Annual report pursuant to Section 13 and 15(d)


12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2016
Commitments And Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]  

17. Contingencies

Financial Assurance Requirements by the BOEM

The BOEM requires that lessees demonstrate financial strength and reliability according to its regulations or provide acceptable financial assurances to assure satisfaction of lease obligations, including decommissioning activities on the OCS.  In July 2016, the BOEM issued NTL #2016-N01 to clarify the procedures and guidelines that BOEM Regional Directors use to determine if and when additional financial assurances may be required for OCS leases, ROWs or RUEs.  This NTL became effective in September 2016 and supersedes and replaces NTL #2008-N07.        



In the first quarter of 2016, we received several orders from the BOEM pursuant to NTL #2008-N07 demanding the Company to secure financial assurances in the aggregate of $260.8 million, with amounts specified with respect to certain designated leases, ROWs and RUEs.  We filed various appeals to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (the “IBLA”) concerning these orders.  The IBLA, acknowledging the BOEM and the Company were seeking to resolve the BOEM demands through settlement discussions, stayed the effectiveness of these orders several times, with the current stay effective to May 31, 2017.  


In September 2016, we received notice from the BOEM confirming that we do not qualify to self-insure a portion of any additional financial assurance under NTL #2016-N01.



In October 2016, we received from the BOEM proposal letters outlining what additional security the BOEM proposes to require for leases, ROWs and RUEs in which we are designated operator.

See Note 19 for a BOEM order issued in December 2016 related to additional financial assurance for sole liability properties, which was subsequently withdrawn in February 2017 by the BOEM.  See Note 19 regarding a notice issued in January 2017 by the BOEM extending the implementation timeline by an additional six months of the new regulations as to non-sole liability leases, ROWs and RUEs.  

Surety Bond Issuers’ Collateral Requirements

The issuers of surety bonds in some cases have requested and received additional collateral related to surety bonds for plugging and abandonment activities.  Pursuant to the terms of our agreements with various sureties under our existing bonds or under any additional bonds we may obtain, we are required to post collateral at any time, on demand, at the surety’s discretion.  

Notification by ONRR of Fine for Non-compliance  

In December 2013 and January 2014, we were notified by the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (“ONRR”) of an underpayment of royalties on certain Federal offshore oil and gas leases that cumulatively approximated $30,000 over several years, which represents 0.0045% of royalty payments paid by us during the same period of the underpayment.  We received notice from the ONRR of a statutory fine of $2.3 million (subsequently reduced to $1.1 million) relative to such underpayment.  We believe the fine is excessive considering the circumstances and in relation to the amount of underpayment.  A hearing on this matter was held with an Administrative Law Judge in August 2016.  A decision on this case has been deferred until March 2017 at the earliest.  The ultimate resolution may result in a waiver of the fine, a reduction of the fine, or payment of the full amount plus interest covering several years.  As no amount has been determined as more likely than any other within the range of possible resolutions, no amount has been accrued as of December 31, 2016 or 2015.     

Apache Lawsuit

  On December 15, 2014, Apache Corporation (“Apache”) filed a lawsuit against W&T Offshore, Inc., alleging that W&T breached the joint operating agreement (the “JOA”) related to, among other things, the abandonment of deepwater wells in the Mississippi Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico.  On October 28, 2016, the jury made the following findings:



W&T failed to comply with the contract by failing to pay its proportionate share of the costs to plug and abandon the MC 674 wells.



The amount of money to compensate Apache for W&T’s failure to pay its proportionate share of the costs to plug and abandon the MC 674 wells was $43.2 million.



The $43.2 million referred to in #2 should be offset by $17.0 million.



Apache acted in bad faith thereby causing W&T to not comply with the contract.

In November 2016 we filed a motion with the trial court requesting a judgment consistent with the jury’s finding that Apache acted in bad faith thereby causing W&T not to comply with the contract, which W&T asserted bars Apache from recovery for damages under applicable law, and if damages are not barred in their entirety, that any judgment for monetary damages should be offset by $17.0 million as determined by the jury. After Apache filed its opposing motion, a hearing was held by the trial court in December 2016.  As of the filing date of this Form 10-K, no judgment has been entered by the court.  

Insurance Claims

The matter concerning certain claims with certain insurance companies was settled during the fourth quarter of 2016.  See Note 5 for a description of the settlement and the accounting of the funds received.  The settlement does not include claims that have not yet been made subject to adjustment or requested for reimbursement by us as of the date of the settlement.        

Appeal with ONRR

In 2009, we recognized allowable reductions of cash payments for royalties owed to the ONRR for transportation of their deepwater production through our subsea pipeline systems.  In 2010, the ONRR audited the calculations and support related to this usage fee, and in 2010, we were notified that the ONRR had disallowed approximately $4.7 million of the reductions taken.  We recorded a reduction to other revenue in 2010 to reflect this disallowance; however, we disagree with the position taken by the ONRR.  We filed an appeal with the ONRR, which was denied in May 2014.  On June 17, 2014, we filed an appeal with the IBLA under the Department of the Interior.  See Note 19 regarding the denial of our appeal subsequent to December 31, 2016.  

Royalties – “Unbundling” Initiative

The ONRR has publicly announced an “unbundling” initiative to revise the methodology employed by producers in determining the appropriate allowances for transportation and processing costs that are permitted to be deducted in determining royalties under Federal oil and gas leases.  The ONRR’s initiative requires re-computing allowable transportation and processing costs using revised guidance from the ONRR going back 84 months for every gas processing plant for which we had gas processed.  In the second quarter of 2015, pursuant to the initiative, we received requests from the ONRR for additional data regarding our transportation and processing allowances on natural gas production that was processed through a specific processing plant.  We also received a preliminary determination notice from the ONRR asserting its preliminary determination that our allocation of certain processing costs and plant fuel use at another processing plant were impermissibly allowed as deductions in the determination of royalties owed under Federal oil and gas leases.  We submitted revised calculations covering certain plants and certain time periods and has not yet received official responses as to the preliminary determination asserting the reasonableness of its revised allocation methodology of such costs.  These open ONRR unbundling reviews, and any further similar reviews, could ultimately result in an order for payment of additional royalties under our Federal oil and gas leases for current and prior periods.  We have paid $0.5 million during 2016 based on our revised calculations for one plant covering part of the 84 month period.  We are not able to determine the range of any additional royalties or, if and when assessed, whether such amounts would be material.

Notices of Proposed Civil Penalty Assessment

During 2016 and 2015, we paid $0.1 million and $0.2 million of civil penalties issued by the BSEE related to Incidents of Noncompliance (“INCs”) issued by the BSEE at various offshore locations.  We currently have four open civil penalties issued by the BSEE arising from INCs, which have not been settled as of the filing of this Form 10-K.  The INC’s underlying the civil penalties were issued during 2015, with one re-issued during 2016, and relate to four separate offshore locations with occurrence dates ranging from July 2012 to June 2014.  The proposed civil penalties for these INCs total $8.1 million.  We have accrued approximately $1.5 million, which is our best estimate of the final settlement once all appeals have been exhausted.  Our position is that the proposed civil penalties are excessive given the specific facts and circumstances related to these INCs.

Iberville School Board Lawsuit

In August, 2013, a citation was issued on behalf of plaintiffs, the State of Louisiana and the Iberville Parish School Board in their suit against the Company (among others) in the 18th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Iberville, State of Louisiana.  This case involves claims by the Iberville Parish School Board that certain property in Louisiana had allegedly been contaminated or otherwise damaged by certain defendants’ oil and gas exploration and production activities.  The plaintiff’s claims include assessment costs, restoration costs, diminution of property value, punitive damages, and attorney fees and expenses, of which were not quantified in the claim.  We cannot currently estimate our potential exposure, if any, related to this lawsuit.  We are currently, and intend to continue, vigorously defending this litigation.

Other Claims

We are a party to various pending or threatened claims and complaints seeking damages or other remedies concerning our commercial operations and other matters in the ordinary course of our business.  In addition, claims or contingencies may arise related to matters occurring prior to our acquisition of properties or related to matters occurring subsequent to our sale of properties.  In certain cases, we have indemnified the sellers of properties we have acquired, and in other cases, we have indemnified the buyers of properties we have sold.  We are also subject to federal and state administrative proceedings conducted in the ordinary course of business including matters related to alleged royalty underpayments on certain federal-owned properties.  Although we can give no assurance about the outcome of pending legal and federal or state administrative proceedings and the effect such an outcome may have on us, we believe that any ultimate liability resulting from the outcome of such proceedings, to the extent not otherwise provided for or covered by insurance, will not have a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial position, results of operations or liquidity.