|Closing Price ($)||Shares Out (MM)||Market Cap ($MM)|
|8-K||2020-02-12||Earnings, Regulation FD, Exhibits|
|8-K||2020-01-21||Enter Agreement, Off-BS Arrangement, Exhibits|
|8-K||2019-12-18||Other Events, Exhibits|
|8-K||2019-10-28||Earnings, Regulation FD, Exhibits|
|8-K||2019-07-29||Earnings, Regulation FD, Exhibits|
|8-K||2019-06-03||Regulation FD, Exhibits|
|8-K||2019-05-17||Shareholder Vote, Other Events, Exhibits|
|8-K||2019-04-24||Earnings, Regulation FD, Exhibits|
|8-K||2019-04-16||Enter Agreement, Off-BS Arrangement, Exhibits|
|8-K||2019-04-09||Enter Agreement, Regulation FD, Exhibits|
|8-K||2019-04-06||Other Events, Exhibits|
|8-K||2019-02-13||Earnings, Regulation FD, Exhibits|
|8-K||2019-01-03||Other Events, Exhibits|
|8-K||2018-12-10||Other Events, Exhibits|
|8-K||2018-11-16||Enter Agreement, Off-BS Arrangement, Exhibits|
|8-K||2018-11-06||Enter Agreement, Regulation FD, Exhibits|
|8-K||2018-10-29||Earnings, Regulation FD, Exhibits|
|8-K||2018-07-24||Earnings, Regulation FD, Exhibits|
|8-K||2018-05-24||Shareholder Vote, Other Events, Exhibits|
|8-K||2018-05-02||Earnings, Regulation FD, Exhibits|
|8-K||2018-03-21||Enter Agreement, Off-BS Arrangement, Exhibits|
|8-K||2018-02-14||Earnings, Regulation FD, Exhibits|
|Item 1. Business|
|Item 1A. Risk Factors|
|Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments|
|Item 2. Properties|
|Item 3. Legal Proceedings|
|Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosure|
|Item 5. Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Shareholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities|
|Item 6. Selected Financial Data|
|Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations|
|Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk|
|Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data|
|Item 9. Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure|
|Item 9A. Controls and Procedures|
|Item 9B. Other Information|
|Item 10. Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance|
|Item 11. Executive Compensation|
|Item 12. Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Shareholder Matters|
|Item 13. Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence|
|Item 14. Principal Accounting Fees and Services|
|Item 15. Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules|
|Item 16. Form 10-K Summary|
|Balance Sheet||Income Statement||Cash Flow|
|Comparables ($MM TTM)|
|Ticker||M Cap||Assets||Liab||Rev||G Profit||Net Inc||EBITDA||EV||G Margin||EV/EBITDA||ROA|
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from ___________ to ___________
Commission File No.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
(Address of principal executive offices)
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
New York Stock Exchange (“
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ◻
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).
As of June 30, 2019, the aggregate market value of shares held by non-affiliates of the registrant, based on the closing sales price for the registrant’s common shares, as reported on the New York Stock Exchange, was $
Number of common shares outstanding as of February 3, 2020:
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s definitive Management Information Circular and Proxy Statement for the 2020 Annual and Special Meeting of Shareholders (which will be filed with the SEC pursuant to Regulation 14A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, and with the securities commissions or similar regulatory authorities in Canada within 120 days after the end of our 2019 fiscal year) are incorporated by reference into Part III hereof.
WASTE CONNECTIONS, INC.
ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
Waste Connections, Inc. is the third largest solid waste services company in North America, providing non-hazardous waste collection, transfer, disposal and recycling services in mostly exclusive and secondary markets in the U.S. and Canada. Through our R360 Environmental Solutions subsidiary, we are also a leading provider of non-hazardous exploration and production, or E&P, waste treatment, recovery and disposal services in several of the most active natural resource producing areas in the U.S. We also provide intermodal services for the rail haul movement of cargo and solid waste containers in the Pacific Northwest through a network of intermodal facilities.
As of December 31, 2019, we served residential, commercial, industrial and E&P customers in 42 states in the U.S. and six provinces in Canada: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming, and the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec and Saskatchewan.
Our senior management team has extensive experience in operating, acquiring and integrating non-hazardous waste services businesses, and we intend to continue to focus our efforts on both internal and acquisition-based growth. We anticipate that a part of our future growth will come from acquiring additional waste businesses and, therefore, we expect that additional acquisitions could continue to affect period-to-period comparisons of our operating results.
Our Operating Strategy
Our operating strategy seeks to improve financial returns and deliver superior shareholder value creation within the solid waste industry. We generally seek to avoid highly competitive, large urban markets and instead target markets where we can attain high market share either through exclusive contracts, vertical integration or asset positioning. We also target niche markets, like E&P waste treatment and disposal services, with similar characteristics. We are a leading provider of waste services in most of our markets, and the key components of our operating strategy, which are tailored to the competitive and regulatory factors that affect our markets, are as follows:
Target Secondary and Rural Markets. By targeting secondary and rural markets, we believe that we are able to achieve a higher local market share than would be attainable in more competitive urban markets, which we believe reduces our exposure to customer churn and improves financial returns. In certain niche markets, like E&P waste treatment and disposal, early mover advantage in certain rural basins may improve market positioning and financial returns given the limited availability of existing third-party-owned waste disposal alternatives.
Control the Waste Stream. In markets where waste collection services are provided under exclusive arrangements, or where waste disposal is municipally owned or funded or available at multiple sources, we believe that controlling the waste stream by providing collection services under exclusive arrangements is often more important to our growth and profitability than owning or operating landfills.
Optimize Asset Positioning. We believe that the location of disposal sites within competitive markets is a critical factor to success in the waste services industry. Given the importance of and costs associated with the transportation of waste to treatment and disposal sites, having disposal capacity proximate to the waste stream may provide a competitive advantage and serve as a barrier to entry.
Provide Vertically Integrated Services. In markets where we believe that owning landfills is a strategic advantage to a collection operation because of competitive and regulatory factors, we generally focus on providing integrated services, from collection through disposal of solid waste in landfills that we own or operate. Similarly, we see this
strategic advantage in E&P waste services where we offer closed loop systems for liquid and solid waste storage, transportation, treatment, and disposal.
Manage on a Decentralized Basis. We manage our operations on a decentralized basis. This places decision-making authority closer to the customer, enabling us to identify and address customers’ needs quickly in a cost-effective manner. We believe that decentralization provides a low-overhead, highly efficient operational structure that allows us to expand into geographically contiguous markets and operate in relatively small communities that larger competitors may not find attractive. We believe that this structure gives us a strategic competitive advantage, given the relatively rural nature of many of the markets in which we operate, and makes us an attractive buyer to many potential acquisition candidates.
We manage our operations through five geographic solid waste operating segments and our E&P segment, which includes the majority of our E&P waste treatment and disposal operations. As of December 31, 2019, we delivered our services from operating locations grouped into the following operating segments: our Eastern segment services customers located in northern Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, eastern Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin; our Southern segment services customers located in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, southern Oklahoma, western Tennessee and Texas; our Western segment services customers located in Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and western Wyoming; our Central segment services customers located in Arizona, Colorado, southern Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, western Texas, Utah and eastern Wyoming; and our Canada segment services customers located in the state of Michigan and in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec and Saskatchewan. The E&P segment services E&P customers located in Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming and along the Gulf of Mexico. Some E&P revenues are also included in other operating segments, where we accept E&P waste at some of our municipal solid waste, or MSW, landfills. In addition, a small amount of solid waste revenue is included in our E&P segment.
We manage and evaluate our business on the basis of the operating segments’ geographic characteristics, interstate waste flow, revenue base, employee base, regulatory structure, and acquisition opportunities. Each operating segment has a regional vice president and a regional controller reporting directly to our corporate management. These regional officers are responsible for operations and accounting in their operating segments and supervise their regional staff. See Note 16 to the consolidated financial statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information on our segment reporting of our operations.
Each operating location has a district or site manager who has a high degree of decision-making authority for his or her operations and is responsible for maintaining service quality, promoting safety, implementing marketing programs and overseeing day-to-day operations, including contract administration. Local managers also help identify acquisition candidates and are responsible for integrating acquired businesses into our operations and obtaining the permits and other governmental approvals required for us to operate.
Implement Operating Standards. We develop company-wide operating standards, which are tailored for each of our markets based on industry norms and local conditions. We implement cost controls and employee training and safety procedures and establish a sales and marketing plan for each market. By internalizing the waste stream of acquired operations, we can further increase operating efficiencies and improve capital utilization. We use a wide-area information system network, implement financial controls and consolidate certain accounting, personnel and customer service functions. While regional and district management operate with a high degree of autonomy, our executive officers monitor regional and district operations and require adherence to our accounting, purchasing, safety, marketing, legal and internal control policies, particularly with respect to financial matters. Our executive officers regularly review the performance of regional officers, district managers and operations. We believe we can improve the profitability of existing and newly acquired operations by establishing operating standards, closely monitoring performance and streamlining certain administrative functions.
Our Growth Strategy
We tailor the components of our growth strategy to the markets in which we operate and into which we hope to expand.
Obtain Additional Exclusive Arrangements. Our operations include market areas where we have exclusive arrangements, including franchise agreements, municipal contracts and governmental certificates, under which we are the exclusive service provider for a specified market. These exclusive rights and contractual arrangements create a barrier to entry that is usually obtained through the acquisition of a company with such exclusive rights or contractual arrangements or by winning a competitive bid.
We devote significant resources to securing additional franchise agreements and municipal contracts through competitive bidding and by acquiring other companies. In bidding for franchises and municipal contracts and evaluating acquisition candidates holding governmental certificates, our management team draws on its experience in the waste industry and knowledge of local service areas in existing and target markets. Our district management and sales and marketing personnel maintain relationships with local governmental officials within their service areas, maintain, renew and renegotiate existing franchise agreements and municipal contracts, and secure additional agreements and contracts while targeting acceptable financial returns. Our sales and marketing personnel also expand our presence into areas adjacent to or contiguous with our existing markets, and market additional services to existing customers. We believe our ability to offer comprehensive rail haul disposal services in the Pacific Northwest improves our competitive position in bidding for such contracts in that region.
Generate Internal Growth. To generate internal revenue growth, our district management and sales and marketing personnel focus on increasing market penetration in our current and adjacent markets, soliciting new customers in markets where such customers have the option to choose a particular waste collection service and marketing upgraded or additional services (such as compaction or automated collection) to existing customers. We also seek price increases necessary to offset increased costs, to improve operating margins and to obtain adequate returns on our deployed capital. Where possible, we intend to leverage our franchise-based platforms to expand our customer base beyond our exclusive market territories. As customers are added in existing markets, our revenue per routed truck increases, which generally increases our collection efficiencies and profitability. In markets in which we have exclusive contracts, franchises and governmental certificates, we expect internal volume growth generally to track population and business growth.
In niche disposal markets, like E&P, our focus is on increasing market penetration, and providing additional service offerings in existing markets where appropriate. In addition, we focus on developing and permitting new treatment and disposal sites in new and existing E&P markets to position ourselves to capitalize on current and future drilling activity in those areas.
Expand Through Acquisitions. We intend to expand the scope of our operations by continuing to acquire waste businesses in new markets and in existing or adjacent markets that are combined with or “tucked-in” to our existing operations. We focus our acquisition efforts on markets that we believe provide significant growth opportunities for a well-capitalized market entrant and where we can compete efficiently with potential new competitors. This focus typically highlights markets in which we can: (1) provide waste collection services under exclusive arrangements such as franchise agreements, municipal contracts and governmental certificates; (2) gain a leading market position and provide vertically integrated collection and disposal services; or (3) gain a leading market position in a niche market through the provision of treatment and disposal services. We believe that our experienced management, decentralized operating strategy, financial strength, size and public company status make us an attractive buyer to certain waste collection and disposal acquisition candidates. We have developed an acquisition discipline based on a set of financial, market and management criteria to evaluate opportunities. Once an acquisition is closed, we seek to integrate it while minimizing disruption to our ongoing operations and those of the acquired business.
In new markets, we often use an initial acquisition as an operating base and seek to strengthen the acquired operation’s presence in that market by providing additional services, adding new customers and making “tuck-in” acquisitions of other waste companies in that market or adjacent markets. We believe that many suitable “tuck-in”
acquisition opportunities exist within our current and targeted market areas that may provide us with opportunities to increase our market share and route density.
The North America solid waste services industry has experienced continued consolidation over the past several years, most notably with our acquisition of Progressive Waste (as defined below) in June 2016. In spite of this consolidation, the solid waste services industry remains regional in nature, with acquisition opportunities available in select markets. The E&P waste services industry is similarly regional in nature and is also highly fragmented, with acquisition opportunities available in several active natural resource basins. In some markets in both MSW and E&P waste, independent landfill, collection or service providers lack the capital resources, management skills and/or technical expertise necessary to comply with stringent environmental and other governmental regulations and to compete with larger, more efficient, integrated operators. In addition, many of the remaining independent operators may wish to sell their businesses to achieve liquidity in their personal finances or as part of their estate planning.
During the year ended December 31, 2019, we completed 21 acquisitions for consideration having a net fair value of $837.7 million. During the year ended December 31, 2018, we completed 20 acquisitions for consideration having a net fair value of $1.032 billion. During the year ended December 31, 2017, we completed 14 acquisitions for consideration having a net fair value of $562.2 million.
We provide collection services to residential, commercial, municipal, industrial and E&P customers. Our services are generally provided under one of the following arrangements: (1) governmental certificates; (2) exclusive franchise agreements; (3) exclusive municipal contracts; (4) residential subscriptions; (5) residential contracts; or (6) commercial, industrial and E&P service agreements.
Governmental certificates, exclusive franchise agreements and exclusive municipal contracts grant us rights to provide MSW services within specified areas at established rates and are long-term in nature. Governmental certificates, or G Certificates, are unique to the State of Washington and are awarded by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, or WUTC, to solid waste collection service providers in unincorporated areas and electing municipalities. These certificates typically grant the holder the exclusive and perpetual right to provide specific residential, commercial and/or industrial waste services in a defined territory at specified rates, subject to divestiture and/or overlap or cancellation by the WUTC on specified, limited grounds. Franchise agreements typically provide an exclusive period of seven years or longer for a specified territory; they specify a broad range of services to be provided, establish rates for the services and can give the service provider a right of first refusal to extend the term of the agreement. Municipal contracts typically provide a shorter service period and a more limited scope of services than franchise agreements and generally require competitive bidding at the end of the contract term. In markets where exclusive arrangements are not available, we may enter into residential contracts with homeowners’ associations, apartment owners and mobile home park operators, or work on a subscription basis with individual households. In such markets, we may also provide commercial and industrial services under customer service agreements generally ranging from one to five years in duration. Finally, in certain E&P markets with “no pit” rules or other regulations that limit on-site storage or treatment of waste, we offer containers and collection services to provide a closed loop system for the collection of drilling wastes at customers’ well sites and subsequent transportation of the waste to our facilities for treatment and disposal.
Landfill Disposal Services
As of December 31, 2019, we owned or operated 70 MSW landfills, 12 E&P waste landfills, which only accept E&P waste, 14 non-MSW landfills, which only accept construction and demolition, industrial and other non-putrescible waste, and one development stage landfill. Nine of our MSW landfills also received E&P waste during 2019. We generally own landfills to achieve vertical integration in markets where the economic and regulatory environments make landfill ownership attractive. We also own landfills in certain markets where it is not necessary to provide collection services because we believe that we are able to attract volume to our landfills, given our location or other market dynamics. Over time, MSW landfills generate a greenhouse gas, methane, which can be converted into a valuable source
of clean energy. We deploy gas recovery systems at 53 of our landfills to collect methane, which can then be used to generate electricity for local households, fuel local industrial power plants or power alternative fueled vehicles. In some cases, landfill gas generated at our landfills qualifies as a renewable fuel for which renewable fuel credits may be available.
For landfills we operate but do not own, the owner of the property, generally a municipality, usually holds the permit and we operate the landfill pursuant to a landfill operating agreement for a contracted term, which may be the life of the landfill. Where the contracted term is not the life of the landfill, the property owner is generally responsible for final capping, closure and post-closure obligations. We are responsible for all final capping, closure and post-closure obligations at our operated landfills for which we have life-of-site agreements.
The expiration dates for the four operating agreements for which the contracted term is less than the life of the landfill range from 2022 to 2027. We intend to seek renewal of all four contracts prior to, or upon, their expiration.
Based on remaining permitted capacity as of December 31, 2019, and projected annual disposal volumes, the average remaining landfill life for our owned and operated landfills and landfills operated, but not owned, under life-of-site agreements, is estimated to be approximately 26 years. Many of our existing landfills have the potential for expanded disposal capacity beyond the amount currently permitted. We regularly consider whether it is advisable, in light of changing market conditions and/or regulatory requirements, to seek to expand or change the permitted waste streams or to seek other permit modifications. We also monitor the available permitted in-place disposal capacity of our landfills on an ongoing basis and evaluate whether to seek capacity expansion using a variety of factors.
We are currently seeking to expand permitted capacity at nine of our landfills, for which we consider expansions to be probable. Although we cannot be certain that all future expansions will be permitted as designed, the average remaining landfill life for our owned and operated landfills and landfills operated, but not owned, under life-of-site agreements is estimated to be approximately 29 years when considering remaining permitted capacity, probable expansion capacity and projected annual disposal volume.
The following table reflects estimated landfill capacity and airspace changes, as measured in tons, for owned and operated landfills and landfills operated, but not owned, under life-of-site agreements (in thousands):
Balance, beginning of year
Changes in engineering estimates
Balance, end of year
The estimated remaining operating lives for the landfills we own and landfills we operate under life-of-site agreements, based on remaining permitted and probable expansion capacity and projected annual disposal volume, in years, as of December 31, 2019, and December 31, 2018, are shown in the tables below. The estimated remaining operating lives include assumptions that the operating permits are renewed.
0 to 5
6 to 10
11 to 20
21 to 40
41 to 50
Owned and operated landfills
Operated landfills under life-of-site agreements
0 to 5
6 to 10
11 to 20
21 to 40
41 to 50
Owned and operated landfills
Operated landfills under life-of-site agreements
The disposal tonnage that we received in 2019 and 2018 at all of our landfills is shown in the tables below (tons in thousands):
Three Months Ended
Owned operational landfills and landfills operated under life-of-site agreements
Three Months Ended
Owned operational landfills and landfills operated under life-of-site agreements
Transfer Station and Intermodal Services
We own or operate MSW transfer stations and E&P waste transfer stations with marine access. Transfer stations receive, compact and/or load waste to be transported to landfills or treatment facilities via truck, rail or barge. They extend our direct-haul reach and link collection operations or waste generators with distant disposal or treatment facilities by concentrating the waste stream from a wider area and thus providing better utilization rates and operating efficiencies.
Intermodal logistics is the movement of containers using two or more modes of transportation, usually including a rail or truck segment. We provide these services for railing containerized international import and export goods through the Pacific Northwest, along with the transport of MSW waste and industrial construction debris. Additionally we operate two intermodal facilities primarily for the shipment of waste by rail to distant disposal facilities that we do not own. Our fleet of double-stack railcars provides dedicated direct-line haul services among terminals in Portland,
Boardman, Tacoma and Seattle. We have a contract with Union Pacific railroad for the movement of containers among our intermodal operations. We also provide our customers container and chassis sales and leasing services.
We have increased the amount of waste we transport by rail to our landfills and intend to further expand our intermodal business through cross-selling efforts with our solid waste services operations. We believe that a significant amount of solid waste is transported currently by truck, rail and barge from primarily the Seattle-Tacoma and Metro Portland areas to remote landfills in Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon. We believe our ability to market both intermodal and disposal services will enable us to more effectively compete for these volumes.
We offer residential, commercial, industrial and municipal customers recycling services for a variety of recyclable materials, including compost, cardboard, mixed paper, plastic containers, glass bottles and ferrous and aluminum metals. We own or operate recycling operations and market other collected recyclable materials to third parties for processing before resale. The majority of the recyclables we process for sale are paper products and are shipped to customers in the United States and Canada, as well as other markets, including Asia. Changes in end market demand as well as other factors can cause fluctuations in the prices for such commodities, which can affect revenue, operating income and cash flows. We believe that recycling will continue to be an important component of local and state solid waste management plans due to the public’s increasing environmental awareness and expanding regulations that mandate or encourage recycling. We also believe that the costs of processing recyclables, including the costs of contamination, which have historically been subsidized by the sale of recycled commodities, need to be fully recognized. To that end, we have increased the fees that we charge for the collection of recyclables and for processing at our recycling facilities to more fully reflect the processing costs associated with the separation of recyclables into marketable commodities. In some instances, we will look to pass the risk associated with the volatility of recycled commodity prices onto our customers.
E&P Waste Treatment, Recovery and Disposal Services
E&P waste is a broad term referring to the by-products resulting from oil and natural gas exploration and production activity. These generally include: waste created throughout the initial drilling and completion of an oil or natural gas well, such as drilling fluids, drill cuttings, completion fluids and flowback water; production wastes and produced water during a well’s operating life; contaminated soils that require treatment during site reclamation; and substances that require clean-up after a spill, reserve pit clean-up or pipeline rupture. E&P customers are oil and natural gas exploration and production companies operating in the areas that we serve. E&P revenue is therefore driven by vertical and horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing, production and clean-up activity; it is complemented by other services including closed loop collection systems and the sale of recovered products. E&P activity varies across market areas which are tied to the natural resource basins in which the drilling activity occurs and reflects the regulatory environment, pricing and disposal alternatives available in any given market.
We provide E&P waste treatment, recovery and/or disposal services from a network of E&P waste landfills, MSW landfills that also receive E&P waste, E&P liquid waste injection wells and E&P waste treatment and oil recovery facilities. Treatment processes vary by site and regulatory jurisdiction. At certain treatment facilities, loads of flowback and produced water and other drilling and production wastes delivered by our customers are sampled, assessed and tested by third parties according to state regulations. Solids contained in a waste load are deposited into a land treatment cell where liquids are removed from the solids and are sent through an oil recovery system before being injected into saltwater disposal injection wells or placed in evaporation cells that utilize specialized equipment to accelerate evaporation of liquids. In certain locations, fresh water is then added to the remaining solids in the cell to “wash” the solids several times to remove contaminants, including oil and grease, chlorides and other contaminants, to ensure the solids meet specific regulatory criteria that, in certain areas, are administered by third-party labs and submitted to the regulatory authorities.
The North America MSW services industry is highly competitive and requires substantial labor and capital resources. Our competition includes three national, publicly-held solid waste companies – Waste Management, Inc.,
Republic Services, Inc. and Advanced Disposal Services, Inc.; several regional, publicly held and privately owned companies; and several thousand small, local, privately owned companies, including independent waste brokers, some of which we believe have accumulated substantial goodwill in their markets. In 2019, the stockholders of Advanced Disposal Services, Inc. agreed to the acquisition of the company by Waste Management, Inc., which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020. We compete for collection, transfer and disposal volume based primarily on the price and, to a lesser extent, quality of our services. We also compete with operators of alternative disposal facilities, including incinerators, and with counties, municipalities and solid waste districts that maintain their own waste collection and disposal operations. Public sector operators may have financial and other advantages over us because of their access to user fees and similar charges, tax revenues, tax-exempt financing and the ability to flow-control waste streams to publicly owned disposal facilities.
From time to time, competitors may reduce the price of their services in an effort to expand their market shares or service areas or to win competitively bid municipal contracts. These practices may cause us to reduce the price of our services or, if we elect not to do so, to lose business. We provide a significant amount of our residential, commercial and industrial collection services under exclusive franchise and municipal contracts and G Certificates. Exclusive franchises and municipal contracts may be subject to periodic competitive bidding. Competition in the solid waste industry is also affected by the increasing national emphasis in the U.S. and Canada on recycling and other waste reduction programs, which may reduce the volume of waste we collect or deposit in our landfills.
The U.S. and Canadian MSW services industries have undergone significant consolidation, and we encounter competition in our efforts to acquire collection operations, transfer stations and landfills. We generally compete for acquisition candidates with publicly owned regional and national waste management companies. Accordingly, it may become uneconomical for us to make further acquisitions or we may be unable to locate or acquire suitable acquisition candidates at price levels and on terms and conditions that we consider appropriate, particularly in markets we do not already serve.
Competition for E&P waste comes primarily from smaller regional companies that utilize a variety of disposal methods and generally serve specific geographic markets. We also compete in certain markets with publicly held and privately owned companies such as Waste Management, Inc., Republic Services, Inc., Clean Harbors, Inc., US Ecology, Inc., Secure Energy Services Inc., Nuverra Environmental Solutions, Trinity Environmental Services, LLC, Ecoserv and others. In addition, customers in many markets have the option of using internal disposal methods or outsourcing to another third-party disposal company. The principal competitive factors in this business include: gaining customer approval of treatment and disposal facilities; location of facilities in relation to customer activity; reputation; reliability of services; track record of environmental compliance; ability to accept multiple waste types at a single facility; and price.
The intermodal services industry is also highly competitive. We compete against other intermodal rail services companies, trucking companies and railroads, many of which have greater financial and other resources than we do. Competition is based primarily on price, reliability and quality of service.
Our operations in the United States and Canada, including landfills, transfer stations, solid waste transportation, intermodal operations, vehicle maintenance shops, fueling facilities and oilfield waste treatment, recovery and disposal operations, are all subject to extensive and evolving federal, state, provincial and, in some instances, local environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, the enforcement of which has become increasingly stringent. These laws and regulations may, among other things, require securing permits or other authorizations (collectively, “permits”) for regulated activities; govern the amount and type of substances that may be released or emitted into the environment in connection with our operations; impose clean-up or corrective action responsibility for releases of regulated substances into the environment; restrict the way we handle, manage or dispose of wastes; limit or prohibit our activities in sensitive areas such as wetlands, wilderness areas or areas inhabited by endangered or threatened species; require investigatory and remedial actions to mitigate pollution conditions caused by our operations or attributable to
former operations; and impose specific standards addressing worker protection and health. Compliance is often costly or difficult, and the violation of these laws and regulations may result in the denial or revocation of permits, issuance of corrective action orders, assessment of administrative and civil penalties and even criminal prosecution.
In many instances in the United States, liability is often “strict,” meaning it is imposed without a requirement of intent or fault on the part of the regulated entity. The environmental regulations that affect us in the United States are generally administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, or the EPA, and other federal, state and local agencies having jurisdiction over our U.S. operations.
The environmental legislation that affects us in Canada is administered by federal and provincial regulatory agencies, which have jurisdiction over certain aspects of our Canadian operations. The relevant Canadian federal environmental legislation that affects our operations is administered by federal departments such as Environment and Climate Change Canada. Provincial and local agencies and departments administer their own environmental legislation, such as the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. In most instances in Canada, liability for violations of environmental and health and safety laws is imposed without a requirement of intent on the part of the regulated entity, but is subject to a defense of due diligence.
Compliance with existing environmental regulatory requirements and permits requires significant capital and operating expenditures. It is possible that substantial costs for compliance or penalties for non-compliance may be incurred in the future. We believe that in recent years, environmental regulation of the industry has increased as have the number of enforcement actions brought by regulatory agencies. It is also possible that other developments, such as the adoption of additional or more stringent environmental laws, regulations and enforcement policies, could result in additional costs or liabilities that we cannot currently foresee or quantify. Moreover, changes in environmental laws or regulations could reduce the demand for our services and adversely impact our business. We also expend significant resources (both administrative and financial) directed toward development, expansion, acquisition, and permitting of landfills, transfer stations, and other facilities we operate. Regarding any permit issued by a regulatory agency necessary for our operations, there are no assurances that we will be able to obtain or maintain all necessary permits or that any such permit held may ultimately be renewed on the same or similar terms. Further, permits obtained impose various requirements and may restrict the size and location of disposal operations, impose limits on the types and amount of waste a facility may receive or manage, as well as a waste disposal facility’s overall capacity. Additional operational conditions or restrictions may be included in the renewal or amendment of a previously issued permit. As regulations change, our permit requirements could become more stringent and compliance may require material expenditures at our facilities, impose significant operational restraints, or require new or additional financial assurance related to our operations. Regarding any permit that has been issued, it remains subject to renewal, modification, suspension or revocation by the agency with jurisdiction.
Various laws impose clean-up or remediation liability on responsible parties, which are discussed in more detail below. Substances subject to clean-up liability have been or may have been disposed of or released on or under certain of our facility sites. At some of our facilities, we have conducted and continue to conduct monitoring or remediation of known soil and groundwater contamination and, as required, we will continue to perform such work. It is possible that monitoring or remediation could be required in the future at other facilities we own or operate or previously owned or operated. These monitoring and remediation efforts are usually overseen by environmental regulatory agencies. Further, it is not uncommon for neighboring landowners and other third parties to file claims for personal injury or property damage allegedly caused by the release of regulated substances into the environment. In addition, from time to time, our intermodal services business undertakes the transport of hazardous materials. This transportation function is also regulated by various federal, state, provincial and potentially local agencies.
A number of major statutes and regulations apply to our operations, which are generally enforced by regulatory agencies. Typically, in the United States, federal statutes establish the general regulatory requirements governing our operations, but in many instances these programs are delegated to the states, which have independent and sometimes more strict regulation. In Canada, it is typically provincial statutes that establish the primary regulatory requirements governing our waste operations. Federal statutes in Canada govern certain aspects of waste management, including international and interprovincial transport of certain kinds of waste. Certain of these statutes in the United States and Canada contain provisions that authorize, under certain circumstances, lawsuits by private citizens to enforce certain
statutory provisions. In addition to penalties, some of these statutes authorize an award of attorneys’ fees to parties that successfully bring such an action. Enforcement actions for a violation of these statutes or for a violation of or failure to have a permit, which is required by certain of these statutes, may include administrative, civil and criminal/regulatory penalties, as well as injunctive relief in some instances. In our ordinary course of business, we incur significant costs complying with these regulations and applicable standards.
A brief description of certain of the primary statutes affecting our operations is discussed below.
Laws and Regulations
A. Waste and Hazardous Substances
1. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, or RCRA
In the United States, RCRA regulates the generation, treatment, storage, handling, transportation and disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste and requires states to develop programs to ensure the safe disposal of solid waste. Regulations promulgated under RCRA impose broad requirements on the waste management industry. In October 1991, the EPA adopted what are known as the Subtitle D Regulations, which govern solid non-hazardous waste landfills. The Subtitle D Regulations establish, among other things, location restrictions, minimum facility design and performance standards, operating criteria, closure and post-closure requirements, financial assurance requirements, groundwater monitoring requirements, groundwater remediation standards and corrective action requirements. These and other applicable requirements, including permitting, are typically implemented by the states, but in some instances, states have enacted more stringent requirements.
Regarding the management and disposal of E&P waste, although E&P wastes may contain hazardous constituents, most E&P waste is exempt from stringent RCRA regulation as a hazardous waste. We are required to obtain permits for the land treatment and disposal of E&P waste as part of our operations. The construction, operation and closure of E&P waste land treatment and disposal operations are generally regulated at the state level. These regulations vary widely from state to state. None of our oilfield waste recycling, treatment and disposal facilities are currently permitted to accept hazardous wastes for disposal. Some wastes handled by us that currently are exempt from regulation as hazardous wastes may in the future be designated as “hazardous wastes” under RCRA or other applicable statutes if changes in laws or regulations were to occur. If the RCRA E&P waste exemption is repealed or modified, we could become subject to more rigorous and costly operating and disposal requirements.
A breach of laws or regulations governing facilities we operate may result in suspension or revocation of necessary permits, civil liability, and imposition of fines and penalties. Moreover, if we experience a delay in obtaining, are unable to obtain, or suffer the revocation of required permits, we may be unable to serve our customers, our operations may be interrupted and our growth and revenue may be limited.
RCRA also regulates underground storage of petroleum and other materials it defines as “regulated substances.” RCRA requires registration, compliance with technical standards for tanks, release detection and reporting and corrective action, among other things. Certain of our facilities and operations are subject to these requirements, which are typically implemented at the state level and may be more stringent in certain states.
2. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, or CERCLA
CERCLA, which is also known as the “Superfund” law, established a program in the United States allowing federal authorities to provide for the investigation and clean up of facilities where, or from which, a release of any hazardous substance into the environment has occurred or is threatened. CERCLA defines “hazardous substances” broadly. One of the primary ways that CERCLA addresses a release or threatened release of hazardous substances is by imposing strict, joint and several liability for clean up on its broad categories of responsible parties. This means that responsible parties can bear liability without fault and that each responsible party potentially could bear liability for the entirety of clean-up costs, notwithstanding its individual contribution. Generally, responsible parties are current owners and operators of the contaminated site; former owners and operators of the site at the time when the hazardous substances were disposed; any
person who arranged for treatment or disposal of the hazardous substances; and transporters who selected the disposal site. In addition to CERCLA’s liability framework, the EPA may issue orders directing responsible parties to respond to releases of hazardous substances. Further, the EPA and private parties, who have response liability to the EPA or who have incurred response costs, can bring suit against other responsible parties to seek to recover certain costs incurred in their response efforts. CERCLA also imposes liability for the cost of evaluating and remedying damage to natural resources. Various states have enacted laws analogous to and independent of CERCLA that also impose liability, which is typically strict and joint and several, for investigation, clean-up and other damages associated with the release of hazardous or other regulated substances. We may handle hazardous substances within the meaning of CERCLA, or hazardous and other substances regulated under similar state statutes, in the course of our ordinary operations. As a result, we may be jointly and severally liable under CERCLA or similar states statutes for all or part of the costs required to clean up sites if and where these hazardous substances have been released into the environment. CERCLA and these analogous state laws and regulations may also expose us to liability for acts or conditions that were in compliance with applicable laws at a prior time. Under certain circumstances, our sales of residual crude oil collected as part of the saltwater injection process could result in liability to us if the residual crude contains hazardous substances or is covered by one of the state statutes and the entity to which the oil was transferred fails to manage and, as necessary, dispose of it or components thereof in accordance with applicable laws.
3. Canadian Waste Legislation
The primary waste laws regulating our business in Canada are imposed by the provinces. These include provincial laws that regulate waste management, including requirements to obtain permits and approvals, and regulations with respect to the operation of transfer stations and landfilling sites. Each provincial jurisdiction in Canada has its own regulatory regime; however, the key requirements under these regimes are similar across Canada. For example, the Environmental Protection Act, or the EP Act, in Ontario and its underlying regulations regulate the generation, treatment, storage, handling, transportation and disposal of wastes in Ontario, among other things. The EP Act requires an approval or, in some cases, a registration, for the establishment, operation or alteration of a waste management system (which includes all facilities or equipment used in connection with waste) or a waste disposal site. The specific terms and conditions of an approval may impose emission limits, monitoring and reporting requirements, siting and operating criteria, financial assurance or insurance and decommissioning requirements. Certain landfilling sites are subject to more stringent regulatory requirements that can include detailed prescribed design standards, leachate collection systems, landfill gas management or collection systems and/or site closure plans including post-closure care requirements. The federal Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 imposes requirements with respect to the interprovincial and international movement of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable material, which can affect the movement of wastes and recyclables to our Canadian facilities. The expansion or establishment of certain waste management projects, including waste treatment and landfilling sites, may also be subject to provincial or federal environmental assessment requirements.
A breach of laws or regulations governing our operations may result in suspension or revocation of necessary approvals and imposition of fines and penalties. Moreover, if we experience a delay in obtaining, are unable to obtain, or suffer the revocation of required approvals, we may be unable to serve our customers, our operations may be interrupted, and our growth and revenue may be limited.
4. Canadian Contaminated Sites Legislation
There are provincial and federal laws in Canada that regulate spills and releases of substances into the environment and require the remediation of contaminated sites. Clean up of contaminated sites in connection with our business is primarily regulated by provincial environmental laws. Each province has its own regulatory regime; however, the key requirements under these regimes are similar across Canada. For example, the EP Act in Ontario authorizes the agency to issue orders to responsible persons to undertake remedial or other corrective actions to investigate, monitor and remediate the discharge or presence of contaminants in the environment. These orders can generally be issued on a joint and several liability basis to categories of responsible persons, including persons who caused or permitted the discharge of a contaminant, persons who owned the discharged substance, as well as current and past owners of lands or the source of the contamination and persons who have or have had management or control over lands or the source of the contamination. Responsible parties can bear liability under an order without fault. The costs to comply with an order can
be very substantial. Some provincial jurisdictions provide a statutory right to compensation from the owner or person in control of a substance that is discharged into the environment to any person who suffers loss as a result. The federal government has also enacted laws that regulate the release of certain substances into the environment. We handle many contaminants and pollutants in the course of our ordinary operations and, as a result, may be liable under provincial and federal statutes for all or part of required clean-up costs if substances have been released into the environment. Under such laws, we could be required to remove previously disposed substances and wastes (including substances disposed of or released by prior owners or operators) or remediate contaminated property (including soil and groundwater contamination, whether from prior owners or operators or other historic activities or spills).
B. Wastewater/Stormwater Discharge
1. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, or the Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act regulates the discharge of pollutants from a variety of sources, including, without limitation, solid waste disposal sites, transfer stations and oilfield waste facilities into Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, including surface and potentially ground waters. Under the Clean Water Act, sites or facilities that discharge pollutants to waters of the United States must have a permit authorizing that discharge. If run-off or other contaminants from our owned or operated transfer stations or oilfield waste facilities, or run-off, collected leachate or other contaminants from our owned or operated landfills or other facilities is discharged into streams, rivers or other regulated waters, the Clean Water Act would require a discharge permit, typically containing requirements to conduct monitoring and, under certain circumstances, to treat and reduce the quantity of pollutants in such discharge. Further, if a landfill or other facility discharges wastewater through a treatment works, it may be required to comply with additional permitting and other specific requirements. Also, virtually all landfills are required to comply with the EPA’s storm water regulations, which are designed to prevent the introduction of contaminated storm water run-off into United States’ waters.
At this time, the ultimate regulatory test for defining WOTUS is unclear, and the determination therefor will be based upon the outcome of regulatory promulgations and associated litigation which are currently pending. The manner in which WOTUS is defined could affect our operations by potentially increasing or modifying regulatory requirements governing our discharges. In 2015, the Clean Water Rule was promulgated, which would expand federal control over many U.S. water resources by broadening the definition of WOTUS, thereby potentially classifying a larger range of water resource types as jurisdictional under the Clean Water Act. Since promulgation of the 2015 Clean Water Rule, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, or the Corps, have sought to rescind it and to promulgate a revised definition of WOTUS that would establish federal jurisdiction more narrowly, thereby reducing the scope of Clean Water Act applicability. To that end, on December 11, 2018, the EPA and the Corps proposed a rule to redefine WOTUS. Eventually, in October 2019, the 2015 Clean Water Rule was repealed and the pre-2015 regulatory text was re-codified, with changes effective December 23, 2019. The newly finalized rule has already been challenged in court. The scope of the WOTUS definition will likely remain fluid until a final regulatory determination is made and subsequent litigation, if any, is finalized. To the extent a rule ultimately promulgated expands the scope of the jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act with respect to WOTUS, we could face increased costs and delays with respect to obtaining permits under the Clean Water Act.
Additionally, the Clean Water Act’s spill prevention, control and countermeasure requirements require appropriate containment berms and similar structures to help contain and prevent the contamination of regulated waters in the event of a hydrocarbon storage tank release. The Clean Water Act also contains provisions which can prohibit or require permitting before development or expansion of a landfill may occur in areas designated as wetlands. Various states in which we operate or may operate in the future have been delegated authority to implement the Clean Water Act and its permitting requirements, and some of these states have adopted regulations that are more stringent than federal Clean Water Act requirements.
2. Safe Drinking Water Act, or SDWA
Our United States E&P underground injection operations are subject to the SDWA, as well as analogous state laws and regulations. Under the SDWA, the EPA established the underground injection control, or UIC, program, which includes requirements for permitting, testing, monitoring, record keeping and reporting of injection well activities, as
well as a prohibition against the migration of fluid containing any contaminant into underground sources of drinking water. Certain state regulations require us to obtain permits from the applicable regulatory agencies to operate our underground injection wells. Leakage from the subsurface portions of the injection wells could cause degradation of fresh groundwater resources, potentially resulting in suspension of our UIC permit, fines and penalties, the incurrence of expenditures for remediation of the affected resource and potential liability to third parties for property damages. In July 2018, the EPA partnered with New Mexico to assess alternatives to immediate disposal of E&P wastewater by reusing it and/or treating it for reintroduction into the hydrologic cycle, as well as potential regulations related thereto. Moreover, in May 2019, EPA issued its draft Study of Oil and Gas Extraction Wastewater Management Under the Clean Water Act regarding EPA’s examination of whether to alter its regulation of the treatment and discharge of E&P wastewater. If regulations requiring reuse or treatment are developed and implemented on a broad scale, it may increase our compliance costs or reduce the volume of E&P wastes that may be disposed of via underground injection.
3. Canadian Water Protection Legislation
There is legislation in Canada at both the federal and provincial levels that protects water quality and regulates the discharge of substances into the aquatic environment. Federal water pollution control authority is derived primarily from the Fisheries Act, which contains provisions for the protection of water quality and fish habitat. This includes a general prohibition on the deposit of any deleterious substances into water that is frequented by fish, unless otherwise authorized. There is legislation in each provincial jurisdiction that also protects water sources and regulates water pollution, and generally requires an approval or permit for a discharge of any effluent, including in some cases stormwater, into a water body. For example, in Ontario, the Ontario Water Resources Act, or OWRA, prohibits the discharge of material of any kind into any water that may impair the quality of the water. The OWRA requires that an approval be obtained for the use and operation of certain sewage and stormwater works. Such approvals typically contain monitoring requirements and impose restrictions on effluent characteristics. Other provinces in Canada have similar regimes for the protection of water. If run-off or other contaminants from our landfills, transfer stations or other waste facilities is discharged or migrates into waters and causes impairment, we could face significant liability under provincial and federal laws.
C. Air Emissions
1. The Clean Air Act, or CAA
In the United States, the CAA generally regulates the emissions of air pollutants from a variety of sources, including certain landfills and oilfield waste facilities, based on factors such as the date of the construction and tons per year of emissions of regulated pollutants. Typically, federal requirements are delegated to the states and implemented at the state level. The CAA and analogous state laws require permits for and impose other restrictions on facilities and equipment that have the potential to emit pollutants into the atmosphere. Under the CAA, a source deemed to be a major source generally must be authorized by a permit. In those situations where major source permitting is not required, typically state laws and rules will require permitting as a type of minor source. Larger landfills and landfills located in areas where the ambient air does not meet certain air quality standards called for by the CAA may be subject to even more extensive air pollution controls and emissions limitations. In addition to the potential CAA permitting of landfill facilities, CAA permitting may be required for the construction of gas collection and flaring systems, composting and other operations. In some instances, federal operating permits may be required depending on the nature and volume of air emissions.
In addition to permitting, the CAA imposes other regulatory obligations, including, in some instances, performance standards on operations and equipment. The EPA has issued what are known as new source performance standards, or NSPS, and emissions guidelines, which impose requirements regarding control of landfill gases from new and existing large landfills. The EPA has also issued regulations imposing maximum achievable control technology, or MACT, on large MSW landfills. The MACT standards impose limits on landfill emissions and often require installation of landfill gas collection system tanks. Additional or more stringent regulations of our facilities may occur in the future, which could increase operating costs or impose additional compliance burdens. On August 29, 2016, the EPA issued “Subpart XXX” that applies to MSW landfills constructed, modified or reconstructed after July 17, 2014. Subpart XXX reduces the non-methane organic compounds, or NMOC, emissions threshold at which MSW landfills must install emission controls, requires monitoring surface emissions of methane, monitoring of temperature and pressure at the well head of
landfill gas collection systems and imposes other requirements. Further, the EPA promulgated “Guidelines” on August 29, 2016, known as Subpart Cf, which require states to implement similar requirements on existing landfills that are not subject to NSPS Subpart XXX. Subpart Cf updates existing Emission Guidelines and Compliance Times for existing MSW landfills. The Subpart Cf Guidelines apply to landfills that accepted waste after November 8, 1987 and commenced construction or modification on or before July 17, 2014. Subpart XXX and Subpart Cf are intended to result in the reduction of landfill gas emissions, including methane, by lowering the thresholds where an MSW landfill must install a gas collection and control system. Subpart Cf will ultimately affect existing sources that are not affected by Subpart XXX. In October 2018, the EPA proposed a rule to delay implementation of the Guidelines, and indicated that it was reconsidering certain portions thereof. EPA published its final rules on August 29, 2019, under which the deadline for states to submit their plans to effectuate the emission control requirements was extended from May 29, 2017 to August 29, 2019. The rules also give EPA up to six months to review the completeness of such plans and an additional 12 months thereafter to approve or disapprove such plans. Regardless of the time extensions that the new rules allow, eventual compliance with these regulatory requirements could result in significant additional compliance costs, which we will incur in our ordinary course of business. In addition, state air regulatory requirements may impose additional restrictions beyond federal requirements, which could also result in compliance costs. For example, some state air programs uniquely regulate odor and the emission of certain specific toxic air pollutants.
The EPA recently modified, or is in the process of modifying, other standards promulgated under the CAA in a manner which could increase our compliance costs. For example, the EPA has recently modified or discussed modifying national ambient air quality standards applicable to particulate matter, carbon monoxide and oxides of sulfur and nitrogen, ozone and other standards to make them more stringent. It is possible these additional regulations could result in additional capital or operating expenditures. We do not believe, however, they will have a material adverse effect on our business as a whole. Further, our customers’ operations may be subject to existing and future CAA permitting and regulatory requirements that could have a material effect on their operations, which could have an adverse effect on our business.
2. Canadian Air Quality Legislation
In Canada, the primary laws regulating air emissions from our operations come from provincial laws. Provincial laws may require approvals for air emissions and may impose other restrictions on facilities and equipment that have the potential to emit pollutants into the atmosphere. Provincial laws may require the construction of landfill gas management systems, including gas collection and flaring systems, which are subject to approvals or other regulatory requirements. Failure to obtain an approval or comply with approval requirements could result in the imposition of substantial administrative or regulatory penalties.
D. Occupational Health and Safety
1. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, or the OSH Act
In the United States, the OSH Act is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, and many state agencies whose programs have been approved by OSHA. The OSH Act establishes employer responsibilities for worker health and safety, including the obligation to maintain a workplace free of recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious injury, comply with adopted worker protection standards, maintain certain records, provide workers with required disclosures, and implement certain health and safety training programs. Various OSHA standards may apply to our operations, including standards concerning notices of hazards, safety in excavation and demolition work, the handling of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials and worker training and emergency response programs. Moreover, the Department of Transportation, OSHA, and other agencies regulate and have jurisdiction concerning the transport, movement, and related safety of hazardous and other regulated materials. In some instances, state and local agencies also regulate the safe transport of such materials to the extent not preempted by federal law.
2. Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Laws
In Canada, each province establishes and administers a provincial occupational health and safety regime. Similar to the United States, these regimes generally identify the rights and responsibilities of employers, supervisors and workers. Employers are required to implement all prescribed safety requirements and to exercise reasonable care to protect employees from workplace hazards, among other things. Various occupational health and safety standards may apply to our Canadian operations, including requirements relating to communication of and exposure to hazards, safety in excavation and demolition work, the handling of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials and worker training and emergency response programs. In addition to the provincial departments of transportation, Transport Canada has jurisdiction to regulate the transportation of dangerous goods, which can include wastes.
E. Additional Regulatory Considerations
We also review regulatory developments that may affect our business, including, among others, those described below.
1. State, Provincial and Local Regulation
In addition to the federal statutes regulating our operations, each state where we operate or may operate in the future has laws and regulations governing the management, generation, storage, treatment, handling, transportation, and disposal of solid waste, E&P waste, occupational safety and health, water and air pollution and, in most cases, the siting, design, operation, maintenance, corrective action, closure and post-closure maintenance of landfills and transfer stations. Further, many municipalities have enacted or could enact ordinances, local laws and regulations affecting our operations, including zoning and health measures that limit solid waste management activities to specified sites or activities. Other jurisdictions have enacted “fitness” rules focusing on companywide and overall corporate compliance history in making permitting decisions. In addition, certain jurisdictions have enacted flow control provisions that direct or restrict the delivery of solid wastes to specific facilities, laws that grant the right to establish franchises for collection services and bidding for such franchises and bans or other restrictions on the movement of solid wastes into a municipality. Specific state and local permits for our operations may be required and may be subject to periodic renewal, modification or revocation by the issuing agencies. There has also been an increasing trend at the state, provincial and local levels to mandate and encourage waste reduction at the source and recycling, and to prohibit or restrict landfill disposal of certain types of solid wastes, such as food waste, yard waste, leaves, tires, electronic equipment waste, painted wood and other construction and demolition debris. The enactment of laws or regulations reducing the volume and types of wastes available for transport to and disposal in landfills could prevent us from operating our facilities at their full capacity.
2. Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation
We do not conduct hydraulic fracturing operations, but we do provide treatment, recovery and disposal services for the fluids used and wastes generated by our customers in such operations. Recently, there has been increased public concern regarding the alleged potential for hydraulic fracturing to adversely affect drinking water supplies, and proposals have been made to enact separate federal, state or local legislation that would increase the regulatory burden imposed on hydraulic fracturing. Laws and regulations have been proposed and/or adopted at the federal, state and local levels that would regulate, restrict or prohibit hydraulic fracturing operations or require the reporting and public disclosure of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process. Certain states and localities have placed moratoria or bans on hydraulic fracturing or the disposal of waste therefrom, or have considered the same.
In June 2016, the EPA promulgated a rule prohibiting discharges of wastewater pollutants from onshore unconventional oil and gas extraction facilities to publicly-owned treatment works, or POTWs. Further, the EPA promulgated regulations known as Reg. OOOO and Reg. OOOOa, which, among other things, require control of methane and VOC emissions related to certain well completions and certain tankage and equipment. Certain provisions of Reg. OOOOa are currently the subject of litigation. In June 2017, the EPA proposed a two-year stay of portions of the rules and in October 2018, the EPA proposed revisions to Reg. OOOOa. No long term stays have yet become effective. Regardless of potential regulatory revisions, these rules can require oil and gas operators to expend material sums, which may reduce our customers’ E&P activities and could have an adverse impact on our business. Additionally, several states
have adopted or proposed laws and regulations analogous to the federal rules that would remain in effect regardless of the outcome of any federal stay or litigation. Further, several states in which we conduct business require oil and natural gas operators to disclose information concerning their operations, which could result in increased public scrutiny.
The EPA has contemplated additional rule making. In May 2014, the EPA issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or ANPR, under the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, seeking comment on whether and how the EPA should regulate the reporting or disclosure of the use of hydraulic fracturing chemical substances and mixtures and their constituents. Several states have already implemented such requirements. Additionally, in December 2016, the EPA released a study on the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. In that study, the EPA found evidence that hydraulic fracturing activity can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances, but data gaps limited the EPA’s ability to fully assess the matter. The EPA also published in May 2018 a detailed study of centralized waste treatment, or CWT, facilities accepting oil and gas extraction wastewater. The study assessed the regulatory status of CWTs, characteristics of wastewaters discharged from them, available treatment technologies and associated costs. The impact of rules that the EPA is contemplating, has proposed or has recently promulgated will be uncertain until the rules are finalized and fully implemented.
If the EPA’s newly promulgated or proposed rules, or other new federal, state or local laws, regulations or policies restricting hydraulic fracturing are adopted, such legal requirements could result in delays, eliminate certain drilling and injection activities and make it more difficult or costly for our customers to perform hydraulic fracturing. Any such regulations limiting, prohibiting or imposing operational requirements on hydraulic fracturing could reduce oil and natural gas E&P activities by our customers and, therefore, adversely affect our business. Such laws or regulations could also materially increase our costs of compliance.
3. Disposal of Drilling Fluids
Certain of our facilities accept drilling fluids and other E&P wastes for disposal via underground injection. The disposal of drilling fluids is generally regulated at the state level, and claims, including some regulatory actions, have been brought against some owners or operators of these types of facilities for nuisance, seismic disturbances and other claims in relation to the operation of underground injection facilities. To date, our facilities have not been subject to any such litigation, but could be in the future.
4. Climate Change Laws and Regulations
Generally, the promulgation of climate change laws or regulations restricting or regulating greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions could increase our costs to operate. The EPA’s current and proposed regulation of GHG emissions may adversely impact our operations. In 2009, the EPA made an endangerment finding allowing GHGs to be regulated under the CAA. The CAA requires stationary sources of air pollution to obtain New Source Review, or NSR, permits prior to construction and, in some cases, Title V operating permits. Pursuant to the EPA’s rulemakings and interpretations, certain Title V and NSR Prevention of Significant Deterioration, or PSD, permits issued on or after January 2, 2011, must address GHG emissions. As a result, new or modified emissions sources may be required to install Best Available Control Technology to limit GHG emissions. The EPA’s recently adopted Subpart XXX also requires the reduction of GHG emissions from new or modified landfills, and the Guidelines, known as Subpart Cf, published by the EPA in August 2016, will require the reduction of GHG emissions from existing landfills, although the EPA has delayed implementation of, and is reconsidering portions of, these regulations, as detailed above. In addition, the EPA’s Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule sets monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements applicable to certain landfills and other entities.
In June 2018, the Canadian federal government enacted the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, which established a national carbon-pricing regime starting in 2019 for provinces and territories in Canada where there is no provincial regime in place or where the provincial regime does not meet the federal benchmark. Often referred to as the federal backstop, the federal carbon-pricing regime consists of a carbon levy that is applied to fossil fuels and an output-based pricing system (“OBPS”) that is applied to certain industrial facilities with reported emissions of 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (“CO2e”) or more per year. The carbon levy applies to prescribed liquid, gaseous, and solid
fuels at a rate that is equivalent to $20 per tonne of CO2e in 2019, increasing annually, until it reaches $50 per tonne of CO2e by 2022.
Certain states and several Canadian provinces have promulgated legislation and regulations to limit GHG emissions through requirements of specific controls, carbon levies, cap and trade programs or other measures. Comprehensive GHG legislation or regulation, including carbon pricing, affects not only our business, but also that of our customers.
Heightened regulation of our customers’ operations could also adversely affect our business. The regulation of GHG emissions from oil and gas E&P operations may increase the costs to our customers of developing and producing hydrocarbons and, as a result, may have an indirect and adverse effect on the amount of E&P waste delivered to our facilities. On June 3, 2016, the EPA promulgated NSPS Subpart OOOOa, which in conjunction with NSPS Subpart OOOO sets methane and VOC requirements for certain new and modified sources, including hydraulically fractured oil wells, certain tankage and equipment. Although the EPA has proposed delaying implementation of, and is reconsidering portions of, these regulations, they will continue to require, in some instances, additional emissions controls and increased capital costs for our customers, which could reduce their E&P activities, and subsequently negatively impact our business operations. As discussed above, certain states have enacted rules analogous to the federal rules.
These statutes and regulations increase our costs and our customers’ costs, and future climate change statutes and regulations may have an impact as well. If we are unable to pass such higher costs through to our customers, or if our customers’ costs of developing and producing hydrocarbons increase, our business, financial condition and operating results could be adversely affected. The impact of any potential rules affecting existing sources is uncertain.
5. Flow Control/Interstate Waste Restrictions
Certain permits and state and local regulations, known as flow control restrictions, may limit a landfill’s or transfer station’s ability to accept waste that originates from specified geographic areas, to import out-of-state waste or wastes originating outside the local jurisdictions or to otherwise accept non-local waste. While certain courts have deemed these laws to be unenforceable, other courts have not. Certain state and local jurisdictions may seek to enforce flow control restrictions contractually. These actions could limit or prohibit the importation of wastes originating outside of local jurisdictions or direct that wastes be handled at specified facilities. These restrictions could limit the volume of wastes we can manage in jurisdictions at issue and also result in higher disposal costs for our collection operations. If we are unable to pass such higher costs through to our customers, our business, financial condition and operating results could be adversely affected. Additionally, certain local jurisdictions have sought or may seek to impose extraterritorial obligations on our operations in an effort to affect flow control and may enforce tax and fee arrangements on behalf of such jurisdictions.
F. Renewable and Low Carbon Fuel Standards
Pursuant to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the EPA promulgated the Renewable Fuel Standards, or RFS, which require refiners to either blend “renewable fuels,” such as ethanol and biodiesel, into their transportation fuels or to purchase renewable fuel credits, known as renewable identification numbers, or RINs, in lieu of blending. In some cases, landfill gas generated at our landfills in the United States qualifies as a renewable fuel for which RINs are available. Such RINs can be sold by the Company. The price of RINs has been extremely volatile and the value of RINs is dependent upon a variety of factors. The EPA annually establishes the renewable fuel volumes required under the RFS for the following year. Reductions or limitations on the requirement to blend renewable fuel would likely reduce the volume of RINs purchased to meet the RFS blending requirements. Further, there have been proposals to revise, and in some instances limit, the RFS program in the United States. As recently as October 2019, House Energy and Commerce Committee members, Representatives Shimkus and Flores, introduced the 21st Century Transportation Fuels Act which aims to eliminate volume-based renewable fuels mandates and instead rely upon the transition to a national octane standard and automobile manufacturing standards to govern fuel composition. Various parties have also sought for the executive branch to revise the RFS. Limiting or eliminating the RFS could have the effect of reducing or eliminating the volume of RINs required to meet blending requirements, which could adversely affect the demand for RINS and accordingly the revenue stream we have historically derived from the sale of RINs.
In Canada, the Renewable Fuels Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 require producers and importers of gasoline, diesel fuel and heating distillate to acquire a certain number of renewable fuel compliance units, or Compliance Units, in connection with the volumes of fuel they produce or import. Compliance Units can be generated in a number of ways, including through the blending of renewable fuel into liquid petroleum fuels. Certain provincial jurisdictions in Canada also impose obligations to incorporate renewable fuels into fuels that are distributed within the jurisdiction. In some cases, landfill gas generated at our landfills in Canada is sold by our Company as a renewable fuel for which RINs are available under the United States RFS. Our Company could also sell landfill gas generated in Canada in connection with renewable fuel obligations in Canada. The price for our renewable fuel is dependent on a variety of factors, including demand. The Canadian federal government announced in late 2016 that it was developing a new “Clean Fuel Standard” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuel use. Since that time, Environment and Climate Change Canada has engaged in consultations with respect to the new standard. Details of the proposed new clean fuel regulatory framework were released at the end of 2017, and indicated, among other things, that the proposed framework would impose lifecycle carbon intensity requirements on certain liquid, gaseous and solid fuels that are used in transportation, industry and buildings, and establish rules relating to the trading of compliance credits. The carbon intensity requirements would become more stringent over time. Carbon intensity would be differentiated between different types of renewable fuels to reflect the associated emissions reduction potential. Regulated parties, which may include fuel producers and importers, would have some flexibility with respect to how to achieve lower carbon fuels in Canada. Environment and Climate Change Canada has since published a Regulatory Design Paper for the Clean Fuel Standard in December 2018 and a Proposed Regulatory Approach for the Clean Fuel Standard in June 2019. These documents present additional details of the proposed regulatory design of the Clean Fuel Standard. The Canadian Government is reporting that new regulations under the Clean Fuel Standard are targeted to come into force on January 1, 2022 (for liquid fuels) and January 1, 2023 (for gaseous and solid fuel regulations). The Canadian federal government has indicated that over time, the new Clean Fuel Standard would replace the current Renewable Fuels Regulations. At this time, we do not know how a new clean fuel regulatory framework in Canada could impact demand for our renewable fuel.
A significant reduction in the value of RINs in the United States or the price paid for our renewable fuel in Canada could adversely impact our reported results.
G. Regulation of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Metals, or NORM
Certain states have enacted laws and regulations regulating NORM. In the course of our E&P waste operations, some of our equipment involved in E&P waste management and disposal may be exposed to naturally occurring radiation associated with oil and gas deposits. Further, certain E&P wastes we handle could be NORM contaminated. NORM wastes exhibiting levels of naturally occurring radiation exceeding established state standards are typically subject to special handling and disposal requirements, and any storage vessels, piping, equipment and work area affected by NORM waste may be subject to remediation or restoration requirements. It is possible that we may incur significant costs or liabilities associated with inadvertently handling NORM contaminated waste or equipment that becomes NORM contaminated based on exposure or contact with elevated levels of NORM.
H. Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR, Regulations
EPR regulations place responsibility on product manufacturers or suppliers to assume certain waste management or recycling responsibility for their products after such products’ useful life or otherwise impose obligations on product manufacturers or suppliers to reduce the volume of waste associated with their products.
EPR regulations have yet to be promulgated at the federal level in the United States, but have been promulgated or considered in state and local jurisdictions in the United States. EPR regulations could have an adverse effect on our business if enacted at the federal level or if widely enacted by state or local governments.
Numerous provincial jurisdictions in Canada have promulgated EPR and related waste diversion legislation and other programs that mandate or encourage recycling and waste reduction and restrict the landfill disposal of certain types of waste. The enactment of new and more stringent regulations reducing the types or volumes of wastes available for disposal in landfills could impact our future operations.
I. State Public Utility Regulation
In some states, public authorities regulate the rates that landfill operators may charge. The adoption of rate regulation or the reduction of current rates in states in which we own or operate landfills could adversely affect our business, financial condition and operating results.
RISK MANAGEMENT, INSURANCE AND FINANCIAL SURETY BONDS
We maintain environmental and other risk management programs that we believe are appropriate for our business. Our environmental risk management program includes evaluating existing facilities and potential acquisitions for environmental law compliance. We do not presently expect environmental compliance costs to increase materially above current levels, but we cannot predict whether future acquisitions will cause such costs to increase. We also maintain a worker safety program that encourages safe practices in the workplace. Operating practices at our operations emphasize minimizing the possibility of environmental contamination and litigation. Our facilities comply in all material respects with applicable federal, state and provincial regulations.
We maintain an insurance program for automobile liability, general liability, employer’s liability claims, environmental liability, cyber liability, employment practices liability and directors’ and officers’ liability as well as for employee group health insurance, property and workers’ compensation. Our loss exposure for insurance claims is generally limited to per incident deductibles or self-insured retentions. Losses in excess of deductible or self-insured retention levels are insured subject to policy limits.
Under our current company-wide insurance program, we carry per incident deductibles or self-insured retentions ranging from $100,000 to $2 million for cyber liability and directors’ and officers’ liability claims. Additionally, we have umbrella policies with insurance companies for automobile liability, general liability and employer’s liability. Our property insurance limits are in accordance with the replacement values of the insured property.
Under our current insurance program for our U.S. operations, we carry per incident deductibles or self-insured retentions ranging from $250,000 to $20 million for automobile liability claims, workers’ compensation and employer’s liability claims, general liability claims, employee group health insurance and employment practices liability, environmental liability, and for most property claims, subject to certain additional terms and conditions. Since workers’ compensation is a statutory coverage limited by the various state jurisdictions, the umbrella coverage is not applicable. Our environmental protection insurance policy covers all owned or operated landfills, certain transfer stations and other facilities, subject to the policy terms and conditions. From time to time, actions filed against us include claims for punitive damages, which are generally excluded from coverage under our liability insurance policies. Our policy provides insurance for new pollution conditions that originate after the commencement of our coverage. Pollution conditions existing prior to the commencement of our coverage, if found, could be excluded from coverage.
Under our current insurance program for our Canadian operations, we carry per incident deductibles or self-insured retentions ranging from $100,000 to $5 million for automobile liability claims, property claims and environmental liability. Since workers’ compensation is a provincial coverage limited by the various province jurisdictions, the umbrella coverage is not applicable. Employees are eligible to receive health coverage under Canada’s public health care system and, in addition, most employees of our Canadian operations are eligible to participate in group medical and drug coverage plans sponsored by us. Our environmental protection insurance policy covers all owned or operated landfills, certain transfer stations and other facilities, subject to the policy terms and conditions. Our policy provides insurance for new pollution conditions that originate after the commencement of our coverage. Pollution conditions existing prior to the commencement of our coverage, if found, could be excluded from coverage.
Financial Surety Bonds
We use financial surety bonds for a variety of corporate guarantees. The financial surety bonds are primarily used for guaranteeing municipal contract performance and providing financial assurances to meet asset closure and retirement requirements under certain environmental regulations. In addition to surety bonds, such guarantees and obligations may also be met through alternative financial assurance instruments, including insurance, letters of credit and restricted cash and investment deposits. At December 31, 2019 and 2018, we had provided customers and various regulatory authorities with surety bonds in the aggregate amount of approximately $661.6 million and $619.8 million, respectively, to secure our asset closure and retirement requirements and $419.3 million and $357.8 million, respectively, to secure performance under collection contracts and landfill operating agreements.
We source financial surety bonds from a variety of third-party insurance and surety companies, including a company in which we own a 9.9% interest that, among other activities, issues financial surety bonds to secure landfill final capping, closure and post-closure obligations for companies operating in the solid waste sector.
At December 31, 2019, we had 18,204 employees, of which 3,159, or approximately 17.4% of our workforce, were employed under collective bargaining agreements. The majority of our collective bargaining agreements are with the Teamsters Union in both the U.S. and Canada. These collective bargaining agreements are renegotiated periodically. We have 21 collective bargaining agreements covering 1,522 employees that have expired or are set to expire during 2020. We do not expect any significant disruption in our overall business in 2020 as a result of labor negotiations, employee strikes or organizational efforts by labor unions or their representatives.
We expect our operating results to vary seasonally, with revenues typically lowest in the first quarter, higher in the second and third quarters and lower in the fourth quarter than in the second and third quarters. This seasonality reflects (a) the lower volume of solid waste generated during the late fall, winter and early spring because of decreased construction and demolition activities during winter months in Canada and the U.S., and (b) reduced E&P activity during harsh weather conditions, with expected fluctuation due to such seasonality between our highest and lowest quarters of approximately 10%. In addition, some of our operating costs may be higher in the winter months. Adverse winter weather conditions slow waste collection activities, resulting in higher labor and operational costs. Greater precipitation in the winter increases the weight of collected MSW, resulting in higher disposal costs, which are calculated on a per ton basis.
INFORMATION ABOUT OUR EXECUTIVE OFFICERS
The following table sets forth certain information concerning our executive officers as of February 3, 2020:
Ronald J. Mittelstaedt (1)
Worthing F. Jackman
President and Chief Executive Officer
Darrell W. Chambliss
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
James M. Little
Executive Vice President – Engineering and Disposal
Patrick J. Shea
Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary
Mary Anne Whitney
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Matthew S. Black
Senior Vice President and Chief Tax Officer
David G. Eddie
Senior Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer
David M. Hall
Senior Vice President – Sales and Marketing
Eric O. Hansen
Senior Vice President – Chief Information Officer
Robert M. Cloninger
Vice President, Deputy General Counsel and Assistant Secretary
Keith P. Gordon
Vice President – Information Systems
Shawn W. Mandel
Vice President – Safety and Risk Management
Susan R. Netherton
Vice President – People, Training and Development
Jason W. Pratt
Vice President – Corporate Controller
Scott I. Schreiber
Vice President – Equipment and Operations Support
Vice President – Maintenance and Fleet Management
Colin G. Wittke
Vice President – Sales
Richard K. Wojahn
Vice President – Business Development
Member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors.
Ronald J. Mittelstaedt has been Executive Chairman of the Company since July 2019. From its formation in 1997 to that date, Mr. Mittelstaedt served as Chief Executive Officer of the Company. Mr. Mittelstaedt has served as a director of the Company since its formation, and was elected Chairman in January 1998. He also served as President of the Company from its formation through August 2004. Mr. Mittelstaedt has more than 31 years of experience in the solid waste industry. He serves as a director of SkyWest, Inc. Mr. Mittelstaedt holds a B.A. degree in Business Economics with a finance emphasis from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Worthing F. Jackman has been President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company since July 2019. From July 2018 to that date, Mr. Jackman served as President of the Company. From September 2004 to July 2018, Mr. Jackman served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the Company. From April 2003 to September 2004, he served as Vice President – Finance and Investor Relations of the Company. Mr. Jackman held various investment banking positions with Alex. Brown & Sons, now Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc., from 1991 through 2003, including most recently as a Managing Director within the Global Industrial & Environmental Services Group. In that capacity, he provided capital markets and strategic advisory services to companies in a variety of sectors, including solid waste services. Mr. Jackman serves as a director of Quanta Services, Inc. He holds a B.S. degree in Finance from Syracuse University and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.
Darrell W. Chambliss has been Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Company since October 2003. From October 1, 1997 to that date, Mr. Chambliss served as Executive Vice President – Operations of the Company. Mr. Chambliss has more than 29 years of experience in the solid waste industry. Mr. Chambliss holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration from the University of Arkansas.
James M. Little has been Executive Vice President – Engineering and Disposal of the Company since July 2019. From February 2009 to that date, Mr. Little served as Senior Vice President – Engineering and Disposal of the Company. From September 1999 to February 2009, Mr. Little served as Vice President – Engineering of the Company. Mr. Little held various management positions with Waste Management, Inc. (formerly USA Waste Services, Inc., which acquired Waste Management, Inc. and Chambers Development Co. Inc.) from April 1990 to September 1999, including
Regional Environmental Manager and Regional Landfill Manager, and most recently Division Manager in Ohio, where he was responsible for the operations of ten operating companies in the Northern Ohio area. Mr. Little is a certified professional geologist and holds a B.S. degree in Geology from Slippery Rock University.
Patrick J. Shea has been Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of the Company since July 2019. From August 2014 to that date, Mr. Shea served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of the Company. From February 2009 to August 2014, Mr. Shea served as Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of the Company. He served as General Counsel and Secretary of the Company from February 2008 to February 2009 and Corporate Counsel of the Company from February 2004 to February 2008. Mr. Shea practiced corporate and securities law with Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison LLP in San Francisco from 1999 to 2003 and Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts (now Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP) in New York and London from 1995 to 1999. Mr. Shea holds a B.S. degree in Managerial Economics from the University of California at Davis and a J.D. degree from Cornell University.
Mary Anne Whitney has been Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the Company since July 2018. From February 2018 to that date, Ms. Whitney served as Senior Vice President – Finance of the Company. From March 2012 to February 2018, Ms. Whitney served as Vice President – Finance of the Company. From November 2006 to March 2012, Ms. Whitney served as Director of Finance of the Company. Ms. Whitney held various finance positions for Wheelabrator Technologies from 1990 to 2001. Ms. Whitney holds a B.A. degree in Economics from Georgetown University and an M.B.A. in Finance from New York University Stern School of Business.
Matthew S. Black has been Senior Vice President and Chief Tax Officer of the Company since January 2017. From March 2012 to that date, Mr. Black served as Vice President and Chief Tax Officer of the Company. From December 2006 to March 2012, Mr. Black served as Executive Director of Taxes of the Company. Mr. Black served as Tax Director for The McClatchy Company from April 2001 to November 2006, and served as Tax Manager from December 2000 to March 2001. From January 1994 to November 2000, Mr. Black held various positions, including Tax Manager, for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Mr. Black is a Certified Public Accountant and holds a B.S. degree in Accounting and Master’s degree in Taxation from California State University, Sacramento.
David G. Eddie has been Senior Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer of the Company since January 2011. From February 2010 to that date, Mr. Eddie served as Vice President – Chief Accounting Officer of the Company. From March 2004 to February 2010, Mr. Eddie served as Vice President – Corporate Controller of the Company. From April 2003 to February 2004, Mr. Eddie served as Vice President – Public Reporting and Compliance of the Company. From May 2001 to March 2003, Mr. Eddie served as Director of Finance of the Company. Mr. Eddie served as Corporate Controller for International Fibercom, Inc. from April 2000 to May 2001. From September 1999 to April 2000, Mr. Eddie served as the Company’s Manager of Financial Reporting. From September 1994 to September 1999, Mr. Eddie held various positions, including Audit Manager, for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Mr. Eddie holds a B.S. degree in Accounting from California State University, Sacramento.
David M. Hall has been Senior Vice President – Sales and Marketing of the Company since October 2005. From August 1998 to that date, Mr. Hall served as Vice President – Business Development of the Company. Mr. Hall has more than 34 years of experience in the solid waste industry with extensive operating and marketing experience in the Western U.S. Mr. Hall received a B.S. degree in Management and Marketing from Missouri State University.
Eric O. Hansen has been Senior Vice President – Chief Information Officer of the Company since February 2019. From July 2004 to that date, Mr. Hansen served as Vice President – Chief Information Officer of the Company. From January 2001 to July 2004, Mr. Hansen served as Vice President – Information Technology of the Company. From April 1998 to December 2000, Mr. Hansen served as Director of Management Information Systems of the Company. Mr. Hansen holds a B.S. degree from Portland State University.
Robert M. Cloninger has been Vice President, Deputy General Counsel and Assistant Secretary of the Company since August 2014. From February 2013 to that date, Mr. Cloninger served as Deputy General Counsel of the Company. He served as Corporate Counsel of the Company from February 2008 to February 2013. Mr. Cloninger practiced corporate, securities and mergers and acquisitions law with Schiff Hardin LLP in Chicago from 1999 to 2004 and
Downey Brand LLP in Sacramento from 2004 to 2008. Mr. Cloninger holds a B.A. degree in History from Northwestern University and a J.D. degree from the University of California at Davis.
Keith P. Gordon has been Vice President – Information Systems of the Company since January 2017. From September 2010 to that date, Mr. Gordon served as Director of Information Systems of the Company. Prior to joining the Company, he spent 14 years in leadership roles with CableData, DST Innovis and Amdocs, Inc. leading an international software development organization, as well as serving as CTO for a startup company that was acquired by LivingSocial. Mr. Gordon spent 11 years as an Army officer in a number of leadership positions including Company Commander and Battalion staff positions. Mr. Gordon has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from United States Military Academy, West Point, and M.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University.
Shawn W. Mandel has been Vice President – Safety and Risk Management of the Company since January 2017. From May 2011 to that date, Mr. Mandel served as Director of Safety of the Company. From 1995 to 2011, Mr. Mandel held various Safety leadership positions with Republic Services (formerly Browning-Ferris Industries and Allied Waste) including Director of Safety. Mr. Mandel holds a B.A. degree in Business Administration from National University.
Susan R. Netherton has been Vice President – People, Training and Development of the Company since July 2013. From February 2007 to that date, Ms. Netherton served as Director of Human Resources and Employment Manager of the Company. From 1994 to 2007, Ms. Netherton held various human resources positions at Carpenter Technology Corporation, a publicly-traded, specialty metals and materials company. Ms. Netherton holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Kutztown University and an M.B.A. from St. Mary’s College of California.
Jason W. Pratt has been Vice President – Corporate Controller of the Company since February 2020. From June 2016 to that date, Mr. Pratt served as Region Controller - Canada of the Company. From October 2012 to May 2016, Mr. Pratt served as Region Controller – Western Region of the Company. From January 2007 to September 2012, Mr. Pratt served as Division Controller – Mountain West Division and Division Controller – Northern Washington Division of the Company. From July 2005 to December 2006, Mr. Pratt held various Assistant Controller and District Controller positions with the Company. From August 2003 to June 2005, Mr. Pratt served as Tax Accountant for LeMaster and Daniels, PLLC. Mr. Pratt holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting and an M.B.A with a concentration in Finance from the University of Portland in Oregon.
Scott I. Schreiber has been Vice President – Equipment and Operations Support of the Company since the completion of the Progressive Waste acquisition on June 1, 2016. From February 2009 to that date, Mr. Schreiber served as Vice President – Disposal Operations of the Company. From October 1998 to February 2009, he served as Director of Landfill Operations of the Company. Mr. Schreiber has more than 39 years of experience in the solid waste industry. From September 1993 to September 1998, Mr. Schreiber served as corporate Director of Landfill Development and corporate Director of Environmental Compliance for Allied Waste Industries, Inc. From August 1988 to September 1993, Mr. Schreiber served as Regional Engineer (Continental Region) and corporate Director of Landfill Development for Laidlaw Waste Systems Inc. From June 1979 to August 1988, Mr. Schreiber held several managerial and technical positions in the solid waste and environmental industry. Mr. Schreiber holds a B.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin at Parkside.
Gregory Thibodeaux has been Vice President – Maintenance and Fleet Management of the Company since January 2011. From January 2000 to that date, Mr. Thibodeaux served as Director of Maintenance of the Company. Mr. Thibodeaux has more than 33 years of experience in the solid waste industry having held various management positions with Browning Ferris Industries, Sanifill, and USA Waste Services, Inc. Before coming to the Company, Mr. Thibodeaux served as corporate Director of Maintenance for Texas Disposal Systems.
Colin G. Wittke has been Vice President – Sales of the Company since the completion of the Progressive Waste acquisition on June 1, 2016. From June 2011 to that date, he served as Vice President, Sales and Marketing of Progressive Waste Solutions Ltd. Prior to that time, Mr. Wittke held various roles with Waste Management, Inc. for 19 years, including the position of Vice President, Sales and Customer Service. He has more than 31 years of experience in the solid waste industry. Mr. Wittke holds a BSc in Finance (cum laude) from Biola University in La Mirada, California.
Richard K. Wojahn has been Vice President – Business Development of the Company since February 2009. From September 2005 to that date, Mr. Wojahn served as Director of Business Development of the Company. Mr. Wojahn served as Vice President of Operations for Mountain Jack Environmental Services, Inc. (which was acquired by the Company in September 2005) from January 2004 to September 2005. Mr. Wojahn has more than 38 years of experience in the solid waste industry having held various management positions with Waste Management, Inc. and Allied Waste Industries, Inc. Mr. Wojahn attended Western Illinois University.
Our corporate website address is http://www.wasteconnections.com. We make our reports on Forms 10-K, 10-Q and 8-K and any amendments to such reports available on our website free of charge as soon as reasonably practicable after we file them with or furnish them to the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, and with the securities commissions or similar regulatory authorities in Canada. The SEC maintains an internet website at http://www.sec.gov that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC. The references to our website address, the SEC’s website address and the website maintained by the securities commissions or similar regulatory authorities in Canada do not constitute incorporation by reference of the information contained in those websites and should not be considered part of this document.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
Certain statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are forward-looking in nature, including statements related to the impact of global economic conditions, including the price of crude oil, on our volume, business and results of operations; our ability to generate internal growth or expand permitted capacity at landfills we own or operate; our ability to grow through acquisitions and our expectations with respect to the impact of acquisitions on our expected revenues and expenses following the integration of such businesses; the competitiveness of our industry and how such competition may affect our operating results; the possibility of losing contracts through competitive bidding, early termination or governmental action; the effects of financial difficulties of some of our customers, including governmental entities, affecting their credit risk; our ability to provide adequate cash to fund our operating activities; our ability to draw from our credit facility or raise additional capital; our ability to generate free cash flow and reduce our leverage; the impact on our tax positions by recent changes in U.S. tax law; the effects of landfill special waste projects on volume results; the impact that price increases may have on our business and operating results; demand for recyclable commodities and recyclable commodity pricing; the effects of seasonality on our business and results of operations; our ability to obtain additional exclusive arrangements; increasing alternatives to landfill disposal; increases in labor and pension plan costs or the impact that labor union activity may have on our operating results; operational and safety risks, including the risk of personal injury to employees and others; our expectations with respect to the purchase of fuel and fuel prices; our expectations with respect to capital expenditures; our expectations with respect to the outcomes of our legal proceedings; the impairment of our goodwill; insurance costs; disruptions to or breaches of our information systems and other cybersecurity threats; and environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, including changes to the regulation of landfills, solid waste disposal, E&P waste disposal, or hydraulic fracturing. These statements can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as “believes,” “expects,” “may,” “will,” “should,” or “anticipates,” or the negative thereof or comparable terminology, or by discussions of strategy. Our business and operations are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties and, consequently, actual results may differ materially from those projected by any forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ from those projected include, but are not limited to, those listed below and elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. There may be additional risks of which we are not presently aware or that we currently believe are immaterial which could have an adverse impact on our business. We make no commitment to revise or update any forward-looking statements in order to reflect events or circumstances that may change.
Our results are vulnerable to economic conditions.
Our business and financial results would be harmed by downturns in the global economy, or in the economy of the regions in which we operate as well as other factors affecting those regions, including the price of crude oil. In an economic slowdown, we experience the negative effects of decreased waste generation, increased competitive pricing pressure, customer turnover, and reductions in customer service requirements, any of which could negatively impact our
operating income and cash flows. Two of our business lines that could see a more immediate impact would be construction and demolition debris and E&P waste disposal as demand for new construction or energy exploration decreases. In addition, a weaker economy may result in declines in recycled commodity prices. Worsening economic conditions or a prolonged or recurring economic recession could adversely affect our operating results and expected seasonal fluctuations. Further, we cannot assure you that any improvement in economic conditions after such a downturn will result in an immediate, if at all, positive improvement in our operating results or cash flows.
Our industry is highly competitive and includes companies with lower prices, return expectations or other advantages, and governmental service providers, which could adversely affect our ability to compete and our operating results.
Our industry is highly competitive and requires substantial labor and capital resources. Some of the markets in which we compete or will seek to compete are served by one or more large, national companies, as well as by regional and local companies of varying sizes and resources, some of which we believe have accumulated substantial goodwill in their markets. Some of our competitors may also have greater name recognition than we do, or be able to provide or be willing to bid their services at a lower price than we may be willing to offer. In addition, existing and future competitors may develop or offer services or new technologies, new facilities or other advantages. Our inability to compete effectively could hinder our growth or negatively impact our operating results.
In our solid waste business, we also compete with counties, municipalities and solid waste districts that maintain or could in the future choose to maintain their own waste collection and disposal operations, including through the implementation of flow control ordinances or similar legislation. These operators may have financial advantages over us because of their access to user fees and similar charges, tax revenues and tax-exempt financing.
In our E&P waste business, we compete for disposal volumes with existing facilities owned by third parties (including those owned by municipalities or quasi-governmental entities), and we face potential competition from new facilities that are currently under development. Increased competition in certain markets may result in lower pricing and decreased volumes at our facilities. In addition, customers in certain markets may decide to use internal disposal methods for the treatment and disposal of their waste.
Competition for acquisition candidates, consolidation within the waste industry and economic and market conditions may limit our ability to grow through acquisitions.
We seek to grow through strategic acquisitions in addition to internal growth. Although we have and expect to continue to identify numerous acquisition candidates that we believe may be suitable, we may not be able to acquire them at prices or on terms and conditions favorable to us.
Other companies have adopted or may in the future adopt our strategy of acquiring and consolidating regional and local businesses, and they may be willing to accept terms and conditions or valuations that we deem inappropriate. To the extent that competition increases, it may become uneconomical for us to make further acquisitions or we may be unable to locate or acquire suitable acquisition candidates at price levels and on terms and conditions that we consider appropriate, particularly in markets we do not already serve.
We expect that increased consolidation in the solid waste services industry will continue to reduce the number of attractive acquisition candidates. Moreover, general economic conditions and the environment for attractive investments may affect the desire of the owners of acquisition candidates to sell their companies. As a result, we may have fewer acquisition opportunities, and those opportunities may be on less attractive terms than in the past, which could cause a reduction in our rate of growth from acquisitions.
Our ability to access the capital markets may be severely restricted at a time when we would like, or need, to do so. While we expect we will be able to fund some of our acquisitions with our existing resources, additional financing to pursue additional acquisitions may be required. However, particularly if market conditions deteriorate, we may be unable to secure additional financing or any such additional financing may not be available to us on favorable terms, which could have an impact on our flexibility to pursue additional acquisition opportunities. In addition, disruptions in the capital and credit markets could adversely affect our ability to draw on our credit facility or raise other capital. Our
access to funds under the credit facility is dependent on the ability of the banks that are parties to the facility to meet their funding commitments. Those banks may not be able to meet their funding commitments if they experience shortages of capital and liquidity or if they experience excessive volumes of borrowing requests within a short period.
Price increases may not be adequate to offset the impact of increased costs, or may cause us to lose customers.
We seek price increases necessary to offset increased costs, to improve operating margins and to obtain adequate returns on our deployed capital. Contractual, general economic, competitive or market-specific conditions may limit our ability to raise prices. As a result of these factors, we may be unable to offset increases in costs, improve operating margins and obtain adequate investment returns through price increases. We may also lose customers to lower-price competitors, and new competitors may enter our markets as we raise prices.
We may lose contracts through competitive bidding, early termination or governmental action.
We derive a significant portion of our revenues from market areas where we have exclusive arrangements, including franchise agreements, municipal contracts and certificates issued by Washington State known as G Certificates. Many franchise agreements and municipal contracts are for a specified term and are, or will be, subject to competitive bidding in the future. For example, we have approximately 480 contracts, representing approximately 3.9% of our annual revenues, which are set for expiration or automatic renewal on or before December 31, 2020. Although we intend to bid on existing contracts subject to competitive bidding in the future and additional municipal contracts and franchise agreements, we may not be the successful bidder, or we may need to lower our price in order to retain the contract. In addition, some of our customers, including municipalities, may terminate their contracts with us before the end of the terms of those contracts. Similar risks may affect our contracts to operate municipally-owned assets, such as landfills.
Governmental action may also affect our exclusive arrangements. Municipalities may annex unincorporated areas within counties where we provide collection services. As a result, our customers in annexed areas may be required to obtain services from competitors that have been previously franchised by the annexing municipalities to provide those services. For example, municipalities in the State of Washington may, by law, annex any unincorporated territory, which could remove such territory from an area covered by a G Certificate issued to us by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, or WUTC. Such occurrences could subject more of our Washington operations to competitive bidding. Moreover, legislative action could amend or repeal the laws governing WUTC regulation, which could eliminate or diminish service exclusivity, subjecting more areas to competitive bidding and/or overlapping service. In addition, municipalities in which we provide services on a competitive basis may elect to franchise those services to other service providers. Unless we are awarded franchises by these municipalities, we will lose customers. Municipalities may also decide to provide services to their residents themselves, on an optional or mandatory basis, causing us to lose customers. If we are not able to replace revenues from contracts lost through competitive bidding or early termination or from the renegotiation of existing contracts with other revenues within a reasonable time, our revenues could decline.
Our financial and operating performance may be affected by the inability to renew landfill operating permits, obtain new landfills and expand existing ones.
We currently own and/or operate 96 landfills and one development stage landfill throughout the United States and Canada. Our ability to meet our financial and operating objectives may depend in part on our ability to acquire, lease, or renew landfill operating permits, expand existing landfills and develop new landfill sites, especially in our E&P waste business. It has become increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain required permits and approvals to build, operate and expand solid waste management facilities, including landfills and transfer stations. Although the process generally takes less time, the process of obtaining permits and approvals for E&P landfills has similar uncertainties. Operating permits for landfills in states and provinces where we operate must generally be renewed every five to ten years, although some permits are required to be renewed more frequently. These operating permits often must be renewed several times during the permitted life of a landfill. The permit and approval process is often time consuming, requires numerous hearings and compliance with zoning, environmental and other requirements, is frequently challenged by special interest and other groups, including those utilizing social media to further their objectives, and may result in the denial of a permit or renewal, the award of a permit or renewal for a shorter duration than we believed was otherwise
required by law, or burdensome terms and conditions being imposed on our operations. We may not be able to obtain new landfill sites or expand the permitted capacity of our existing landfills when necessary, and may ultimately be required to expense up to the carrying value of the landfill or expansion project, less the recoverable value of the property and other amounts recovered. Obtaining new landfill sites is important to our expansion into new, non-exclusive solid waste markets and in our E&P waste business. If we do not believe that we can obtain a landfill site in a non-exclusive market, we may choose not to enter that market. Expanding existing landfill sites is important in those markets where the remaining lives of our landfills are relatively short. We may choose to forego acquisitions and internal growth in these markets because increased volumes would further shorten the lives of these landfills. Any of these circumstances could adversely affect our operating results.
Lower crude oil prices may adversely affect the level of exploration, development and production activity of E&P companies and the demand for our E&P waste services.
Lower crude oil prices and the volatility of such prices may affect the level of investment and the amount of linear feet drilled in the basins where we operate, as it may impact the ability of E&P companies to access capital on economically advantageous terms or at all. In addition, E&P companies may elect to decrease investment in basins where the returns on investment are inadequate or uncertain due to lower crude oil prices or volatility in crude oil prices. Such reductions in capital spending would negatively impact E&P waste generation and therefore the demand for our services. Further, we cannot provide assurances that higher crude oil prices will result in increased capital spending and linear feet drilled by our customers in the basins where we operate.
Increases in labor costs and limitations on labor availability could impact our financial results.
Labor is one of our highest costs and relatively small increases in labor costs per employee could materially affect our cost structure. We compete with other businesses in our markets for qualified employees and the labor supply is sometimes tight in our markets, which can drive higher turnover and increase the time it takes to fill job openings. In our E&P waste business, for example, we are exposed to the cyclical variations in demand that are particular to the development and production of oil and natural gas. A shortage of qualified employees in solid waste or E&P would require us to incur additional costs related to wages and benefits, to hire more expensive temporary employees or to contract for services with more expensive third-party vendors. In addition, higher turnover can result in increased costs associated with recruiting and training; it can also impact operating costs, including maintenance and risk.
Increases in capital expenditures could impact our financial results.
Increases in fleet, equipment and landfill construction costs due to the imposition of tariffs on steel and other items, as well as other cost pressures, could result in capital expenditures being higher than anticipated. In addition, acquisitions and new contracts may increase capital expenditures. This could impact our ability to generate free cash flow in line with our expectations.
A portion of our growth and future financial performance depends on our ability to integrate acquired businesses, and the success of our acquisitions.
A component of our growth strategy involves achieving economies of scale and operating efficiencies by growing through acquisitions. We may not achieve these goals unless we effectively combine the operations of acquired businesses with our existing operations. Similar risks may affect contracts that we are awarded to operate municipally-owned assets, such as landfills. In addition, we are not always able to control the timing of our acquisitions. Our inability to complete acquisitions within the time frames that we expect may cause our operating results to be less favorable than expected, which could cause our share price to decline.
Even if we are able to make acquisitions on advantageous terms and are able to integrate them successfully into our operations and organization, some acquisitions may not fulfill our anticipated financial or strategic objectives in a given market due to factors that we cannot control, such as market conditions, including the price of crude oil, market position, competition, customer base, loss of key employees, third-party legal challenges or governmental actions. In addition, we may change our strategy with respect to a market or acquired businesses and decide to sell such operations at a loss, or
keep those operations and recognize an impairment of goodwill and/or intangible assets. Similar risks may affect contracts that we are awarded to operate municipally-owned assets, such as landfills.
The seasonal nature of our business and “event-driven” waste projects cause our results to fluctuate.
Based on historic trends, we expect our operating results to vary seasonally, with revenues typically lowest in the first quarter, higher in the second and third quarters, and lower in the fourth quarter than in the second and third quarters. We expect the fluctuation in our revenues between our highest and lowest quarters to be approximately 10%. This seasonality reflects the lower volume of solid waste generated during the late fall, winter and early spring because of decreased construction and demolition activities during the winter months in Canada and the U.S., and reduced E&P activity during harsh weather conditions. Conversely, mild winter weather conditions may reduce demand for oil and natural gas, which may cause our customers to curtail their drilling programs, which could result in production of lower volumes of E&P waste.
Adverse winter weather conditions, including severe storms or extended periods of inclement weather, slow waste collection activities, resulting in higher labor and operational costs. Greater precipitation in the winter increases the weight of collected solid waste, resulting in higher disposal costs, which are calculated on a per ton basis. Certain weather conditions, including severe storms, may result in temporary suspension of our operations, which can significantly impact the operating results of the affected areas. Conversely, weather-related occurrences and other “event-driven” waste projects can boost revenues through heavier weight loads or additional work for a limited time. These factors impact period-to-period comparisons of financial results, and our share price may be negatively affected by these variations.
Our results will be affected by changes in recycled commodity prices and quantities.
We provide recycling services to some of our customers. The majority of the recyclables we process for sale are paper products that are shipped to customers in the United States, as well as other markets, including Asia. The sale prices of and the demand for recyclable commodities, particularly paper products, are frequently volatile and when they decline, our revenues, operating results and cash flows will be affected. In 2017, the Chinese government announced a ban on certain materials, including mixed waste paper and mixed plastics, effective January 1, 2018, as well as extremely restrictive quality requirements effective March 1, 2018 that have been difficult for the industry to achieve. Also in 2017, the Chinese government began to limit the flow of material into the country by restricting the issuance of required import licenses, and this practice continued through 2018 and 2019. Many other markets, both domestic and foreign, have also tightened their quality requirements. In addition, other countries have limited or restricted the import of certain recyclables. Singlestream recycling facilities process a wide range of commingled materials and tend to receive a higher percentage of non-recyclables, which results in increased processing and residual disposal costs to achieve quality standards.
The new quality standards imposed by China and the restrictions on import licenses have made the sale of recycled commodities more difficult and have resulted in lower prices for such commodities, higher operating costs or additional capital expenditures in order to meet the requirements, or higher fees imposed by third parties for the processing of recyclables. As a result, we have increased the fees that we charge customers at our recycling facilities in order to recover the higher processing costs for recyclables. This may result in lower recycled commodity volumes at our recycling facilities, as customers may elect to pursue cheaper alternatives for processing or disposal. Any such reduction could impact revenues, operating results and cash flow. Some of our recycling operations offer rebates to customers based on the market prices of commodities we buy to process for resale. Therefore, if we recognize increased revenues resulting from higher prices for recyclable commodities, the rebates we pay to suppliers will also increase, which also may impact our operating results.
Our results will be affected by changes in the value of renewable fuels.
Variations in the price of methane gas and other energy-related products that are marketed and sold by our landfill gas recovery operations affect our results. Pursuant to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the United States EPA has promulgated the Renewable Fuel Standards, or RFS, which require refiners to either blend "renewable
fuels," such as ethanol and biodiesel, into their transportation fuels or to purchase renewable fuel credits, known as renewable identification numbers, or RINs, in lieu of blending. In some cases, landfill gas generated at our landfills qualifies as a renewable fuel for which RINs are available. The price of RINs has been extremely volatile and is dependent upon a variety of factors, including potential legislative changes, the availability of RINs for purchase, the demand for RINs, which is dependent on transportation fuel production levels, the mix of the petroleum business’ petroleum products and fuel blending performed at the refineries and downstream terminals, all of which can vary significantly from period to period. In addition, demand for RINs can be impacted by the ability of refineries to obtain small refinery exemptions, or SREs, through the EPA. In December 2019, the EPA released its targets for renewable volume obligations, or RVOs, for 2020, which included a slight increase over the 2019 RVOs with no change to the EPA’s plan to account for the impact of granting SREs. Any reductions or limitations on the requirement to blend renewable fuel would likely reduce the demand for RINs, which could impact the value of RINs.
In Canada, the Renewable Fuels Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 require producers and importers of gasoline, diesel fuel and heating distillate to acquire a certain number of renewable fuel compliance units, or Compliance Units, in connection with the volumes of fuel they produce or import. Compliance Units can be generated in a number of ways, including through the blending of renewable fuel into liquid petroleum fuels. Certain provincial jurisdictions in Canada also impose obligations to incorporate renewable fuels into fuels that are distributed within the jurisdiction. In some cases, landfill gas generated at our landfills in Canada is sold by our Company as a renewable fuel for which RINs are available under the United States RFS. Our Company could also sell landfill gas generated in Canada in connection with renewable fuel obligations in Canada. The price for our renewable fuel is dependent on a variety of factors, including demand. The Canadian federal government released details on a proposed new clean fuel regulatory framework at the end of 2017 called the “Clean Fuel Standard.” The proposed framework would impose lifecycle carbon intensity requirements on certain liquid, gaseous and solid fuels that are used in transportation, industry and buildings, and establish rules relating to the trading of compliance credits. The carbon intensity requirements would become more stringent over time. Carbon intensity would be differentiated between different types of renewable fuels to reflect the associated emissions reduction potential. Regulated parties, which may include fuel producers and importers, would have some flexibility with respect to how to achieve lower carbon fuels in Canada. The Canadian federal government has indicated that over time, the new Clean Fuel Standard would replace the current Renewable Fuels Regulations. Since January 2017, the Canadian federal government has been conducting public consultation on the proposed framework. The Canadian Government is reporting that new regulations under the Clean Fuel Standard are targeted to come into force on January 1, 2022 (for liquid fuels) and January 1, 2023 (for gaseous and solid fuel regulations). At this time, we do not know how a new clean fuel regulatory framework in Canada could impact demand for our renewable fuel.
A significant reduction in the value of RINs in the United States or the price paid for our renewable fuel in Canada could adversely impact our reported results.
Increases in the price of diesel or compressed natural gas fuel may adversely affect our collection business and reduce our operating margins.
The market price of diesel fuel is volatile. We generally purchase diesel fuel at market prices, and such prices have fluctuated significantly in recent years. A significant increase in market prices for fuel could adversely affect our waste collection business through a combination of higher fuel and disposal-related transportation costs and reduce our operating margins and reported earnings. To manage a portion of this risk, we have entered into fixed-price fuel purchase contracts. During periods of falling diesel fuel prices, it may become more expensive to purchase fuel under fixed-price fuel purchase contracts than at market prices.
We utilize compressed natural gas, or CNG, in a small percentage of our fleet and we may convert more of our fleet from diesel fuel to CNG over time. The market price of CNG is also volatile; a significant increase in such cost could adversely affect our operating margins and reported earnings.
Increases in insurance costs and the amount that we self-insure for various risks could reduce our operating margins and reported earnings.
We maintain insurance policies for automobile, general, employer’s, environmental, cyber, employment practices and directors’ and officers’ liability as well as for employee group health insurance, property insurance and workers’ compensation. We carry umbrella policies for certain types of claims to provide excess coverage over the underlying policies and per incident deductibles or self-insured retentions. The amounts that we effectively self-insure could cause significant volatility in our operating margins and reported earnings based on the event and claim costs of incidents, accidents, injuries and adverse judgments. Our insurance accruals are based on claims filed and estimates of claims incurred but not reported and are developed by our management with assistance from our third-party actuary and our third-party claims administrator. To the extent these estimates are inaccurate, we may recognize substantial additional expenses in future periods that would reduce operating margins and reported earnings. Furthermore, while we maintain liability insurance, our insurance is subject to coverage limitations. If we were to incur substantial liability, our insurance coverage may be inadequate to cover the entirety of such liability. This could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations and cash flows. One form of coverage limitation concerns claims for punitive damages, which are generally excluded from coverage under all of our liability insurance policies. A punitive damage award could have an adverse effect on our reported earnings in the period in which it occurs. Significant increases in premiums on insurance that we retain also could reduce our margins.
Our financial results are based upon estimates and assumptions that may differ from actual results.
In preparing our consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, estimates and assumptions are made that affect the accounting for and recognition of assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses. These estimates and assumptions must be made because certain information that is used in the preparation of our financial statements is dependent on future events, cannot be calculated with a high degree of precision from data available or is not capable of being readily calculated based on generally accepted methodologies. In some cases, these estimates are particularly difficult to determine and we must exercise significant judgment. The most difficult, subjective and complex estimates and the assumptions that deal with the greatest amount of uncertainty are related to our accounting for landfills, self-insurance accruals, income taxes, allocation of acquisition purchase price, asset impairments and litigation, claims and assessments. Actual results for all estimates could differ materially from the estimates and assumptions that we use, which could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Our accruals for our landfill site closure and post-closure costs may be inadequate.
We are required to pay capping, closure and post-closure maintenance costs for landfill sites that we own and operate. We are also required to pay capping, closure and post-closure maintenance costs for operated landfills for which we have life-of-site agreements. Our obligations to pay closure or post-closure costs may exceed the amount we have accrued and reserved and other amounts available from funds or reserves established to pay such costs. In addition, the completion or closure of a landfill site does not end our environmental obligations. After completion or closure of a landfill site, there exists the potential for unforeseen environmental problems to occur that could result in substantial remediation costs or potential litigation. Paying additional amounts for closure or post-closure costs and/or for environmental remediation and/or for litigation could harm our financial condition or operating results.
We may be subject in the normal course of business to judicial, administrative or other third-party proceedings that could interrupt or limit our operations, require expensive remediation, result in adverse judgments, settlements or fines and create negative publicity.
Governmental agencies may, among other things, impose fines or penalties on us relating to the conduct of our business, attempt to revoke or deny renewal of our operating permits, franchises or licenses for violations or alleged violations of environmental laws or regulations or as a result of third-party challenges, require us to install additional pollution control equipment or require us to remediate potential environmental problems relating to any real property that we or our predecessors ever owned, leased or operated or any waste that we or our predecessors ever collected, transported, disposed of or stored. Individuals, citizens groups, trade associations or environmental activists may also
bring actions against us in connection with our operations that could interrupt or limit the scope of our business. Any adverse outcome in such proceedings could harm our operations and financial results and create negative publicity, which could damage our reputation, competitive position and share price.
Pending or future litigation or governmental proceedings could result in material adverse consequences, including judgments or settlements.
We are, and from time to time become, involved in lawsuits, regulatory inquiries, and governmental and other legal proceedings arising out of the ordinary course of our business. Many of these matters raise complicated factual and legal issues and are subject to uncertainties and complexities, all of which make the matters costly to address. For example, in recent years, wage and employment laws have changed regularly and become increasingly complex, which has fostered litigation, including purported class actions. Similarly, citizen suits brought pursuant to environmental laws, such as those regulating the treatment of storm water runoff, have proliferated. The timing of the final resolutions to lawsuits, regulatory inquiries, and governmental and other legal proceedings is uncertain. Additionally, the possible outcomes or resolutions to these matters could include adverse judgments or settlements, either of which could require substantial payments, adversely affecting our consolidated financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. See discussion in Note 12, “Commitments and Contingencies,” of our consolidated financial statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Our financial results could be adversely affected by impairments of goodwill, indefinite-lived intangibles or property and equipment.
As a result of our acquisition strategy, we have a material amount of goodwill, indefinite-lived intangibles and property and equipment recorded in our financial statements. We do not amortize our existing goodwill or indefinite-lived intangibles and are required to test goodwill and indefinite-lived intangibles for impairment annually in the fourth quarter of the year and whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying value of goodwill and/or indefinite-lived intangible assets may not be recoverable using the one-step process prescribed in the new accounting guidance that we early adopted on January 1, 2017. The process screens for and measures the amount of the impairment, if any. The recoverability of property and equipment is tested for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that their carrying amount may not be recoverable. Application of the impairment test requires judgment. A significant deterioration in a key estimate or assumption or a less significant deterioration to a combination of assumptions could result in an impairment charge in the future, which could have a significant adverse impact on our reported results. See the section Goodwill and Indefinite-Lived Intangible Assets in Note 3, “Summary of Significant Accounting Policies” of our consolidated financial statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Income taxes may be uncertain.
Our actual effective tax rate may vary from our expectation and that variance may be material. Tax interpretations, regulations and legislation in the various jurisdictions in which we and our affiliates operate are subject to measurement uncertainty and the interpretations can impact net income, income tax expense or recovery, and deferred income tax assets or liabilities. In addition, tax rules and regulations, including those relating to foreign jurisdictions, are subject to interpretation and require judgment by us that may be challenged by the taxation authorities upon audit.
On December 22, 2017, the U.S. government enacted comprehensive tax legislation commonly referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or the Tax Act. The Tax Act makes broad and complex changes to the U.S. tax code, including, but not limited to, a reduction of the U.S. federal corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, requiring a one-time transition tax on certain unrepatriated earnings of foreign subsidiaries, the creation of the base erosion anti-abuse tax, a new provision designed to tax global intangible low-taxed income, a new limitation on deductible interest expense, and bonus depreciation that will allow for full expensing of qualified property.
Changes in our tax provision or an increase to our tax liabilities, whether due to the Tax Act or interpretations of the Tax Act, which include, but are not limited to, the potential finalization of proposed regulations released by the U.S. Department of Treasury during 2018 under Internal Revenue Code (“I.R.C.”) section 163(j) related to the deductibility of certain interest, I.R.C. section 267A related to the deductibility of certain related-party payments, as well as other tax
regulations, or a final determination of tax audits, could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations, and cash flows.
Future changes to U.S., Canadian and foreign tax laws could materially adversely affect us.
We cannot give any assurance as to what our effective tax rate will be in the future, because of, among other things, uncertainty regarding the tax policies of the jurisdictions where we operate.
For example, the U.S. Congress, the Canadian government, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) and other government agencies in jurisdictions where we and our affiliates do business have had an extended focus on issues related to the taxation of multinational corporations. One example is in the area of "base erosion and profit shifting," where payments are made between affiliates from a jurisdiction with high tax rates to a jurisdiction with lower tax rates. In 2019, Canada ratified the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, or MLI, as part of the OECD/G20 initiative to counter what was perceived as base erosion and profit shifting. The MLI entered into force in Canada on December 1, 2019 and will enter into effect with respect to certain of Canada’s tax treaties on January 1, 2020 for withholding taxes and for other taxes (including capital gains taxes) for tax years beginning on or after June 1, 2020. As a result of these and other changes, the tax laws in the United States, Canada, and other countries in which we and our affiliates do business could change on a prospective or retroactive basis, and any such changes could adversely affect us and our affiliates.
Each business that we acquire or have acquired may have liabilities or risks that we fail or are unable to discover, or that become more adverse to our business than we anticipated at the time of acquisition.
It is possible that the corporate entities or sites we have acquired, or which we may acquire in the future, have liabilities or risks in respect of former or existing operations or properties, or otherwise, which we have not been able to identify and assess through our due diligence investigations. As a successor owner, we may be legally responsible for those liabilities that arise from businesses that we acquire. Even if we obtain legally enforceable representations, warranties and indemnities from the sellers of such businesses, they may not cover the liabilities fully or the sellers may not have sufficient funds to perform their obligations. Some environmental liabilities, even if we do not expressly assume them, may be imposed on us under various regulatory schemes and other applicable laws. In addition, our insurance program may not cover such sites and will not cover liabilities associated with some environmental issues that may have existed prior to attachment of coverage. A successful uninsured claim against us could harm our financial condition or operating results. Additionally, there may be other risks of which we are unaware that could have an adverse effect on businesses that we acquire or have acquired, such as foreign, state and local regulation and administrative risks. Another example of risk is interested parties that may bring actions against us in connection with operations that we acquire or have acquired. Furthermore, risks or liabilities we judge to be not material or remote at the time of acquisition may develop into more serious risks to our business. Any adverse outcome resulting from such risks or liabilities could harm our operations and financial results and create negative publicity, which could damage our reputation, competitive position and share price. For example, see the discussions regarding the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site Allocation Process in Note 12, “Commitments and Contingencies,” of our consolidated financial statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Our indebtedness could adversely affect our financial condition and limit our financial flexibility.
As of December 31, 2019, we had approximately $4.376 billion of total indebtedness outstanding, and we may incur additional debt in the future. This amount of indebtedness could:
● increase our vulnerability to general adverse economic and industry conditions;
● expose us to interest rate risk since a significant portion of our indebtedness is at variable rates;
● limit our ability to obtain additional financing or refinancing at attractive rates;
● require the dedication of a substantial portion of our cash flow from operations to the payment of principal of, and interest on, our indebtedness, thereby reducing the availability of such cash flow to fund our growth strategy, working capital, capital expenditures, dividends, share repurchases and other general corporate purposes;
● limit our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and the industry; and
● place us at a competitive disadvantage relative to our competitors with less debt.
In addition, a portion of our indebtedness, including interest rate swaps, is at variable rates which are based on the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, which is expected to no longer be published by 2021. The FASB added the Secured Overnight Financing Rate, or SOFR, as an eligible benchmark interest rate in order to facilitate the LIBOR to SOFR transition and provide sufficient lead time for entities to prepare for changes to interest rate risk hedging strategies for both risk management and hedge accounting purposes. We are developing a plan to transition our indebtedness from LIBOR to SOFR.
Further, our outstanding indebtedness is subject to financial and other covenants, which may be affected by changes in economic or business conditions or other events that are beyond our control. If we fail to comply with the covenants under any of our indebtedness, we may be in default under the indebtedness, which may entitle the lenders or holders of indebtedness to accelerate the debt obligations. A default under one of our loans or debt securities could result in cross-defaults under our other indebtedness. In order to avoid defaulting on our indebtedness, we may be required to take actions such as reducing or delaying capital expenditures, reducing or eliminating dividends or share repurchases, selling assets, restructuring or refinancing all or part of our existing debt, or seeking additional equity capital, any of which may not be available on terms that are favorable to us, if at all.
We may be unable to obtain performance or surety bonds, letters of credit or other financial assurances or to maintain adequate insurance coverage.
If we are unable to obtain performance or surety bonds, letters of credit or insurance, we may not be able to enter into additional solid waste or other collection contracts or retain necessary landfill operating permits. Collection contracts, municipal contracts, transfer station operations and landfill closure and post-closure obligations may require performance or surety bonds, letters of credit or other financial assurance to secure contractual performance or comply with federal, state, provincial or local environmental laws or regulations. We typically satisfy these requirements by posting bonds or letters of credit. As of December 31, 2019, we had approximately $1.081 billion of such surety bonds in place and approximately $107.6 million of letters of credit issued. Closure bonds are difficult and costly to obtain. If we are unable to obtain performance or surety bonds or additional letters of credit in sufficient amounts or at acceptable rates, we could be precluded from entering into additional collection contracts or obtaining or retaining landfill operating permits. Any future difficulty in obtaining insurance also could impair our ability to secure future contracts that are conditional upon the contractor having adequate insurance coverage. Accordingly, our failure to obtain performance or surety bonds, letters of credit or other financial assurances or to maintain adequate insurance coverage could limit our operations or violate federal, state, provincial, or local requirements, which could have a materially adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our operations in Canada expose us to exchange rate fluctuations that could adversely affect our financial performance and our reported results of operations.
Our operations in Canada are conducted primarily in Canadian dollars. Our consolidated financial statements are denominated in U.S. dollars, and to prepare those financial statements we must translate the amounts of the assets, liabilities, net sales, other revenues and expenses of our operations in Canada from Canadian dollars into U.S. dollars using exchange rates for the current period. Fluctuations in the exchange rates that are unfavorable to us would have an adverse effect on our financial performance and reported results of operations.
Alternatives to landfill disposal may cause our revenues and operating results to decline.
Counties and municipalities in which we operate landfills may be required to formulate and implement comprehensive plans to reduce the volume of municipal solid waste deposited in landfills through waste planning, composting, recycling or other programs, while working to reduce the amount of waste they generate. Some state, provincial and local governments mandate diversion, recycling and waste reduction at the source and prohibit the disposal of certain types of wastes, such as yard waste, food waste and electronics, at landfills. Even where not prohibited by state, provincial or local law, some grocery stores and restaurants have chosen to divert their organic waste from landfills, while other companies have set zero-waste goals and communicated an intention to cease the disposal of
any waste in landfills. Although such actions are useful to protect our environment, these actions, as well as the actions of our customers to reduce waste or seek disposal alternatives, have reduced and may in the future further reduce the volume of waste going to landfills in certain areas, which may affect our ability to operate our landfills at full capacity and could adversely affect our operating results.
Labor union activity could divert management attention and adversely affect our operating results.
From time to time, labor unions attempt to organize our employees, and these efforts are likely to continue in the future. Certain groups of our employees are represented by unions, and we have negotiated collective bargaining agreements with most of these unions. Additional groups of employees may seek union representation in the future. As a result of these activities, we may be subjected to unfair labor practice charges, grievances, complaints and other legal and administrative proceedings initiated against us by unions or federal, state or provincial labor boards, which could negatively impact our operating results. Negotiating collective bargaining agreements with these unions could divert our management’s attention, which could also adversely affect our operating results. If we are unable to negotiate acceptable collective bargaining agreements, we might have to wait through “cooling off” periods, which may be followed by work stoppages, including strikes or lock-outs. Depending on the type and duration of any such labor disruptions, our operating expenses could increase significantly, which could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We could face significant withdrawal liability if we withdraw from participation in one or more multiemployer pension plans in which we participate and the accrued pension benefits are not fully funded.
We participate in 11 “multiemployer” pension plans administered by employee and union trustees. We make periodic contributions to these plans to fund pension benefits for our union employees pursuant to our various contractual obligations to do so. In the event that we withdraw from participation in or otherwise cease our contributions to one of these plans, then applicable law regarding withdrawal liability could require us to make additional contributions to the plan if the accrued benefits are not fully funded, and we would have to reflect that “withdrawal liability” as an expense in our consolidated statement of operations and as a liability on our consolidated balance sheet. Our withdrawal liability for any multiemployer plan would depend on the extent to which accrued benefits are funded. In the ordinary course of our renegotiation of collective bargaining agreements with labor unions that participate in these plans, we may decide to discontinue participation in a multiemployer plan, and in that event, we could face withdrawal liability. Some multiemployer plans in which we participate may from time to time have significant accrued benefits that are not funded. The size of our potential withdrawal liability may be affected by the level of unfunded accrued benefits, the actuarial assumptions used by the plan and the investment gains and losses experienced by the plan.
We rely on computer systems to run our business and disruptions or privacy breaches in these systems could impact our ability to service our customers and adversely affect our financial results, damage our reputation, and expose us to litigation risk.
Our businesses rely on computer systems to provide customer information, process customer transactions and provide other general information necessary to manage our businesses. We also rely on a payment card industry-compliant third party to protect our customers’ credit card information. We have an active disaster recovery plan in place that we continuously review and test. However, our computer systems are subject to damage or interruption due to cybersecurity threats, system conversions, power outages, computer or telecommunication failures, catastrophic physical events such as fires, tornadoes and hurricanes and usage errors by our employees. Given the unpredictability of the timing, nature and scope of such disruptions, we could be potentially subject to operational delays and interruptions in our ability to provide services to our customers. Any disruption caused by the unavailability of our computer systems could adversely affect our revenues or could require significant investment to fix or replace them, and, therefore, could affect our operating results.
In addition, cybersecurity attacks are evolving and include, but are not limited to, malicious software, attempts to gain unauthorized access to data and other electronic security breaches that could lead to disruptions in systems, unauthorized release of confidential or otherwise protected information and corruption of data. We are regularly the target of attempted cyber and other security threats and must continuously monitor and develop our information
technology networks and infrastructure to prevent, detect, address and mitigate the risk of unauthorized access, misuse, computer viruses and other events that could have a security impact.
Further, as we pursue our acquisition growth strategy and pursue new initiatives that improve our operations and reduce our costs, we are also expanding and improving our information technologies, resulting in a larger technological presence and corresponding exposure to cybersecurity risk. If we fail to assess and identify cybersecurity risks associated with acquisitions and new initiatives, we may become increasingly vulnerable to such risks. Additionally, while we have implemented measures to prevent security breaches and cyber incidents, our preventative measures and incident response efforts may not be entirely effective. If our network of security controls, policy enforcement mechanisms or monitoring systems we use to address these threats to technology fail, the theft or compromise of confidential or otherwise protected company, customer or employee information, destruction or corruption of data, security breaches or other manipulation or improper use of our systems and networks could result in financial losses from remedial actions, business disruption, loss of business or potential liability, liabilities due to the violation of privacy laws and other legal actions, and damage to our reputation.
Extensive and evolving environmental, health and safety laws and regulations may restrict our operations and growth and increase our costs.
Existing environmental laws and regulations have become more stringently enforced in recent years. In addition, our industry is subject to regular enactment of new or amended federal, state, provincial and local environmental and health and safety statutes, regulations and ballot initiatives, as well as judicial decisions interpreting these requirements, which have become more stringent over time. Citizen suits brought pursuant to environmental laws have proliferated, along with the use of social media to drive such efforts. We expect these trends to continue, which could lead to material increases in our costs for future environmental, health and safety compliance. These requirements also impose substantial capital and operating costs and operational limitations on us and may adversely affect our business. In addition, federal, state, provincial and local governments may change the rights they grant to, the restrictions they impose on or the laws and regulations they enforce against, solid waste and E&P waste services companies. These changes could adversely affect our operations in various ways, including without limitation, by restricting the way in which we manage storm water runoff, comply with health and safety laws, treat and dispose of E&P or other waste or our ability to operate and expand our business.
Governmental authorities and various interest groups in the United States and Canada have promoted laws and regulations designed to limit greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions in response to growing concerns regarding climate change. For example, the State of California, the Canadian federal government and several Canadian provinces have enacted climate change laws, and other states and provinces in which we operate are considering similar actions. The US EPA made an endangerment finding in 2009 allowing certain GHGs to be regulated under the CAA. This finding allows the EPA to create regulations that will impact our operations – including imposing emission reporting, permitting, control technology installation and monitoring requirements, although the materiality of the impacts will not be known until all applicable regulations are promulgated and finalized. The Canadian federal government enacted the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act in June 2018, which established a national carbon-pricing regime starting in 2019 for provinces and territories in Canada where there is no provincial regime in place or where the provincial regime does not meet the federal benchmark. Often referred to as the federal backstop, the federal carbon-pricing regime consists of a carbon levy that is applied to fossil fuels and an output-based pricing system (“OBPS”) that is applied to certain industrial facilities with reported emissions of 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (“CO2e”) or more per year. The carbon levy applies to prescribed liquid, gaseous, and solid fuels at a rate that is equivalent to $20 per tonne of CO2e in 2019, increasing annually, until it reaches $50 per tonne of CO2e by 2022. Several Canadian provinces have promulgated legislation and regulations to limit GHG emissions through requirements of specific controls, carbon levies, cap and trade programs or other measures. Comprehensive GHG legislation or regulation, including carbon pricing, affects not only our business, but also that of our customers.
Regulation of GHG emissions from oil and natural gas E&P operations may also increase the costs to our customers of developing and producing hydrocarbons, and as a result, may have an indirect and adverse effect on the amount of oilfield waste delivered to our facilities by our customers. These statutes and regulations increase the costs of our operations, and future climate change statutes and regulations may have an impact as well.
Our business is subject to operational and safety risks, including the risk of personal injury to employees and others.
Providing environmental and waste management services, including constructing and operating landfills, involves risks such as truck accidents, equipment defects, malfunctions and failures. Additionally, we closely monitor and manage landfills to minimize the risk of waste mass instability and releases of hazardous materials or odors that could be triggered by weather or natural disasters. There may also be risks presented by the potential for subsurface chemical reactions causing elevated landfill temperatures.
We also build and operate natural gas fueling stations, some of which also serve the public or third parties. Operation of fueling stations and landfill gas collection and control systems involves additional risks of fire and explosion. Any of these risks could potentially result in injury or death of employees and others, a need to shut down or reduce operation of facilities, increased operating expense and exposure to liability for pollution and other environmental damage, and property damage or destruction.
While we seek to minimize our exposure to such risks through comprehensive training, compliance and response and recovery programs, as well as vehicle and equipment maintenance programs, if we were to incur substantial liabilities in excess of any applicable insurance coverage, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected. Any such incidents could also tarnish our reputation and reduce the value of our brand. Additionally, a major operational failure, even if suffered by a competitor, may bring enhanced scrutiny and regulation of our industry, with a corresponding increase in operating expense.
Future changes in laws regulating the flow of solid waste in interstate commerce could adversely affect our operating results.
Various state, provincial and local governments and the Canadian federal government have enacted, have the authority to enact or are considering enacting laws and regulations that restrict disposal within the jurisdiction of solid waste generated outside the jurisdiction. In addition, some state, provincial and local governments and the Canadian federal government have promulgated, have the authority to promulgate or are considering promulgating laws and regulations which govern the flow of waste generated within their respective jurisdictions. These “flow control” laws and regulations typically require that waste generated within the jurisdiction be retained within the jurisdiction or be directed to specified facilities for disposal or processing, which could limit or prohibit the disposal or processing of waste in our transfer stations and landfills or require notices be delivered or permits to be obtained prior to transport or final disposal. Certain of these flow control laws and regulations could also require us to deliver waste we collect within a particular jurisdiction to facilities not owned or controlled by us, which could increase our costs and reduce our revenues. In addition, such laws and regulations could require us to obtain additional costly licenses or authorizations in order to be deemed an authorized hauler or disposal facility. All such waste disposal laws and regulations are subject to judicial interpretation and review. Court decisions, legislation and federal, state, provincial and local regulation in the waste disposal area could adversely affect our operations.
Extensive regulations that govern the design, operation, expansion and closure of landfills may restrict our landfill operations or increase our costs of operating landfills.
If we fail to comply with federal, state and provincial regulations, as applicable, governing the design, operation, expansion, closure and financial assurance of MSW, non-MSW and E&P waste landfills, we could be required to undertake investigatory or remedial activities, curtail operations or close such landfills temporarily or permanently. Future changes to these regulations may require us to modify, supplement or replace equipment or facilities at substantial costs. If regulatory agencies fail to enforce these regulations vigorously or consistently, our competitors whose facilities are not forced to comply with the regulations may obtain an advantage over us. Our financial obligations arising from any failure to comply with these regulations could harm our business and operating results.
Our E&P waste business could be adversely affected by changes in laws regulating E&P waste.
We believe that the demand for our E&P waste services is directly related to the regulation of E&P waste. In particular, the U.S. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA, which governs the disposal of solid and
hazardous waste, currently exempts certain E&P wastes from classification as hazardous wastes. In recent years, proposals have been made to rescind this exemption from RCRA. If the exemption covering E&P wastes is repealed or modified, or if the regulations interpreting the rules regarding the treatment or disposal of this type of waste were changed, our operations could face significantly more stringent regulations, permitting requirements, and other restrictions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
In addition, if new federal, state, provincial or local laws or regulations that significantly restrict hydraulic fracturing are adopted, such legal requirements could result in delays, eliminate certain drilling and injection activities and make it more difficult or costly for our customers to perform fracturing. Any such regulations limiting or prohibiting hydraulic fracturing could reduce our customers’ oil and natural gas E&P activities and, therefore, adversely affect our business. Such laws or regulations could also materially increase our costs of compliance and doing business by more strictly regulating how hydraulic fracturing wastes are handled or disposed. Conversely, any loosening of existing federal, state, provincial or local laws or regulations regarding how such wastes are handled or disposed could adversely impact demand for our services.
Liabilities for environmental damage may adversely affect our financial condition, business and earnings.
We may be liable for any environmental damage that our current or former operations cause, including damage to neighboring landowners or residents, particularly as a result of the contamination of soil, groundwater or surface water, and especially drinking water, or to natural resources. We may be liable for damage resulting from conditions existing before we acquired these operations. Even if we obtain legally enforceable representations, warranties and indemnities from the sellers of these operations, they may not cover the liabilities fully or the sellers may not have sufficient funds to perform their obligations.
We may also be liable for any on-site environmental contamination caused by pollutants or hazardous substances whose transportation, treatment or disposal we or our predecessors arranged or conducted. Some environmental laws and regulations may impose strict, joint and several liability in connection with releases of regulated substances into the environment. Therefore, in some situations we could be exposed to liability as a result of our conduct that was lawful at the time it occurred or the conduct of, or conditions caused by, third parties, including our predecessors. If we were to incur liability for environmental damage, environmental clean-ups, corrective action or damage not covered by insurance or in excess of the amount of our coverage, our financial condition or operating results could be materially adversely affected. For example, see the discussion regarding the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site Allocation Process in Note 12, “Commitments and Contingencies,” of our consolidated financial statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
We depend significantly on the services of the members of our senior and regional management team, and the departure of any of those persons could cause our operating results to suffer.
Our success depends significantly on the continued individual and collective contributions of our senior and regional management team. Key members of our management have entered into employment agreements, but we may not be able to enforce these agreements. The loss of the services of any member of our senior and regional management or the inability to hire and retain experienced management personnel could harm our operating results.
Our decentralized decision-making structure could allow local managers to make decisions that may adversely affect our operating results.
We manage our operations on a decentralized basis. Local managers have the authority to make many decisions concerning their operations without obtaining prior approval from executive officers, subject to compliance with general company-wide policies. Poor decisions by local managers could result in the loss of customers or increases in costs, in either case adversely affecting operating results.
If we are not able to develop and protect intellectual property, or if a competitor develops or obtains exclusive rights to a breakthrough technology, our financial results may suffer.
Our existing and proposed service offerings to customers may require that we develop or license, and protect, new technologies. We may experience difficulties or delays in the research, development, production and/or marketing of new products and services which may negatively impact our operating results and prevent us from recouping or realizing a return on the investments required to bring new products and services to market. Further, protecting our intellectual property rights and combating unlicensed copying and use of intellectual property is difficult, and any inability to obtain or protect new technologies could impact our services to customers and development of new revenue sources. Additionally, a competitor may develop or obtain exclusive rights to a “breakthrough technology” that claims to provide a revolutionary change in traditional waste management. If we have inferior intellectual property to our competitors, our financial results may suffer.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
As of December 31, 2019, we owned 300 solid waste collection operations, 124 transfer stations, 60 MSW landfills, 12 E&P waste landfills, 14 non-MSW landfills, one development stage landfill, 66 recycling operations, four intermodal operations, 23 E&P liquid waste injection wells and 19 E&P waste treatment and oil recovery facilities, and operated, but did not own, an additional 51 transfer stations, 10 MSW landfills and two intermodal operations, in 42 states in the U.S. and six provinces in Canada. Non-MSW landfills accept construction and demolition, industrial and other non-putrescible waste. We lease certain of the sites on which these facilities are located. We lease various office facilities, including our combined corporate and regional offices in Ontario, Canada, where we occupy approximately 12,000 square feet of space, and our administrative and regional offices in The Woodlands, Texas, where we occupy approximately 82,000 square feet of space. We also maintain regional administrative offices in each of our segments. We own a variety of equipment, including waste collection and transportation vehicles, related support vehicles, double-stack rail cars, carts, containers, chassis and heavy equipment used in landfill, collection, transfer station, waste treatment and intermodal operations. We believe that our existing facilities and equipment are adequate for our current operations. However, we expect to make additional investments in property and equipment for expansion and replacement of assets in connection with future acquisitions.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
Information regarding our legal proceedings can be found under the “Legal Proceedings” section in Note 12 to the consolidated financial statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10K and is incorporated herein by reference.
ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED SHAREHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
In 2016, Waste Connections, Inc., a Delaware corporation, entered into a business combination transaction with Progressive Waste Solutions Ltd., a corporation organized under the laws of Ontario, Canada (“Progressive Waste” and the transaction, the “Progressive Waste acquisition”). The public company that remained following the transaction is Waste Connections, Inc., a corporation organized under the laws of Ontario, Canada. References to the “Company” and “Waste Connections” refer to the Delaware corporation, Waste Connections, Inc. (now known as Waste Connections US, Inc.) before the Progressive Waste acquisition and the combined business thereafter. All references to “dollars” or “$” used herein refer to U.S. dollars, and all references to CAD $ used herein refer to Canadian dollars, unless otherwise stated.
Our common shares are listed on the New York Stock Exchange, or NYSE, and the Toronto Stock Exchange, or TSX, under the symbol “WCN”.
As of February 3, 2020, there were 99 holders of record of our common shares. Because many of our common shares are held by brokers and other institutions on behalf of shareholders, we are unable to estimate the total number of shareholders represented by these record holders.
On February 12, 2020, we announced that our Board of Directors approved a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.185 per common share. All dividends paid by the Company on its common shares after June 1, 2016 are designated as “eligible dividends” for Canadian federal income tax purposes and such treatment will continue unless a notification of change is posted on our website. Our Board of Directors will review the cash dividend periodically, with a long-term objective of increasing the amount of the dividend. We cannot assure you as to the amounts or timing of future dividends. We have the ability under our Credit Agreement (as defined below) and master note purchase agreements to repurchase our common shares and pay dividends provided we maintain specified financial ratios.
The following performance graph compares the total cumulative shareholder returns on our common shares over the past five fiscal years with the total cumulative returns for the S&P 500 Index, the S&P/TSX 60 Index and the Dow Jones U.S. Waste and Disposal Services Index.
The graph depicts a five-year comparison of cumulative total returns for the Company’s common shares. The graph assumes an investment of US$100 in our common shares on December 31, 2014, and the reinvestment of all dividends. This chart has been calculated in compliance with SEC requirements and prepared by Capital IQ® using the USD index in the case of the S&P/TSX 60 Index.
This graph and the accompanying text is not “soliciting material,” is not deemed filed with the SEC, and is not to be incorporated by reference in any filing by us under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, whether made before or after the date hereof and irrespective of any general incorporation language in any such filing.
Company Name / Index
Waste Connections, Inc.
S&P 500 Index
S&P/TSX 60 Index
Dow Jones U.S. Waste & Disposal Services Index
THE SHARE PRICE PERFORMANCE INCLUDED IN THIS GRAPH IS NOT NECESSARILY INDICATIVE OF FUTURE SHARE PRICE PERFORMANCE.
ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
This table sets forth our selected financial data for the periods indicated. This data should be read in conjunction with, and is qualified by reference to, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” included in Item 7 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K and our audited consolidated financial statements, including the related notes and our independent registered public accounting firm’s report and the other financial information included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The selected data in this section is not intended to replace the consolidated financial statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Years Ended December 31,
(in thousands of U.S. dollars, except share and per share data)
STATEMENT OF OPERATIONS DATA:
Cost of operations
Selling, general and administrative
Amortization of intangibles
Impairments and other operating items
Operating income (loss)