COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES
|3 Months Ended
Mar. 31, 2020
|Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]
|COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES
HBI production plant
In 2017, we began to incur capital commitments related to the construction of our HBI production plant in Toledo, Ohio, and have a few months of construction remaining to complete the project. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have temporarily halted construction. In total, to complete the project, we expect to spend approximately $1 billion on the HBI production plant, excluding capitalized interest, of which approximately $800 million was paid as of March 31, 2020. As of March 31, 2020, we have contracts and purchase orders in place for approximately $150 million.
We are currently the subject of, or party to, various claims and legal proceedings incidental to our operations. These claims and legal proceedings are 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 effect on the financial position and results of operations for the period in which the ruling occurs or future periods. However, based on currently available information we do not believe that any pending claims or legal proceedings will result in a material effect in relation to our consolidated financial statements.
Although we believe our operating practices have been consistent with prevailing industry standards, hazardous materials may have been released at operating sites or third-party sites in the past, including operating sites that we no longer own. If we reasonably can, we estimate potential remediation expenditures for those sites where future remediation efforts are probable based on identified conditions, regulatory requirements or contractual obligations arising from the sale of a business or facility. For sites involving government required investigations, we typically make an estimate of potential remediation expenditures only after the investigation is complete and when we better understand the nature and scope of the remediation. In general, the material factors in these estimates include the costs associated with investigations, delineations, risk assessments, remedial work, governmental response and oversight, site monitoring, and preparation of reports to the appropriate environmental agencies.
The following is a summary of our environmental obligations:
We cannot predict the ultimate costs for each site with certainty because of the evolving nature of the investigation and remediation process. Rather, to estimate the probable costs, we must make certain assumptions. The most significant of these assumptions is for the nature and scope of the work that will be necessary to investigate and remediate a particular site and the cost of that work. Other significant assumptions include the cleanup technology that will be used, whether and to what extent any other parties will participate in paying the investigation and remediation costs, reimbursement of past response costs and future oversight costs by governmental agencies, and the reaction of the governing environmental agencies to the proposed work plans. Costs for future investigation and remediation are not discounted to their present value, unless the amount and timing of the cash disbursements are readily known. To the extent that we have been able to reasonably estimate future liabilities, we do not believe that there is a reasonable possibility that we will incur a loss or losses that exceed the amounts we accrued for the environmental matters discussed below that would, either individually or in the aggregate, have a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial condition, results of operations or cash flows. However, since we recognize amounts in the consolidated financial statements in accordance with GAAP that exclude potential losses that are not probable or that may not be currently estimable, the ultimate costs of these environmental matters may be higher than the liabilities we currently have recorded in our consolidated financial statements.
Except as we expressly note below, we do not currently anticipate any material effect on our consolidated financial position, results of operations or cash flows as a result of compliance with current environmental regulations. Moreover,
because all domestic steel and iron ore producers operate under the same federal environmental regulations, we do not believe that we are more disadvantaged than our domestic competitors by our need to comply with these regulations. Some foreign competitors may benefit from less stringent environmental requirements in the countries where they produce, resulting in lower compliance costs for them and providing those foreign competitors with a cost advantage on their products.
According to RCRA, which governs the treatment, handling and disposal of hazardous waste, the EPA and authorized state environmental agencies may conduct inspections of RCRA-regulated facilities to identify areas where there have been releases of hazardous waste or hazardous constituents into the environment and may order the facilities to take corrective action to remediate such releases. Environmental regulators may inspect our major iron ore and steelmaking facilities. While we cannot predict the future actions of these regulators, it is possible that they may identify conditions in future inspections of these facilities which they believe require corrective action.
Under authority from CERCLA, the EPA and state environmental authorities have conducted site investigations at certain of our facilities and other third-party facilities, portions of which previously may have been used for disposal of materials that are currently regulated. The results of these investigations are still pending, and we could be directed to spend funds for remedial activities at the former disposal areas. Because of the uncertain status of these investigations, however, we cannot reliably predict whether or when such spending might be required or its magnitude.
On April 29, 2002, AK Steel entered a mutually agreed-upon administrative order on consent with the EPA pursuant to Section 122 of CERCLA to perform a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (“RI/FS”) of the Hamilton Plant site located in New Miami, Ohio. The plant ceased operations in 1990 and all of its former structures have been demolished. AK Steel submitted the investigation portion of the RI/FS and completed supplemental studies. We currently have accrued $0.7 million for the remaining cost of the RI/FS. Until the RI/FS is complete, we cannot reliably estimate the additional costs, if any, we may incur for potentially required remediation of the site or when we may incur them.
On September 26, 2012, the EPA issued an order under Section 3013 of RCRA requiring a plan to be developed for investigation of four areas at the Ashland Works coke plant. The Ashland Works coke plant ceased operations in 2011 and all of its former structures have been demolished and removed. In 1981, AK Steel acquired the plant from Honeywell International Corporation (as successor to Allied Corporation), who had managed the coking operations there for approximately 60 years. In connection with the sale of the coke plant, Honeywell agreed to indemnify AK Steel against certain claims and obligations that could arise from the investigation, and we intend to pursue such indemnification from Honeywell, if necessary. We cannot reliably estimate how long it will take to complete the site investigation. On March 10, 2016, the EPA invited AK Steel to participate in settlement discussions regarding an enforcement action. Settlement discussions between the parties are ongoing, though whether the parties will reach agreement and any such agreement’s terms are uncertain. We currently have accrued $1.4 million for the projected cost of the investigation and known remediation. Until the site investigation is complete, we cannot reliably estimate the costs, if any, we may incur for potential additional required remediation of the site or when we may incur them.
On May 12, 2014, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (“EGLE”) (previously the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) issued to Dearborn Works an Air Permit to Install No. 182-05C (the “PTI”) to increase the emission limits for the blast furnace and other emission sources. The PTI was issued as a correction to a prior permit to install that did not include certain information during the prior permitting process. On July 10, 2014, the South Dearborn Environmental Improvement Association (“SDEIA”), Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, Original United Citizens of Southwest Detroit and the Sierra Club filed a Claim of Appeal of the PTI in the State of Michigan, Wayne County Circuit Court, Case No. 14-008887-AA. The appellants and EGLE required the intervention of Severstal Dearborn, LLC (now owned by us) in this action as an additional appellee. The appellants allege multiple deficiencies with the PTI and the permitting process. On July 2, 2019, the Circuit Court dismissed the PTI appeal and ruled that EGLE appropriately issued the permit modification. The appellants have appealed that decision. Until the appeal is resolved, we cannot determine what the ultimate permit limits will be. Until the permit limits are determined and final, we cannot reliably estimate the costs we may incur, if any, or when we may incur them.
On August 21, 2014, the SDEIA filed a Complaint under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (“MEPA”) in the State of Michigan, Wayne County Circuit Court, Case No. 14-010875-CE. The plaintiffs allege that the air emissions from Dearborn Works are impacting the air, water and other natural resources, as well as the public trust in such resources. The plaintiffs are requesting, among other requested relief, that the court assess and determine the sufficiency of the PTI’s limitations. On October 15, 2014, the court ordered a stay of the proceedings until a final order is issued in Wayne County Circuit Court Case No. 14-008887-AA (discussed above). When the proceedings resume, we intend to vigorously contest these claims. Until the claims in this complaint are resolved, we cannot reliably estimate the costs we may incur, if any, or when we may incur them.
On November 18, 2019, November 26, 2019, and March 16, 2020, EGLE issued Notices of Violations (“NOVs”) with respect to the basic oxygen furnace electrostatic precipitator at Dearborn Works alleging violations of manganese, lead and opacity limits. We are investigating these claims and will work with EGLE to attempt to resolve them. We intend to vigorously contest any claims which cannot be resolved through a settlement. Until a settlement is reached with EGLE or the claims of the NOVs are otherwise resolved, we cannot reliably estimate the costs, if any, associated with any potentially required work.
In addition to the foregoing matters, we are or may be involved in proceedings with various regulatory authorities that may require us to pay fines, comply with more rigorous standards or other requirements or incur capital and operating expenses for environmental compliance. We believe that the ultimate disposition of the proceedings will not have, individually or in the aggregate, a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
In addition to the matters discussed above, there are various pending and potential claims against us and our subsidiaries involving product liability, commercial, employee benefits, and other matters arising in the ordinary course of business. Because of the considerable uncertainties which exist for any claim, it is difficult to reliably or accurately estimate what the amount of a loss would be if a claimant prevails. If material assumptions or factual understandings we rely on to evaluate exposure for these contingencies prove to be inaccurate or otherwise change, we may be required to record a liability for an adverse outcome. If, however, we have reasonably evaluated potential future liabilities for all of these contingencies, including those described more specifically above, it is our opinion, unless we otherwise noted, that the ultimate liability from these contingencies, individually and in the aggregate, should not have a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial position, results of operations or cash flows.