Other Litigation and Contingencies
We or our subsidiaries are a party to various legal proceedings and/or regulatory proceedings incidental to our businesses. For each of these matters, we evaluate the merits of the case, our exposure to the matter, possible legal or settlement strategies, the likelihood of an unfavorable outcome and the availability of insurance coverage. If we determine that an unfavorable outcome of a particular matter is probable and can be estimated, we accrue the contingent obligation, as well as any expected insurance recoverable amounts related to the contingency. As of March 31, 2017 and December 31, 2016, accruals of approximately $94 million and $77 million, respectively, were reflected on our consolidated balance sheets related to these contingent obligations. As new information becomes available, our estimates may change. The impact of these changes may have a significant effect on our results of operations in a single period.
The outcome of these matters cannot be predicted with certainty and there can be no assurance that the outcome of a particular matter will not result in the payment of amounts that have not been accrued for the matter. Furthermore, we may revise accrual amounts prior to resolution of a particular contingency based on changes in facts and circumstances or changes in the expected outcome. Currently, we are not able to estimate possible losses or a range of possible losses in excess of amounts accrued.
No amounts have been recorded in our March 31, 2017 or December 31, 2016 consolidated balance sheets for contingencies and current litigation, other than amounts disclosed herein.
Our operations are subject to extensive federal, tribal, state and local environmental and safety laws and regulations that require expenditures to ensure compliance, including related to air emissions and wastewater discharges, at operating facilities and for remediation at current and former facilities as well as waste disposal sites. Historically, our environmental compliance costs have not had a material adverse effect on our results of operations but there can be no assurance that such costs will not be material in the future or that such future compliance with existing, amended or new legal requirements will not have a material adverse effect on our business and operating results. Costs of planning, designing, constructing and operating pipelines, plants and other facilities must incorporate compliance with environmental laws and regulations and safety standards. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations may result in the assessment of administrative, civil and criminal penalties, the imposition of investigatory, remedial and corrective action obligations, the issuance of injunctions in affected areas and the filing of federally authorized citizen suits. Contingent losses related to all significant known environmental matters have been accrued and/or separately disclosed. However, we may revise accrual amounts prior to resolution of a particular contingency based on changes in facts and circumstances or changes in the expected outcome.
Environmental exposures and liabilities are difficult to assess and estimate due to unknown factors such as the magnitude of possible contamination, the timing and extent of remediation, the determination of our liability in proportion to other parties, improvements in cleanup technologies and the extent to which environmental laws and regulations may change in the future. Although environmental costs may have a significant impact on the results of operations for any single period, we believe that such costs will not have a material adverse effect on our financial position.
Based on information available at this time and reviews undertaken to identify potential exposure, we believe the amount reserved for environmental matters is adequate to cover the potential exposure for cleanup costs.
Our subsidiaries are responsible for environmental remediation at certain sites, including the following:
Certain of our interstate pipelines conduct soil and groundwater remediation related to contamination from past uses of PCBs. PCB assessments are ongoing and, in some cases, our subsidiaries could potentially be held responsible for contamination caused by other parties.
Certain gathering and processing systems are responsible for soil and groundwater remediation related to releases of hydrocarbons.
Currently operating Sunoco, Inc. retail sites.
Legacy sites related to Sunoco, Inc. that are subject to environmental assessments, including formerly owned terminals and other logistics assets, retail sites that Sunoco, Inc. no longer operates, closed and/or sold refineries and other formerly owned sites.
Sunoco, Inc. is potentially subject to joint and several liability for the costs of remediation at sites at which it has been identified as a potentially responsible party (“PRP”). As of March 31, 2017, Sunoco, Inc. had been named as a PRP at approximately 50 identified or potentially identifiable “Superfund” sites under federal and/or comparable state law.