Annual report pursuant to Section 13 and 15(d)


12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2018
Commitments And Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]  

18. Contingencies

Apache Lawsuit

On December 15, 2014, Apache filed a lawsuit against the Company alleging that W&T breached the joint operating agreement related to, among other things, the abandonment of three deepwater wells in the Mississippi Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico.  A trial court judgment was rendered from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on May 31, 2017 directing the Company to pay Apache $43.2 million, plus $6.3 million in prejudgment interest, attorney's fees and costs assessed in the judgment.  We filed an appeal of the trial court judgment in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and provided oral arguments in December 2018.  Prior to filing the appeal, in order to stay execution of the judgment, we deposited $49.5 million with the registry of the court in June 2017.  Oral arguments occurred on December 4, 2018, but as of the filing date of this Form 10-K, a decision had not been rendered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.    

The deposit of $49.5 million with the registry of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit was recorded in Other assets (long-term) with a corresponding reduction to Cash and cash equivalents on the Consolidated Balance Sheet during 2017.  Although we are appealing the decision, based solely on the decision rendered, we recorded $49.5 million in Other liabilities (long-term) and $43.2 million in capitalized ARO included in Oil and natural gas properties and other, net on the Consolidated Balance Sheet during 2017 and recognized $6.3 million of expense included in Other (income) expense, net on the Consolidated Statement of Operations in 2017.    

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.  On January 27, 2017, the IBLA affirmed the decision of the ONRR requiring W&T to pay approximately $4.7 million in additional royalties.  We filed a motion for reconsideration of the IBLA decision on March 27, 2017.  Based on a statutory deadline, we filed an appeal of the IBLA decision on July 25, 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.  We were required to post a bond in the amount of $7.2 million and cash collateral of $6.9 million in order to appeal the IBLA decision.  On December 4, 2018, the IBLA denied our motion for reconsideration.  On February 4, 2019, we filed our first amended complaint.  

Royalties-In-Kind (“RIK”).

Under a program of the Minerals Management Service (“MMS”) (a Department of Interior agency and predecessor to the ONRR), royalties must be paid “in-kind” rather than in value from federal leases in the program.  The MMS added to the RIK program our lease at the East Cameron 373 field beginning in November 2001, where in some months we over delivered volumes of natural gas and under delivered volumes of natural gas in other months for royalties owed.  The MMS elected to terminate receiving royalties in-kind in October 2008 causing the imbalance to become fixed for accounting purposes.  The MMS ordered us to pay an amount based on its interpretation of the program and its calculations of amounts owed.  We disagreed with MMS’s interpretations and calculations and filed an appeal with the IBLA, of which the IBLA ruled in MMS’ favor.  We filed an appeal with the District Court of the Western District of Louisiana, who assigned the case to a magistrate to review and issue a ruling, and the District Court upheld the magistrate’s ruling on May 29, 2018.  We filed an appeal on July 24, 2018.  Part of the ruling was in favor of our position and part was in favor of MMS’ position.  Based solely on the District Court’s ruling, we recorded a liability reserve of $2.1 million as of December 31, 2018.  We have appealed the ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the government filed a cross-appeal.  Briefing and oral arguments (if held) will be completed in 2019.

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 that processed our gas.  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 related to a specific processing plant.  We also received a preliminary determination notice from the ONRR asserting that our allocation of certain processing costs and plant fuel use at another processing plant was not allowed as deductions in the determination of royalties owed under Federal oil and gas leases.  We have submitted revised calculations covering certain plants and time periods to the ONRR.  As of the filing date of this Form 10-K, we have not received a response from the ONRR related to our submissions.  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.  During 2018, 2017 and 2016, we paid $0.6 million, $1.6 million and $0.5 million, respectively, of additional royalties and expect to pay more in the future.  We are not able to determine the range of any additional royalties or if such amounts would be material.

Supplemental Bonding Requirements by the BOEM

The BOEM requires that lessees demonstrate financial strength and reliability according to its regulations or provide acceptable financial assurances to satisfy lease obligations, including decommissioning activities on the OCS.  As of the filing date of this Form 10-K, the Company is in compliance with its financial assurance obligations to the BOEM and has no outstanding BOEM orders related to assurance obligations.  W&T and other offshore Gulf of Mexico producers may in the ordinary course receive future demands for financial assurances from the BOEM as the BOEM continues to reevaluate its requirements for financial assurances.  

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.  We may be required to post collateral at any time pursuant to the terms of our agreement with various sureties under our existing bonds, if they so demand at their discretion.  We did not receive any collateral demands from surety bond providers during 2018.

Notices of Proposed Civil Penalty Assessment

During 2018, we did not make any civil penalty payments and during 2017 and 2016, we paid $0.2 million and $0.1 million, respectively, in civil penalties to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”) related to Incidents of Noncompliance (“INCs”) issued by the BSEE at various offshore locations.  We currently have nine 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 INCs underlying these open civil penalties cite alleged non-compliance with various safety-related requirements and procedures occurring at separate offshore locations on various dates ranging from July 2012 to January 2018.  The proposed civil penalties for these INCs total $7.7 million.  As of December 31, 2018, we have accrued approximately $3.5 million in expenses, 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.

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.