Shanisha Y. Smith

Associate

Houston
T +1.713.646.1391
F +1.713.751.1717

Overview

Shanisha Smith’s energy and environmental practice focuses on complex environmental and general commercial litigation matters. She also counsels on a variety of environmental programs and compliance issues. Shanisha uses her detailed analytical skills to advance client interests, resolve administrative enforcement actions, and navigate permitting and compliance obligations. She proactively manages sensitive multi-stakeholder interactions related to environmental justice, including developing creative solutions to address environmental justice community concerns. Additionally, Shanisha assists clients in navigating administrative regulatory proceedings under various environmental laws and advises them on mitigating the risks of regulatory enforcement actions and litigation. She also counsels in a pro bono capacity, and spearheaded the Baker Biz Boost program, which provides up to 50 hours of pro bono legal work for minority- or women-owned businesses.

Shanisha holds an LL.M. in Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Law from the University of Houston Law Center. While earning her LL.M., she worked at the Texas Railroad Commission, as well as at the Comisión Nacional de Hidrocarburos during the Mexico Energy Reform.

Shanisha also has a wealth of experience working in courts, having worked with a Texas state civil court judge, a federal magistrate judge, two federal district court judges and a federal appellate circuit judge. Prior to joining BakerHostetler’s Energy Team, she clerked for the Honorable Judge George C. Hanks, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Shanisha is a dedicated advocate who confidently adapts to unique situations, drawing on her knowledge of the energy and environmental industries and the skills that were well-honed during her clerkship.

While working toward her postgraduate degree, Shanisha won a $10,000 award for the Texas Energy Innovation Challenge – Power Across Texas. Focusing on law and regulatory opportunities and barriers that enabled the commercialization of GeoThermH2O, she was part of a team that obtained a provisional United States patent.

Select Experience

Energy and Environmental Litigation
  • Key member of a team that litigated liability and damage estimation issues against Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) on behalf of 75,000 victims of the 2017 and 2018 northern California wildfires in connection with BakerHostetler’s representation of the Official Committee of Tort Claimants in PG&E’s historic Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which resulted in a $13.5 billion settlement on behalf of wildfire victims. Conducted research, motion practice, discovery, deposition preparation and extensive review and analysis of documents for the purpose of claims estimation and determination of nonparty fault.
Transactional
  • Advised an energy company to amend a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Communitization Agreement to seek the overpayment of royalties.
Regulatory and Compliance
  • Advises petrochemical company on federal environmental laws, including enforcement defense and compliance counseling, permitting, due diligence and transactional support, and litigation before state and federal agencies and courts.
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Experience

Energy and Environmental Litigation
  • Key member of a team that litigated liability and damage estimation issues against Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) on behalf of 75,000 victims of the 2017 and 2018 northern California wildfires in connection with BakerHostetler’s representation of the Official Committee of Tort Claimants in PG&E’s historic Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which resulted in a $13.5 billion settlement on behalf of wildfire victims. Conducted research, motion practice, discovery, deposition preparation and extensive review and analysis of documents for the purpose of claims estimation and determination of nonparty fault.
  • Assisted in the representation of an oil and gas producer in a suit against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding drilling application processing time. The client maintains that it had met all requirements necessary for the applications despite BLM’s approval delay. Received mandamus from the federal court forcing BLM to issue oil and gas drilling permits as required under the Mineral Leasing Act.
  • Member of the defense team representing independent natural gas and oil producers in various federal royalty audits and appeals.
  • Advised an energy company to amend a BLM Communitization Agreement to seek the overpayment of royalties.
  • Member of a defense team for an independent oil and gas company in ongoing Department of Justice civil investigation pursuant to the False Claims Act for allegedly underpaid royalties on natural gas.
  • Represented energy companies in class action and individual suits alleging improper deduction of downstream costs from royalties owed under private leases.
  • Litigated for a natural gas exploration company’s development plan and permit approval concerning the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA).
  • Advised an oil and gas producer in a suit against the BLM regarding drilling application processing time.
  • Member of a defense team for an independent oil and gas company in ongoing Department of Justice civil investigation pursuant to the False Claims Act for allegedly underpaid royalties on natural gas.
  • Advised energy company on settlement of civil and criminal allegations of non-compliance.
  • Advised energy companies in class action and individual suits alleging improper deduction of downstream costs from royalties owed under private leases.
  • Advised an American multinational energy corporation on a master development plan challenge.
  • Prepared appellate documents from adverse regulatory ruling for an American multinational energy corporation involving a deepwater project.
  • Litigated an appeal from a Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) decision on an Environmental Assessment concerning National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) issues for an American multinational energy corporation.
  • Obtained novel mandamus relief for independent oil and gas company due to the BLM's failure to issue oil and gas drilling permits and to comply with the agency’s obligations under the Mineral Leasing Act.

Complex Commercial Litigation

  • Represents clients in noncompete lawsuits against former employees,related to claims arising from breaches of restrictive covenants contained in employment agreements.
  • Litigated a wrongful death case for a Dutch-domiciled tire recycling company following an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation.
  • Involved in the defense of a Fortune 100 healthcare distributor in a Texas state court multidistrict opioid litigation in which approximately 50 cases have been consolidated. Conduct research, third-party discovery, deposition preparation, offensive discovery strategy and drafts motions related to designating responsible third parties.
  • Reviewed documents for healthcare client to respond to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigation.
Transactional
  • Advised an energy company to amend a BLM Communitization Agreement to seek the overpayment of royalties.
  • Provided downstream energy company transactional support on an oil sale and purchase agreement.
  • Advised a hydrocarbon exploration and production company on due diligence for a potential acquisition.
Regulatory and Compliance
  • Advises petrochemical company on federal environmental laws, including enforcement defense and compliance counseling, permitting, due diligence and transactional support, and litigation before state and federal agencies and courts.
  • Help clients respond to investigations by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), primarily on decommissioning liability.
  • Assisted a downstream energy company respond to an enforcement action for an alleged violation of pipeline safety rules.
  • Advised downstream energy company on compliance of permitting documents as economic operator of crude oil.
  • Advised federal lessees and trade association with respect to federal bonding requirements for platform abandonment.
  • Counsel for a national oil and gas trade association involved in efforts to review and prepare comments on how the Department of the Interior can improve implementation of regulatory reform initiatives and policies, and to identify regulations appropriate for repeal, replacement or modification.
  • Advised clients on compliance issues for state regulatory agencies such as royalty payments before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and pipeline safety before the Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC).
  • Advised an independent petroleum products refiner and marketer in antitrust case on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) requirements and compliance.

Sustainability & Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)

  • Advises petrochemical company on the rapidly evolving regulatory landscape for emerging chemicals, including ethylene oxide and the environmental justice effects.
  • Advises City of Houston, Office of Sustainability’s Climate Action Plan (CAP),
  • Focuses on citizen engagement and strategic partner to the City of Houston’s CAP Implementation Working Groups: Youth Engagement, Equity & Energy Transition.
International
  • Worked with Comisión Nacional de Hidrocarburos during Mexico’s Energy Reform, providing advice to the attorneys and commissioners within the organization on shale gas, international model contracts, the 1944 U.S.-Mexico Water Treaty, the hiring of talent, foreign investors, administrative reforms to improve the competitiveness of Mexico and the regulation and bidding processes.
  • Worked with the Legal Assistance Centre of Namibia on corporal punishment issues. Broadcasted from Namibia’s radio station (Namibia’s Broadcasting Corporation, NBC) informing the community on Namibian law and crafted “radio friendly” law scripts that encouraged the attention of the listener. Analyzed and input data in a database on children’s views on corporal punishment in Namibia.
  • Worked on groundwater conservation and financial assurance issues, providing research and memoranda on issues related to administrative law, oil and gas, and Railroad Commission rules in Texas.

Recognitions and Memberships

Recognitions

  • Texas Super Lawyers "Rising Star" (2020 to 2021)
  • Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Pathfinder (2020)
  • State Bar of Texas, Environmental & Natural Resources Law Section Award (2014)

Memberships

  • American Bar Association
    • Section of Litigation, Judicial Intern Opportunity Program (JIOP): National Co-Chair
  • Houston Bar Association
    • Houston Volunteer Lawyers Committee
  • Houston Young Lawyers Association
  • Association of International Petroleum Negotiators
  • Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation
    • Trustee
    • Diversity and Inclusion Task Force: Chair
  • State Bar of Texas
  • The Downtown Group
  • Western Energy Alliance
  • Women's Energy Network
  • Texas Bar Foundation
  • AAA Energy Advisory Committee
  • AAA ICDR Innovation and Technology Advisory Council

Community

  • Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force: Chair
  • Special Olympics
  • Denver Petroleum Club
  • Colorado CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children): Board Member (former)

Industries

Prior Positions

  • Judicial Law Clerk for the Honorable Judge George C. Hanks Jr., United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas 
  • Comisión Nacional de Hidrocarburos: Energy Fellow
  • Railroad Commission of Texas, Office of Enforcement: State Bar of Texas Environmental & Natural Resources Law Section Scholarship/Fellow
  • Judicial Intern for the former Honorable Judge Harold R. DeMoss Jr., United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit 
  • Judicial Intern for the Honorable Kenneth M. Hoyt, United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas 
  • Legal Assistance Centre of Namibia: Intern 

Admissions

  • U.S. District Court, District of Colorado
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas
  • Colorado
  • Texas

Education

  • LL.M., International Law & Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Law, University of Houston Law Center, 2014, with honors, Association of International Petroleum Negotiators (AIPN) Scholarship Recipient (2013)
  • J.D., Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law, 2013; cum laude; Associate Editor, Thurgood Marshall Law Review; International Moot Court, Board of Advocates; CALI Awards for Federal Jurisdiction, Commercial Law and Appellate Litigation
  • B.S., Sociology, Lincoln University, 2010, cum laude, Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
  • Joint Programme in International Law, University College London (London, England), Southern University Law Center, 2011
  • Corporate Law, Polytechnic of Namibia (Windhoek, Namibia), 2010