Chris Smith

Phone: 512-659-6912


Chris Smith helps clients solve problems arising under all aspects of environmental laws.  He advocates for clients before regulatory agencies and state and federal courts, and counsels them on regulations, compliance, and risk avoidance.   Chris enjoys the challenge of helping clients develop practical, cost-effective solutions to often complicated and technical environmental matters.  He believes that effective legal representation is founded on trust and he values developing long-lasting relationships with clients, understanding their goals, and learning about their businesses.

A graduate of University of Maryland, Chris served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica, working with small farmers to develop sustainable agricultural products and practices.  After the Peace Corps, Chris attended the University of Texas School of Law and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.    

Prior to co-founding Smith Jolin, Chris was a partner at Thompson & Knight LLP where he worked for 12 years representing a variety of clients, including real estate developers, refineries, chemical plants, steel mills, cement manufacturers, lime manufacturers, oil and gas operators, agricultural operations, local governments, and private citizens.  His background includes experience both in the substantive aspects of environmental law and judicial and administrative trial practice.  

Chris has been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America® by Woodward/White Inc. (Environmental) for 2016-2019, Chambers USA by Chambers & Partners (Environmental) for 2016, Texas Super Lawyers® by Thomson Reuters (Environmental) 2016-2018, Texas Rising Stars® by Thomson Reuters (Environmental) for 2013-2015 , and as a “Recommended Attorney” The Legal 500 US by Legalease (Industry Focus: Energy: Regulatory) for 2015-2016.  He serves on the law school committee of the Texas Bar Environmental and Natural Resources Law Section and the planning committee of the Texas Environmental Superconference.

Outside of his law practice, he serves on the Executive Committee of the Capitol Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, is the proud parent of four children, and competes in ultramarathon running events.

Selected Representations

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

  • An independent oil and gas company in conducting a privileged environmental audit assessing wetlands issues at over one hundred sites in the Haynesville Shale and resolved related enforcement and permitting matters with the EPA and Corps of Engineers

  • A large manufacturer on compliance with section 404 of the Clean Water Act in connection with the construction of a new plant, including applicability of Nationwide Permits and Regional General Permits to road and utility crossings

  • A developer in obtaining permits and mitigation credits to develop property containing jurisdictional wetlands and waters

  • A non-profit on negotiating issues related to its Endangered Species Act habitat conservation plan for a high adventure camp and the establishment of a safe harbor agreement and conservation easement bank

  • An oil and gas company regarding participation in the Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Range-wide Conservation Plan for the lesser prairie chicken

  • An oil and gas company in conducting an internal investigation related to alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act by company contractors, including defending the company in threatened prosecution alleging criminal violations

  • A developer regarding mitigation and permitting requirements for development of medical facility in potential endangered species habitat

  • A home builder in developing a Habitat Conservation Plan and seeking an incidental take permit for a construction project in San Antonio

  • An oil and gas company in resolving an enforcement action under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

  • A large manufacturer in a water-rights dispute with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality related to a legacy dam and associated impoundment

  • A retail public utility in a contested case hearing protesting an infringement by another utility of the client’s Certificate of Convenience and Necessity

  • A retail public water utility in transferring a portion of its Certificate of Convenience and Necessity to another party

  • A developer-owned water utility in decertification contested case hearing before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, as well as a subsequent appeal in Texas state court

  • An oilfield service companies in connection regulations affecting water reuse and recycling in oil and gas operations

  • Multiple land owners in contested cases related to the siting of electrical transmission lines before the Texas Public Utility Commission and in appeals in Texas state courts

  • A landowner client regarding property contamination caused by third-party salt water disposal company

  • A shopping center owner whose property was contaminated by releases from a historical dry cleaning operation regarding participation in the Texas Dry Cleaner Remediation Program

  • A Bank regarding the environmental risks associated with a brownfield redevelopment involving participation in the Texas Voluntary Cleanup Program

  • 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 and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act

  • A PRP group conducting a remedial investigation under CERCLA in successfully seeking the appointment of a receiver to oversee cleanup of a contaminated property

  • A refinery in a TCEQ enforcement action alleging violations of regulations promulgated under Title V of the CAA and the Texas State Implementation Plan

  • A publicly traded oil and gas company regarding hydraulic fracturing, climate change, and water issues as they pertain to U.S. Securities and Exchange filings and required disclosures

  • A hospital in conducting environmental audit and developing an air regulations compliance plan for emergency generators located in a CAA nonattainment area

  • An industrial client in resolving an enforcement action based on Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure and Facility Response Plan regulations

  • An oil and gas company resolving an EPA enforcement action under the general duty clause of section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act

  • A refiner in an OSHA enforcement action brought under the Process Safety Management program regulations



J.D., 2005, with honors, The University of Texas School of Law

M.P.A., 2005, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

B.S., Biology (with honors); B.A. Government (cum laude), 1999, University of Maryland, Phi Beta Kappa



U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas


Environmental Case Law Update, Aug. 2016, 27th Annual Texas Environmental Superconference

Emerging Regulatory Trends in Hydraulic Fracturing, March 2014, American Chemical Society Spring Meeting

Reviewing the Impact of Natural Resource Protection Laws on Energy Production, Jan. 2013, Texas Energy Production Land Seminar

Water Contamination and Hydraulic Fracturing, Sept. 2012, Environmental Issues in Natural Gas Production Seminar