This Week in Environmental Disclosure

As we’ve posted in the past, public companies must generally disclose environmental legal proceedings in their annual, quarterly, and current reports to the SEC, and whether or not those proceedings have a material effect on the company’s financial position.

This week, however, rather than focusing on violations or enforcement proceedings, most of the disclosures were limited to concerns about the effects of EPA regulation. Read on to learn more.

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EPA RCRA Initiative. In 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance announced that it would be targeting facilities in mineral processing industries, including phosphoric acid producers, for a thorough review under the U.S. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) and related state laws. Mining and processing of phosphates generate residual materials that must be managed both during the operation of a facility and upon a facility’s closure. Certain solid wastes generated by our phosphate operations may be subject to regulation under RCRA and related state laws. The EPA rules exempt “extraction” and “beneficiation” wastes, as well as 20 specified “mineral processing” wastes, from the hazardous waste management requirements of RCRA. Accordingly, certain of the residual materials which our phosphate operations generate, as well as process wastewater from phosphoric acid production, are exempt from RCRA regulation. However, the generation and management of other solid wastes from phosphate operations may be subject to hazardous waste regulation if the waste is deemed to exhibit a “hazardous waste characteristic.” As part of its initiative, EPA has inspected all or nearly all facilities in the U.S. phosphoric acid production sector to ensure compliance with applicable RCRA regulations and to address any “imminent and substantial endangerment” found by the EPA under RCRA. We have provided the EPA with substantial amounts of information regarding the process water recycling practices and the hazardous waste handling practices at our phosphate production facilities in Florida and Louisiana, and the EPA has inspected all of our currently operating processing facilities in the U.S. In addition to the EPA’s inspections, our Riverview, Bartow and Green Bay, Florida facilities and our Uncle Sam and Faustina, Louisiana facilities have entered into consent orders to perform analyses of existing environmental data, to perform further environmental sampling as may be necessary, and to assess whether the facilities pose a risk of harm to human health or the surrounding environment. We are finalizing similar orders for our New Wales and South Pierce, Florida facilities.

Scrutiny of hydraulic fracturing activities continues in other ways, with the EPA having commenced a study of the potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, the results of which are anticipated to be available by late 2012. Last year, a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives commenced investigations into hydraulic fracturing practices. The U.S. Department of the Interior has announced that it will consider regulations relating to the use of hydraulic fracturing techniques on public lands and disclosure of fracturing fluid constituents. In addition, some states and localities have adopted, and others are considering adopting, regulations or ordinances that could restrict hydraulic fracturing in certain circumstances, or that would impose higher taxes, fees or royalties on natural gas production. Our current operations have been concentrated largely in Louisiana, and we do not currently have operations on federal lands or in the states where the most stringent proposals have been advanced. However, if new federal or state laws or regulations that significantly restrict hydraulic fracturing are adopted, or if we acquire oil and gas properties in areas subject to those regulations, such legal requirements could result in delays, eliminate certain drilling and injection activities, make it more difficult or costly for us to perform fracturing and increase our costs of compliance and doing business. It is also possible that our drilling and injection operations could adversely affect the environment, which could result in a requirement to perform investigations or clean-ups or in the incurrence of other unexpected material costs or liabilities.

  • NEWFIELD EXPLORATION CO /DE/ | Form 8-K | 9/27/2011

In addition, changes to existing regulations or the adoption of new regulations may unfavorably impact us, our suppliers or our customers. For example, governments around the world have become increasingly focused on climate change matters. In December 2009, the EPA issued a final rule that the current and projected concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations, and that certain greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines contribute to the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and hence to the threat of climate change. This finding allowed the EPA to proceed with the rulemaking process to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The EPA has adopted two sets of rules regulating GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act, one of which requires a reduction in emissions of GHGs from motor vehicles and the other of which regulates emissions of GHGs from certain large stationary sources, effective January 2, 2011, which could require greenhouse emission controls for those sources. The EPA has also adopted rules requiring the reporting of GHG emissions from specified large GHG emission sources in the United States on an annual basis, beginning in 2011 for emissions occurring after January 1, 2010, as well as from certain onshore oil and natural gas production, processing, transmission, storage and distribution facilities on an annual basis, beginning in 2012 for emissions occurring in 2011. The new regulations could impact certain facilities in which we have interests (legal, equitable, operated or non-operated) by increasing the regulatory reporting requirements.

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