This Week in Environmental Disclosure

As we’ve posted in the past, public companies must generally disclose material legal proceedings in their annual, quarterly, and current reports to the SEC. Today we’ve pulled some disclosures of environmental liabilities from recent filings of interest.

  • PRECISION CASTPARTS CORP | Form 10-K | 6/2/2011

We have been named as a potentially responsible party (“PRP”) at sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and state regulatory agencies for investigation and remediation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) and similar state statutes. Under common law, as applied in the environmental remediation context, PRPs may be jointly and severally liable, and therefore the Company may be potentially liable to the government or third parties for the full cost of remediating contamination at our facilities or former facilities or at third-party sites where we have been designated a PRP. In estimating our current reserves for environmental matters, we have assumed that we will not bear the entire cost of remediation of every site to the exclusion of other PRPs who may also be liable for contributing to the cost of cleanup. We are a party to various cost-sharing arrangements with other PRPs at certain sites. Our estimates of current reserves factor in these cost- sharing arrangements and an assessment of the likelihood that such parties will fulfill their obligations at such sites. In the unlikely event that we are required to fully fund the remediation of a site, the statutory framework would allow us to pursue rights of contribution from other PRPs. We are identified as a PRP at the following federally designated Superfund sites: Lipari Landfill, Gloucester, New Jersey; Boarhead Farms, Bridgeton, Pennsylvania; Operating Industries, Monterey Park, California; Casmalia Resources Site, Casmalia, California; Pasco Sanitary Landfill, Pasco, Washington; Quanta Resources Corp., Edgewater, New Jersey; and Peterson-Puritan Site, Cumberland, Rhode Island. Generally, these Superfund sites are mature and almost all of the sites are in the remedial implementation phase and, as a consequence, are subject to less uncertainty than newly discovered sites. These Superfund sites constitute approximately $1.1 million, or 2 percent, of our current environmental reserves.

On February 2, 2009, the Cayuga facility received a Notice of Violation from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“NYSDEC”) that the facility had exceeded the permitted volume limit of coal ash that can be disposed of in the on-site landfill. Cayuga has met with NYSDEC and submitted a Landfill Liner Demonstration Report to them. Such report found that the landfill has adequate engineering integrity to support the additional coal ash and there is no inherent environmental threat. NYSDEC has indicated they accept the finding of the report. A permit modification was approved by the NYSDEC on May 14, 2010 and such permit modification allows for closure of this approximately 10-acre portion of the landfill. The construction in accordance with the approved permit modification was completed in November 2010 and the certification report for this construction project is currently being drafted to submit to the NYSDEC in the second quarter of 2011. While at this time it is not possible to predict what impact, if any, this matter may have on the Company, its results of operations or its financial position, based upon the discussions to date, the Company does not believe the impact will be material.

  • APPLIED MATERIALS INC /DE | Form 8-K | 6/1/2011

VAI has been named by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and third parties as a potentially responsible party under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, at eight sites where VAI is alleged to have shipped manufacturing waste for recycling or disposal. VAI is also involved in various stages of environmental investigation and/or remediation under the direction of, or in consultation with, foreign, federal, state and/or local agencies at certain current or former VAI facilities (including facilities disposed of in connection with VAI’s sale of its Electron Devices business during fiscal year 1995, and the sale of its Thin Film Systems business during fiscal year 1997). The Distribution Related Agreements provide that each of VMS, Varian Semiconductor and VI, a wholly owned subsidiary of Agilent Technologies, Inc. as of May 2010, will indemnify the others for one-third of these environmental investigation and remediation costs, as adjusted for any insurance proceeds and tax benefits expected to be realized upon payment of these costs.

For certain of these sites and facilities, various uncertainties make it difficult to assess the likelihood and scope of further investigation or remediation activities or to estimate the future costs of such activities if undertaken. Per the estimates provided by VMS, we have accrued $0.9 million and $1.0 million, respectively, in estimated environmental investigation and remediation costs for these sites and facilities as of fiscal year end 2010 and 2009. As to other sites and facilities, sufficient knowledge has been gained to be able to reasonably estimate the scope and costs of future environmental activities. As such, we have accrued $3.8 million and $4.0 million, respectively, as of fiscal year end 2010 and 2009, which represents future costs discounted at 7%, net of inflation, to cover our portion of these costs. This reserve is in addition to the $0.9 million and $1.0 million, respectively, as of fiscal year end 2010 and 2009, as previously described.

 The Company is exposed to liabilities under such EH&S laws arising from its past handling, release, storage and disposal of materials now designated as hazardous substances and hazardous wastes. The Company previously has received notification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), equivalent state and local agencies or others alleging or indicating that the Company is or may be responsible for performing and/or investigating environmental remediation, or seeking the repayment of the costs spent by governmental entities or others performing investigations and/or remediation at certain U.S. sites under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act or similar state laws. On May 25, 2011, as part of the claims reconciliation process under the Plan, the Bankruptcy Court approved a settlement between the Company and the EPA (“EPA Settlement”) regarding a number of federal environmental claims. The claims allowed pursuant to the EPA Settlement will be resolved with the distribution of Company common stock pursuant to the Plan. The EPA Settlement also caps the Company’s proportionate liability, if any, that may ultimately arise in the future with respect to federal claims at certain unknown sites.

  • WILLIAMS COMPANIES INC | Form 8-K | 6/1/2011

We are a participant in certain environmental activities in various stages including assessment studies, cleanup operations and/or remedial processes at certain sites, some of which we currently do not own (see Note 16 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements). We are monitoring these sites in a coordinated effort with other potentially responsible parties, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or other governmental authorities. We are jointly and severally liable along with unrelated third parties in some of these activities and solely responsible in others. Current estimates of the most likely costs of such activities are approximately $49 million, all of which are included in accrued liabilities and other liabilities and deferred income on the Consolidated Balance Sheet at December 31, 2010. We will seek recovery of approximately $12 million of these accrued costs through future natural gas transmission rates. The remainder of these costs will be funded from operations. During 2010, we paid approximately $8 million for cleanup and/or remediation and monitoring activities. We expect to pay approximately $11 million in 2011 for these activities. Estimates of the most likely costs of cleanup are generally based on completed assessment studies, preliminary results of studies or our experience with other similar cleanup operations. At December 31, 2010, certain assessment studies were still in process for which the ultimate outcome may yield significantly different estimates of most likely costs. Therefore, the actual costs incurred will depend on the final amount, type, and extent of contamination discovered at these sites, the final cleanup standards mandated by the EPA or other governmental authorities, and other factors.

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