the transfer of an REP certificate

  • Counseled health care client in conducting environmental audit and developing an air regulations compliance plan for emergency generators located in a CAA nonattainment area

  • Defended restaurant holding a liquor license in a TABC enforcement action seeking the revocation of license

  • Represented a developer-owned water utility in decertification contested case hearing before SOAH and TCEQ, as well as a subsequent appeal in Texas state court

  • Assisted nonprofit organization in negotiation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service related to the establishment of a safe harbor agreement and conservation easement bank under the ESA

  • Represented a client in challenging EPA's interpretation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

  • Counseled clients regarding property remediation under the Texas Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) and Texas Dry Cleaner Remediation Program (DCRP)

Prior Experience

  • Volunteer, U.S. Peace Corps, Jamaica, 1999-2001


  • The Best Lawyers in America® by Woodward/White Inc. (Environmental); 2016-2017
  • Chambers USA by Chambers & Partners (Environmental); 2016
  • Texas Super Lawyers® by Thomson Reuters (Environmental); 2016
  • Texas Rising Stars® by Thomson Reuters (Environmental); 2013-2015
  • “Recommended Attorney,” The Legal 500 US by Legalease (Industry Focus: Energy: Regulatory); 2015-2016

Activities (Memberships/Affiliations)

  • Member, American Bar Association; Environment, Energy, and Resources Law Section

  • Member, State Bar of Texas; Environmental and Natural Resources Law Section

  • Member, Austin Bar Association; Publications Committee of the Environmental, Natural Resources, and Water Law Section