ENVIRONMENTAL, HEALTH AND SAFETY MATTERS
|3 Months Ended|
Mar. 31, 2013
|ENVIRONMENTAL, HEALTH AND SAFETY MATTERS|
|ENVIRONMENTAL, HEALTH AND SAFETY MATTERS||
14. ENVIRONMENTAL, HEALTH AND SAFETY MATTERS
ENVIRONMENTAL, HEALTH AND SAFETY MATTERS
We are subject to extensive federal, state, local and international laws, regulations, rules and ordinances relating to safety, pollution, protection of the environment, product management and distribution, and the generation, storage, handling, transportation, treatment, disposal and remediation of hazardous substances and waste materials. In the ordinary course of business, we are subject to frequent environmental inspections and monitoring and occasional investigations by governmental enforcement authorities. In addition, our production facilities require operating permits that are subject to renewal, modification and, in certain circumstances, revocation. Actual or alleged violations of safety laws, environmental laws or permit requirements could result in restrictions or prohibitions on plant operations or product distribution, substantial civil or criminal sanctions, as well as, under some environmental laws, the assessment of strict liability and/or joint and several liability. Moreover, changes in environmental regulations could inhibit or interrupt our operations, or require us to modify our facilities or operations. Accordingly, environmental or regulatory matters may cause us to incur significant unanticipated losses, costs or liabilities.
Environmental, Health and Safety Systems
We are committed to achieving and maintaining compliance with all applicable environmental, health and safety ("EHS") legal requirements, and we have developed policies and management systems that are intended to identify the multitude of EHS legal requirements applicable to our operations, enhance compliance with applicable legal requirements, improve the safety of our employees, contractors, community neighbors and customers and minimize the production and emission of wastes and other pollutants. Although EHS legal requirements are constantly changing and are frequently difficult to comply with, these EHS management systems are designed to assist us in our compliance goals while also fostering efficiency and improvement and reducing overall risk to us.
EHS Capital Expenditures
We may incur future costs for capital improvements and general compliance under EHS laws, including costs to acquire, maintain and repair pollution control equipment. For the three months ended March 31, 2013 and 2012, our capital expenditures for EHS matters totaled $16 million and $19 million, respectively. Because capital expenditures for these matters are subject to evolving regulatory requirements and depend, in part, on the timing, promulgation and enforcement of specific requirements, our capital expenditures for EHS matters have varied significantly from year to year and we cannot provide assurance that our recent expenditures are indicative of future amounts we may spend related to EHS and other applicable laws.
We have incurred, and we may in the future incur, liability to investigate and clean up waste or contamination at our current or former facilities or facilities operated by third parties at which we may have disposed of waste or other materials. Similarly, we may incur costs for the cleanup of waste that was disposed of prior to the purchase of our businesses. Under some circumstances, the scope of our liability may extend to damages to natural resources.
Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act ("CERCLA") and similar state laws, a current or former owner or operator of real property may be liable for remediation costs regardless of whether the release or disposal of hazardous substances was in compliance with law at the time it occurred, and a current owner or operator may be liable regardless of whether it owned or operated the facility at the time of the release. Outside the U.S., analogous contaminated property laws, such as those in effect in France and Australia, can hold past owners and/or operators liable for remediation at former facilities. Currently, there are approximately 10 former facilities or third-party sites in the U.S. for which we have been notified of potential claims against us for cleanup liabilities, including, but not limited to, sites listed under CERCLA. Based on current information and past experiences at other CERCLA sites, we do not expect these third-party claims to have a material impact on our financial statements.
One of these sites, the North Maybe Canyon Mine site, involves a former phosphorous mine near Soda Springs, Idaho, which is believed to have been operated by a predecessor company to us. In 2004, the U.S. Forest Service notified us that we are a CERCLA potentially responsible party ("PRP") for contamination originating from the site. In February 2010, we and Wells Cargo (another PRP) agreed to conduct a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study of a portion of the site and are currently engaged in that process. At this time, we are unable to reasonably estimate our potential liabilities at this site.
In addition, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA") and similar state laws, we may be required to remediate contamination originating from our properties as a condition to our hazardous waste permit. Some of our manufacturing sites have an extended history of industrial chemical manufacturing and use, including on-site waste disposal. We are aware of soil, groundwater or surface contamination from past operations at some of our sites, and we may find contamination at other sites in the future. For example, our Port Neches, Texas, and Geismar, Louisiana, facilities are the subject of ongoing remediation requirements imposed under RCRA. Similar laws exist in a number of locations in which we currently operate, or previously operated, manufacturing facilities, such as Australia, India, France, Hungary and Italy.
By letter dated March 7, 2006, our former Base Chemicals and Polymers facility in West Footscray, Australia, was issued a clean-up notice by the Environmental Protection Authority Victoria ("EPA Victoria") due to concerns about soil and groundwater contamination emanating from the site. On August 23, 2010, EPA Victoria revoked the second clean-up notice and issued a revised notice that included a requirement for financial assurance for the remediation. We have reached agreement with the agency that a mortgage on the land will be held by the agency as financial surety during the period covered by the current clean-up notice, which ends on July 30, 2014. As of March 31, 2013, we had an accrued liability of approximately $29 million related to estimated environmental remediation costs at this site. We can provide no assurance that the agency will not seek to institute additional requirements for the site or that additional costs will not be associated with the clean up.
In many cases, our potential liability arising from historical contamination is based on operations and other events occurring prior to our ownership of a business or specific facility. In these situations, we frequently obtained an indemnity agreement from the prior owner addressing remediation liabilities arising from pre-closing conditions. We have successfully exercised our rights under these contractual covenants for a number of sites and, where applicable, mitigated our ultimate remediation liability. We cannot assure you, however, that the liabilities for all such matters subject to indemnity, will be honored by the prior owner or that our existing indemnities will be sufficient to cover our liabilities for such matters.
Based on available information and the indemnification rights we believe are likely to be available, we believe that the costs to investigate and remediate known contamination will not have a material effect on our financial statements. However, if such indemnities are not honored or do not fully cover the costs of investigation and remediation or we are required to contribute to such costs, then such expenditures may have a material effect on our financial statements. At the current time, we are unable to estimate the total cost, exclusive of indemnification benefits, to remediate any of the known contamination sites.
We have accrued liabilities relating to anticipated environmental cleanup obligations, site reclamation and closure costs and known penalties. Liabilities are recorded when potential liabilities are either known or considered probable and can be reasonably estimated. Our liability estimates are calculated using present value techniques as appropriate and are based upon requirements placed upon us by regulators, available facts, existing technology and past experience. The environmental liabilities do not include amounts recorded as asset retirement obligations. We had accrued $34 million for environmental liabilities as of both March 31, 2013 and December 31, 2012. Of these amounts, $5 million and $10 million were classified as accrued liabilities in our consolidated balance sheets as of March 31, 2013 and December 31, 2012, respectively, and $29 million and $24 million were classified as other noncurrent liabilities in our consolidated balance sheets as of March 31, 2013 and December 31, 2012, respectively. In certain cases, our remediation liabilities may be payable over periods of up to 30 years. We may incur losses for environmental remediation in excess of the amounts accrued; however, we are not able to estimate the amount or range of such potential excess.
The EU regulatory framework for chemicals, called "REACH", became effective in 2007 and is designed to be phased in gradually over 11 years. As a REACH-regulated company that manufactures in or imports more than one metric ton per year of a chemical substance into the European Economic Area, we were required to pre-register with the European Chemicals Agency ("ECHA"), such chemical substances and isolated intermediates to take advantage of the 11 year phase-in period. To meet our compliance obligations, a cross-business REACH team was established, through which we were able to fulfill all required pre-registrations and our first phase registrations by the November 30, 2010 deadline. While we continue our registration efforts to meet the next registration deadline of May 31, 2013, our REACH implementation team is now strategically focused on the authorization phase of the REACH process, directing its efforts to address "Substances of Very High Concern" and evaluating potential business implications. Where warranted, evaluation of substitute chemicals will be an important element of our ongoing manufacturing sustainability efforts. As a chemical manufacturer with global operations, we are also actively monitoring and addressing analogous regulatory regimes being considered or implemented outside of the EU, such as in Korea and Taiwan.
Although the total long-term cost for REACH compliance is unknown at this time, we spent approximately $8 million, $5 million and $9 million in 2012, 2011 and 2010, respectively, to meet the initial REACH requirements. We cannot provide assurance that these recent expenditures are indicative of future amounts that we may be required to spend for REACH compliance.
GREENHOUSE GAS REGULATION
Globally, our operations are increasingly subject to regulations that seek to reduce emissions of "greenhouse gases" ("GHGs"), such as carbon dioxide and methane, which may be contributing to changes in the Earth's climate. At the most recent negotiations of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, a limited group of nations, including the European Union ("EU"), agreed to a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that provides for reductions in GHG emissions. More significantly, the European Union GHG Emissions Trading System, established pursuant to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce GHG emissions in the EU, has just entered its third phase and ongoing reforms at the EU level—including measures to prop up carbon credit prices and ban the use of certain types of certified emission reductions—may increase our operating costs. Australia has also adopted a carbon trading system that has been recognized for formal linkage with the EU trading system by 2018. Australia's GHG cap-and-trade program may impose compliance obligations upon our operations that may increase our operating costs. In the U.S., California has commenced the first compliance period of its cap-and-trade program.
Federal climate change legislation in the U.S. appears unlikely in the near-term. As a result, domestic efforts to curb GHG emissions will be led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (the "EPA") GHG regulations and the efforts of states. To the extent that our domestic operations are subject to the EPA's GHG regulations, we may face increased capital and operating costs associated with new or expanded facilities. Expansions of our existing facilities or construction of new facilities may be subject to the Clean Air Act's Prevention of Significant Deterioration requirements under the EPA's GHG "Tailoring Rule." Our facilities are also subject to the EPA's Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases rule, and the collection and reporting of GHG data may increase our operational costs.
Under a consent decree with states and environmental groups, the EPA is due to propose new source performance standards for GHG emissions from refineries. These standards could significantly increase the costs of constructing or adding capacity to refineries and may ultimately increase the costs or decrease the supply of refined products. Either of these events could have an adverse effect on our business.
We are already managing and reporting GHG emissions, to varying degrees, as required by law for our sites in locations subject to Kyoto Protocol obligations and/or EU emissions trading scheme requirements. Although these sites are subject to existing GHG legislation, few have experienced or anticipate significant cost increases as a result of these programs, although it is possible that GHG emission restrictions may increase over time. Potential consequences of such restrictions include capital requirements to modify assets to meet GHG emission restrictions and/or increases in energy costs above the level of general inflation, as well as direct compliance costs. Currently, however, it is not possible to estimate the likely financial impact of potential future regulation on any of our sites.
Finally, it should be noted that some scientists have concluded that increasing concentrations of GHG in the earth's atmosphere may produce climate changes that have significant physical effects, such as increased frequency and severity of storms, droughts, and floods and other climatic events. If any of those effects were to occur, they could have an adverse effect on our assets and operations.
PORT NECHES FLARING MATTER
As part of the EPA's national enforcement initiative on flaring operations and by letter dated October 12, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice (the "DOJ") notified us that we were in violation of the Clean Air Act (the "CAA") based on our response to a 2010 CAA Section 114 Information Request. The EPA has used the enforcement initiative to bring similar actions against refiners and other chemical manufacturers. Specifically, the EPA alleged violations at our Port Neches, Texas facility from 2007-2012 for flare operations not consistent with good pollution control practice and not in compliance with certain flare-related regulations. As a result of these findings, the EPA referred this matter to the DOJ. We have been engaged in discussions with the DOJ and the EPA regarding these alleged violations and are in the process of reviewing and assessing the allegations and will formally respond to the DOJ by early May. We are currently unable to determine the likelihood or magnitude of potential penalty or injunctive relief that may be incurred in resolving this matter.
Disclosures of measures taken for environmental remediation, employees health and safety related matters.
No definition available.