COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES
|9 Months Ended
Sep. 30, 2022
|Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]
|COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES
NOTE 18 - COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES
We purchase portions of the principal raw materials required for our steel manufacturing operations under annual and multi-year agreements, some of which have minimum quantity requirements. We also use large volumes of natural gas, electricity and industrial gases in our operations. We negotiate most of our purchases of chrome, industrial gases and a portion of our electricity under multi-year agreements. Our purchases of coke are made under annual or multi-year agreements with periodic price adjustments. We typically purchase coal under annual fixed-price agreements. We also purchase certain transportation services under multi-year contracts with minimum quantity requirements.
We are currently the subject of, or party to, various claims and legal proceedings incidental to our current and historical 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 adverse 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 adverse 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 scope of remediation is determined or approved by the relevant environmental agencies. 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:
The decrease in environmental obligations relates to a reclassification of $63 million from environmental to asset retirement obligations as of September 30, 2022.
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.
Pursuant 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. Likewise, the EPA or the states may require closure or post-closure care of residual, industrial and hazardous waste management units. Environmental regulators have the authority to inspect all of our 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 that they believe require corrective action.
Pursuant to CERCLA, the EPA and state environmental authorities have conducted site investigations at some 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 reasonably 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 with the consent of the EPA pursuant to Section 122 of CERCLA to perform a 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. Until the RI/FS is complete, we cannot reasonably estimate the additional costs, if any, we may incur for potentially required remediation of the site or when we may incur them.
Burns Harbor Water Issues
In August 2019, ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor LLC (n/k/a Cleveland-Cliffs Burns Harbor LLC) suffered a loss of the blast furnace cooling water recycle system, which led to the discharge of cyanide and ammonia in excess of the Burns Harbor plant's NPDES permit limits. Since that time, the facility has taken numerous steps to prevent recurrence and maintain compliance with its NPDES permit. We engaged in settlement discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice, the EPA and the State of Indiana to resolve any alleged violations of environmental laws or regulations arising out of the August 2019 event. Later stages of the settlement discussions included the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) and Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC), which had filed a lawsuit on December 20, 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana alleging violations resulting from the August 2019 event and other Clean Water Act claims. On February 14, 2022, the United States and the State of Indiana filed a complaint and a proposed consent decree, and on April 21, 2022, the United States, with the consent of all of the parties, filed a motion seeking final approval of the consent decree from the court. The consent decree was approved by the court with an effective date of May 6, 2022. The consent decree requires specified enhancements to the mill's wastewater treatment systems and required us to pay a $3 million civil penalty, along with other terms and conditions. Other parties to the consent decree include the United States, the State of Indiana, ELPC and HEC. The ELPC/HEC civil litigation was dismissed with prejudice on May 12, 2022. In addition, ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor LLC was served with a subpoena on December 5, 2019, from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, relating to the August 2019 event and has responded to the subpoena requests, including follow-up requests. With the resolution of monetary sanctions and injunctive relief requirements under the consent decree, we do not believe that the costs to resolve any other third-party claims, including potential natural resource damages claims, that may arise out of the August 2019 event are likely to 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 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 any such proceedings will not have, individually or in the aggregate, a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
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.
In addition to the matters discussed above, there are various pending and potential claims against us and our subsidiaries involving product liability, personal injury, commercial, employee benefits and other matters arising in the ordinary course of business. Because of the considerable uncertainties that 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 or in the aggregate, should not have a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial position, results of operations or cash flows.