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About Whit

Whit Swift advises industrial companies on air quality matters, such as state and federal new source review permitting and Title V operating permit matters. In connection with that permitting work, he has represented applicants in contested permit matters before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).

In addition to permitting work, Whit assists major manufacturing, energy, chemical and petrochemical companies with compliance issues related to the Clean Air Act (CAA). His CAA compliance work includes auditing, compliance counseling, and enforcement defense work under state and federal programs, including the federal Risk Management Plan (RMP) program, federal regulatory requirements governing sources of hazardous air pollutants (National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), release reporting, and State Implementation Plan (SIP) rules regulating point sources. 

Whit Swift is praised for his "client-focused and very practical" style. He is highly regarded for his expertise in air permitting and compliance matters, and regularly advises manufacturing, energy and chemical companies.
Chambers USA, 2017

Experience

Recent Notable Matters

Major manufacturing, energy, chemical, and petrochemical companies — evaluating the applicability of permitting requirements and with the development and implementation of state and federal preconstruction and operating permit strategies

Refinery owner/operator — developing strategy for both state and federal permitting actions to ensure timely permit issuance and start of operation for major refinery expansion

Petroleum refineries and chemical plants — on-site investigations and related information requests and subsequent enforcement actions brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement under the RMP program

Texas chemical plant — negotiate a settlement with the EPA to resolve an RMP enforcement action following a fatality accident at its site

Chemical manufacturers — evaluate response strategy and lead negotiations with TCEQ Enforcement Division representatives aimed at reducing the penalties sought in significant environmental enforcement actions

Chemical manufacturer — drafting and negotiating a novel corrective order to resolve past liability for unauthorized emissions and establish a stipulated penalty structure to address future emissions events and remove the owner/operator from a cycle of Notices of Enforcement and administrative penalty orders

Power generation and materials handling companies — contested case hearings before SOAH over preconstruction air quality permits

Manufacturers — responding to information requests received from the EPA under Section 114 of the CAA and in defending against alleged Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) violations in a subsequent enforcement action*

* Work completed prior to Bracewell

Publications and Speeches

Co-presenter, “Environmental Law's Not Dead Yet:  Optics Versus Reality in the New Administration's Regulatory Reform Project,” Association of Corporate Counsel South/Central Texas Chapter, July 12, 2017.

“Chapter 5: Air Quality,” Texas Environmental Law, Thomson Reuters Texas Practice Series, 2015-2016.

“Implementation of the 2015 Ozone NAAQS,” Houston-Galveston Area Council Regional Air Quality Planning Advisory Committee, November 17, 2016.

“Agency-Related Ethics Issues,” 26th Annual Texas Environmental Superconference, Austin, Texas, August 7-8, 2014.

"Greenhouse Gas Permitting Process: Legal Perspective," Texas Chemical Council/Association of Chemical Industry of Texas, June 5, 2013.

"Regulating Greenhouse Gases: The Endangerment Finding, the Triggering Rule, the Tailoring Rule, and the Proposed New Source Performance Standards for Power Plants," University of Texas School of Law Power Plant Conference, February 1, 2013.

Credentials

Education

The University of Texas School of Law,
J.D.
1996
Order of the Coif
Washington and Lee University,
B.A.
1993

Bar Admissions

Texas

Affiliations

State Bar of Texas, Environmental & Natural Resources Law Section
Austin Bar Association

News

Insights

Insights

Federal District Court Vacates BLM’s Postponement of the Waste Prevention Rule

On October 4, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a decision vacating the Bureau of Land Management’s (“BLM’s”) June 15, 2017 notice that indefinitely postponed compliance dates for sections of BLM’s Methane and...

Navigating Texas Regulations During Hurricane Harvey: TCEQ Executive Director's Regulatory Guidance and Governor Abbott's Disaster Proclamation Provide Potential Relief

August 29, 2017

A series of decisions between the Governor's office and the Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality ("TCEQ") has resulted in the suspension of a number of state...

DC Circuit Vacates EPA’s Initial Stay of Methane Rule Requirements

On July 3, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision vacating the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA’s”) initial 90-day stay of parts of the 2016 rule establishing methane emissions standards for the oil and gas industry (“Methane Rule”). Clean Air Council v. Pruitt , No. 17-1145 (D.C. Cir, July 3, 2017). The Methane Rule applies to oil and gas facilities for which construction, modification, or reconstruction started after September 18, 2015. See 40 C.F.R. Part 60, Subpart OOOOa (40 C.F.R. § 60.5360a et seq. , adopted at 81 Fed. Reg...

EPA Proposes Additional Two-Year Stay of Parts of the Methane Rule

On June 13, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a pre-publication proposed rule that would grant an additional two-year stay to the effectiveness of certain portions of the 2016 rule establishing methane emissions standards for the oil and gas industry (“Methane Rule”). The Methane Rule applies to oil and gas facilities for which construction, modification, or reconstruction started after September 18, 2015. See 40 C.F.R. Part 60, Subpart OOOOa (40 C.F.R. § 60.5360a et seq. , adopted at 81 Fed. Reg. 35824 (June 3, 2016)). The June 13 proposed rule affects three...

Texas Citizen Suit Developments

June 6, 2017

In late April, a decision out of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas sent waves through the Texas environmental community, assessing a civil penalty of almost $20 million in a citizen suit brought by environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) under Section 304 of the federal Clean Air Act. Whit Swift discusses that suit, the alleged violations for which the plaintiffs pursued enforcement, and lessons learned from both the federal court of appeals and district court decisions that led to the outcome.

EPA Announces Reconsideration and Stay of Additional Parts of the Methane Rule

On May 26, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a pre-publication notice that announced the reconsideration and a three-month stay to the effectiveness of certain portions of the 2016 rule establishing methane emissions standards for the oil and gas industry (“Methane Rule”). The Methane Rule applies to oil and gas facilities for which construction, modification, or reconstruction started after September 18, 2015. See 40 C.F.R. Part 60, Subpart OOOOa (40 C.F.R. § 60.5360a et seq. , adopted at 81 Fed. Reg. 35824 (June 3, 2016)). The May 26 notice granted reconsideration...

EPA Announces Methane Rule Reconsideration, Adding to List of Obama-Era Rules Under Review

On April 18, 2017, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the EPA will convene a proceeding for reconsideration of certain elements of the 2016 rule establishing methane emissions standards for the oil and gas industry (“Methane Rule”). The Methane Rule applies to oil and gas facilities for which construction, modification, or reconstruction started after September 18, 2015. See 40 C.F.R. Part 60, Subpart OOOOa (40 C.F.R. § 60.5360a et seq., adopted at 81 Fed. Reg. 35824 (June 3, 2016). In particular, EPA will reconsider elements of the fugitive...

EPA Seeks Public Comment on Existing Regulations for Repeal, Replacement or Modification

On April 13, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is seeking comments from the public on existing regulations that the Agency should consider repealing, replacing, or modifying. 82 Fed. Reg. 17793 (Apr. 13, 2017). EPA issued the Request for Comment in response to the February 2017 Executive Order issued by President Trump, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” that seeks “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens on the American people.” As required by the EO, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt formed an EPA Regulatory Reform Task Force to carry out the...

EPA Proposes to Delay the Effective Date of RMP Rule Amendments to 2019

April 3, 2017

On April 3, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule that would delay the effective date of the recent Risk Management Program (RMP) rule amendments to February 19, 2019. 82 Fed. Reg. 16146 (Apr. 3, 2017). EPA published amendments to the 40 C.F.R. Part 68 RMP rule in the final days of the Obama administration. 82 Fed. Reg. 4594 (Jan. 13, 2017). Those amendments changed a number of RMP program elements, including compliance audits, the process hazard analysis (PHA) process, emergency response drills and preparedness activities, and information sharing with...

Texas Regional Haze: Fifth Circuit Grants EPA’s Motion to Remand the Texas Regional Haze FIP

March 23, 2017

On March 22, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed EPA to revise and change the Texas Regional Haze Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) when it granted EPA’s motion to remand the plan to EPA for revision. FIPs are issued when EPA does not agree with the measures taken by States in their State Implementation Plan (SIP) and when EPA second-guesses a State’s regulatory decision making. The Obama Administration issued FIPs and overruled State judgment more than any other previous Administration. The Trump Administration has vowed to use FIPs less and defer much more to...

EPA Withdraws Oil and Gas Information Collection Request

March 2, 2017

On March 2, 2017, new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made it clear that he will follow through on President Trump's promise to reduce regulatory burdens by withdrawing the Information Collection Request (ICR) that the Obama EPA issued last November to force the oil and natural gas industry to produce substantial amounts of detailed information about methane emissions from existing oil and gas operations. Although this action has long been expected, it is another signal that the Trump Administration will not be pursuing an aggressive climate change agenda. The November 2016 ICR was aimed at...

TCEQ Adopts Changes to Affirmative Defense Rule in Response to EPA SIP Call

November 3, 2016

On November 2, 2016, the Commissioners of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved the adoption of changes to the rule language in 30 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Chapter 101 that establishes an affirmative defense to enforcement for unauthorized emissions resulting from upset events. The TCEQ was prompted to make the change by a June 12, 2015 action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) known as the “SSM SIP Call.” The SSM SIP Call directed the State of Texas (and 35 other states) to change language in state rules and associated State Implementation Plans...

EPA Proposes Revisions to Public Petition Process for Title V Permits

August 24, 2016

On August 24, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published proposed revisions to the federal Title V operating permit rules, which govern pollutants at major sources under the Clean Air Act. The proposed revisions aim to streamline and clarify the processes related to the submittal and review of Title V petitions. Petitions are a key element of the public participation process under the Title V program. The federal rules at 40 CFR Part 70 and equivalent state provisions allow members of the public to petition EPA to object to a state-issued Title V operating permit, if EPA...

Noteworthy

Noteworthy

Chambers USA
Texas Environment, 2015 - 2018
The Legal 500 United States
Environment: Litigation, 2016; Environment: Regulatory, 2016
Woodward White, Inc.
Best Lawyers
Environmental Law, 2016 - 2019
The University of Texas School of Law
Order of the Coif

Events