Annual report pursuant to Section 13 and 15(d)


12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2016
Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]  
We are currently a party to various claims and legal proceedings incidental to our operations. If management believes that a loss arising from these matters is probable and can reasonably be estimated, we record the amount of the loss, or the minimum estimated liability when the loss is estimated using a range, and no point within the range is more probable than another. As additional information becomes available, any potential liability related to these matters is assessed and the estimates are revised, if necessary. Based on currently available information, management believes that the ultimate outcome of these matters, individually and in the aggregate, will not have a material effect on our financial position, results of operations or cash flows. However, litigation is subject to inherent uncertainties, and unfavorable rulings could occur. An unfavorable ruling could include monetary damages, additional funding requirements or an injunction. If an unfavorable ruling were to occur, there exists the possibility of a material impact on the financial position and results of operations of the period in which the ruling occurs, or future periods. However, we do not believe that any pending litigation, not covered by insurance, will result in a material liability in relation to our consolidated financial statements.
Michigan Electricity Matters. On February 19, 2015, in connection with various proceedings before FERC with respect to certain cost allocations for continued operation of the Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette, Michigan, FERC issued an order directing MISO to submit a revised methodology for allocating SSR costs that identified the load serving entities that require the operation of SSR units at the power plant for reliability purposes.  On September 17, 2015, FERC issued an order conditionally approving MISO’s revised allocation methodology. On September 22, 2016, FERC denied requests for rehearing of the February 19 order, rejecting arguments that FERC did not have the authority to order refunds in a cost allocation case and to impose retroactive surcharges to effectuate such refunds. FERC, however, suspended any refunds and surcharges pending its review of a July 25, 2016 ALJ initial decision on the appropriate amount of SSR compensation. Should FERC award SSR costs based on retroactive surcharges and the amount of SSR compensation not be adjusted, our current estimate of the potential liability to the Empire and Tilden mines is approximately $13.6 million, based on MISO's June 14, 2016 refund report (as revised in MISO's July 20, 2016 errata refund report) for the Escanaba, White Pine and Presque Isle SSRs.  As of December 31, 2016, this potential liability of $13.6 million is included in our Statements of Consolidated Financial Position as part of Other current liabilities. On November 8, 2016, Tilden and Empire, along with various Michigan-aligned parties, filed petitions for review of FERC’s order regarding allocation and non-cost SSR issues with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. We will continue to vigorously challenge both the amount of the SSR compensation and the imposition of any SSR costs before FERC and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Environmental Matters
We had environmental liabilities of $2.8 million and $3.6 million at December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively, including obligations for known environmental remediation exposures at active and closed mining operations and other sites. These amounts have been recognized based on the estimated cost of investigation and remediation at each site, and include site studies, design and implementation of remediation plans, legal and consulting fees, and post-remediation monitoring and related activities. If the cost can only be estimated as a range of possible amounts with no specific amount being more likely, the minimum of the range is accrued. Future expenditures are not discounted unless the amount and timing of the cash disbursements are readily known. Potential insurance recoveries have not been reflected. Additional environmental obligations could be incurred, the extent of which cannot be assessed. The amount of our ultimate liability with respect to these matters may be affected by several uncertainties, primarily the ultimate cost of required remediation and the extent to which other responsible parties contribute. Refer to NOTE 11 - ENVIRONMENTAL AND MINE CLOSURE OBLIGATIONS for further information.
Tax Matters
The calculation of our tax liabilities involves dealing with uncertainties in the application of complex tax regulations. We recognize liabilities for anticipated tax audit issues based on our estimate of whether, and the extent to which, additional taxes will be due. If we ultimately determine that payment of these amounts is unnecessary, we reverse the liability and recognize a tax benefit during the period in which we determine that the liability is no longer necessary. We also recognize tax benefits to the extent that it is more likely than not that our positions will be sustained when challenged by the taxing authorities. To the extent we prevail in matters for which liabilities have been established, or are required to pay amounts in excess of our liabilities, our effective tax rate in a given period could be materially affected. An unfavorable tax settlement would require use of our cash and result in an increase in our effective tax rate in the year of resolution. A favorable tax settlement would be recognized as a reduction in our effective tax rate in the year of resolution. Refer to NOTE 9 - INCOME TAXES for further information.