SWN » Topics » Environmental Matters

This excerpt taken from the SWN 10-K filed Mar 1, 2007.

Environmental Matters

Our operations are subject to numerous federal, state and local laws and regulations including the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and similar state statutes.  These laws and regulations require permits for drilling wells and the maintenance of bonding requirements in order to drill or operate wells and also regulate the spacing and location of wells, the method of drilling and casing wells, the surface use and restoration of properties upon which wells are drilled, the plugging and abandoning of wells, the prevention and cleanup of pollutants and other matters.  We maintain insurance against costs of clean-up operations, but we are not fully insured against all such risks.  Although future environmental obligations are not expected to have a material impact on the results of our operations or financial condition, there can be no assurance that future developments, such as increasingly stringent environmental laws or enforcement thereof, will not cause us to incur material environmental liabilities or costs.

Failure to comply with these laws and regulations may result in the assessment of administrative, civil and criminal fines and penalties and the imposition of injunctive relief.  Changes in environmental laws and regulations occur frequently, and any changes that result in more stringent and costly waste handling, storage, transport, disposal or cleanup requirements could materially adversely affect our operations and financial position, as well as those in the natural gas and oil industry in general.  Although we believe that we are in substantial compliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations and that continued compliance with existing requirements will not have a material adverse impact on us, there can be no assurance that this trend will continue in the future.

The Oil Pollution Act, as amended, or the OPA, and regulations thereunder impose a variety of requirements on “responsible parties” related to the prevention of oil spills and liability for damages resulting from such spills in United States’ waters.  A “responsible party” includes the owner or operator of an onshore facility, pipeline or vessel, or the lessee or permittee of the area in which an offshore facility is located.  OPA assigns liability to each responsible party for oil cleanup costs and a variety of public and private damages.  While liability limits apply in some circumstances, a party cannot take advantage of liability limits if the spill was caused by gross negligence or willful misconduct or resulted from violation of a federal safety, construction or operating regulation.  If the party fails to report a spill or to cooperate fully in the cleanup, liability limits likewise do not apply.  Few defenses exist to the liability imposed by OPA.  OPA imposes ongoing requirements on a responsible party, including the preparation of oil spill response plans and proof of financial responsibility to cover environmental cleanup and restoration costs that could be incurred in connection with an oil spill.  

CERCLA, also known as the “Superfund law,” imposes liability, without regard to fault or the legality of the original conduct, on certain classes of persons that are considered to be responsible for the release of a “hazardous substance” into the environment.  These persons include the owner or operator of the disposal site or sites where the release occurred and companies that transported or disposed or arranged for the transport or disposal of the hazardous substances


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found at the site. Persons who are or were responsible for releases of hazardous substances under CERCLA may be subject to joint and several liability for the costs of cleaning up the hazardous substances that have been released into the environment and for damages to natural resources, and it is not uncommon for neighboring landowners and other third parties to file claims for personal injury and property damage allegedly caused by the hazardous substances released into the environment.  

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as amended, or the RCRA, generally does not regulate wastes generated by the exploration and production of natural gas and oil.  The RCRA specifically excludes from the definition of hazardous waste “drilling fluids, produced waters and other wastes associated with the exploration, development or production of crude oil, natural gas or geothermal energy.”  However, legislation has been proposed in Congress from time to time that would reclassify certain natural gas and oil exploration and production wastes as “hazardous wastes,” which would make the reclassified wastes subject to much more stringent handling, disposal and clean-up requirements. If such legislation were to be enacted, it could have a significant impact on our operating costs, as well as the natural gas and oil industry in general.  Moreover, ordinary industrial wastes, such as paint wastes, waste solvents, laboratory wastes and waste oils, may be regulated as hazardous waste.

We own or lease, and have in the past owned or leased, onshore properties that for many years have been used for or associated with the exploration and production of natural gas and oil.  Although we have utilized operating and disposal practices that were standard in the industry at the time, hydrocarbons or other wastes may have been disposed of or released on or under the properties owned or leased by us on or under other locations where such wastes have been taken for disposal. In addition, a portion of these properties have been operated by third parties whose treatment and disposal or release of wastes was not under our control.  These properties and the wastes disposed thereon may be subject to CERCLA, the Clean Water Act, the RCRA and analogous state laws.  Under such laws, we could be required to remove or remediate previously disposed wastes (including waste disposed of or released by prior owners or operators) or property contamination (including groundwater contamination by prior owners or operators), or to perform remedial plugging or closure operations to prevent future contamination.   

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended, or the FWPCA, imposes restrictions and strict controls regarding the discharge of produced waters and other natural gas and oil waste into navigable waters.  Permits must be obtained to discharge pollutants to waters and to conduct construction activities in waters and wetlands.  The FWPCA and similar state laws provide for civil, criminal and administrative penalties for any unauthorized discharges of pollutants and unauthorized discharges of reportable quantities of oil and other hazardous substances.  Many state discharge regulations and the Federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general permits issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, or the EPA, prohibit the discharge of produced water and sand, drilling fluids, drill cuttings and certain other substances related to the natural gas and oil industry into coastal waters.  Although the costs to comply with zero discharge mandates under federal or state law may be significant, the entire industry is expected to experience similar costs and we believe that these costs will not have a material adverse impact on our results of operations or financial position.  The EPA has adopted regulations requiring certain natural gas and oil exploration and production facilities to obtain permits for storm water discharges. Costs may be associated with the treatment of wastewater or developing and implementing storm water pollution prevention plans.

This excerpt taken from the SWN 10-K filed Mar 6, 2006.

Environmental Matters

Our operations are subject to numerous federal, state and local laws and regulations including the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and similar state statutes.  These laws and regulations require permits for drilling wells and the maintenance of bonding requirements in order to drill or operate wells and also regulate the spacing and location of wells, the method of drilling and casing wells, the surface use and restoration of properties upon which wells are drilled, the plugging and abandoning of wells, the prevention and cleanup of pollutants and other matters.  We maintain insurance against costs of clean-up operations, but we are not fully insured against all such risks.  Although future environmental obligations are not expected to have a material impact on the results of our operations or financial condition, there can be no assurance that future developments, such as increasingly stringent environmental laws or enforcement thereof, will not cause us to incur material environmental liabilities or costs.

Failure to comply with these laws and regulations may result in the assessment of administrative, civil and criminal fines and penalties and the imposition of injunctive relief.  Changes in environmental laws and regulations occur frequently, and any changes that result in more stringent and costly waste handling, storage, transport, disposal or cleanup requirements could materially adversely affect our operations and financial position, as well as those in the natural gas and oil industry in general.  Although we believe that we are in substantial compliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations and that continued compliance with existing requirements will not have a material adverse impact on us, there can be no assurance that this trend will continue in the future.  

The Oil Pollution Act, as amended, or the OPA, and regulations thereunder impose a variety of requirements on “responsible parties” related to the prevention of oil spills and liability for damages resulting from such spills in United States’ waters.  A “responsible party” includes the owner or operator of an onshore facility, pipeline or vessel, or the lessee or permittee of the area in which an offshore facility is located.  OPA assigns liability to each responsible party for oil cleanup costs and a variety of public and private damages.  While liability limits apply in some circumstances, a party cannot take advantage of liability limits if the spill was caused by gross negligence or willful misconduct or resulted from violation of a federal safety, construction or operating regulation.  If the party fails to report a spill or to cooperate fully in the cleanup, liability limits likewise do not apply.  Few defenses exist to the liability imposed by OPA.  OPA imposes ongoing requirements on a responsible party, including the preparation of oil spill response plans and proof of financial responsibility to cover environmental cleanup and restoration costs that could be incurred in connection with an oil spill.  


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CERCLA, also known as the “Superfund law,” imposes liability, without regard to fault or the legality of the original conduct, on certain classes of persons that are considered to be responsible for the release of a “hazardous substance” into the environment.  These persons include the owner or operator of the disposal site or sites where the release occurred and companies that transported or disposed or arranged for the transport or disposal of the hazardous substances found at the site. Persons who are or were responsible for releases of hazardous substances under CERCLA may be subject to joint and several liability for the costs of cleaning up the hazardous substances that have been released into the environment and for damages to natural resources, and it is not uncommon for neighboring landowners and other third parties to file claims for personal injury and property damage allegedly caused by the hazardous substances released into the environment.  

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as amended, or the RCRA, generally does not regulate wastes generated by the exploration and production of natural gas and oil.  The RCRA specifically excludes from the definition of hazardous waste “drilling fluids, produced waters and other wastes associated with the exploration, development or production of crude oil, natural gas or geothermal energy.”  However, legislation has been proposed in Congress from time to time that would reclassify certain natural gas and oil exploration and production wastes as “hazardous wastes,” which would make the reclassified wastes subject to much more stringent handling, disposal and clean-up requirements. If such legislation were to be enacted, it could have a significant impact on our operating costs, as well as the natural gas and oil industry in general.  Moreover, ordinary industrial wastes, such as paint wastes, waste solvents, laboratory wastes and waste oils, may be regulated as hazardous waste.

We own or lease, and have in the past owned or leased, onshore properties that for many years have been used for or associated with the exploration and production of natural gas and oil.  Although we have utilized operating and disposal practices that were standard in the industry at the time, hydrocarbons or other wastes may have been disposed of or released on or under the properties owned or leased by us on or under other locations where such wastes have been taken for disposal. In addition, a portion of these properties have been operated by third parties whose treatment and disposal or release of wastes was not under our control.  These properties and the wastes disposed thereon may be subject to CERCLA, the Clean Water Act, the RCRA and analogous state laws.  Under such laws, we could be required to remove or remediate previously disposed wastes (including waste disposed of or released by prior owners or operators) or property contamination (including groundwater contamination by prior owners or operators), or to perform remedial plugging or closure operations to prevent future contamination.   

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended, or the FWPCA, imposes restrictions and strict controls regarding the discharge of produced waters and other natural gas and oil waste into navigable waters.  Permits must be obtained to discharge pollutants to waters and to conduct construction activities in waters and wetlands.  The FWPCA and similar state laws provide for civil, criminal and administrative penalties for any unauthorized discharges of pollutants and unauthorized discharges of reportable quantities of oil and other hazardous substances.  Many state discharge regulations and the Federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general permits issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, or the EPA, prohibit the discharge of produced water and sand, drilling fluids, drill cuttings and certain other substances related to the natural gas and oil industry into coastal waters.  Although the costs to comply with zero discharge mandates under federal or state law may be significant, the entire industry is expected to experience similar costs and we believe that these costs will not have a material adverse impact on our results of operations or financial position.  The EPA has adopted regulations requiring certain natural gas and oil exploration and production facilities to obtain permits for storm water discharges.  Costs may be associated with the treatment of wastewater or developing and implementing storm water pollution prevention plans.

EXCERPTS ON THIS PAGE:

10-K
Mar 1, 2007
10-K
Mar 6, 2006
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