Permit conditions, legislation or regulatory initiatives could restrict our ability to dispose of fluids produced subsequent to well completion, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
As part of our fluid management services, we provide disposal services for fluids produced subsequent to well completion. These fluids are removed from the well site and transported for disposal in SWD wells. We operate SWD wells that are subject to the CWA, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and state and local laws and regulations, including those established by the Underground Injection Control Program of the EPA, which establishes the minimum program requirements. Most of our SWD wells are located in Texas. We also operate SWD wells in Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico. Regulations in these states require us to obtain an Underground Injection Control permit to operate each of our SWD wells. The applicable regulatory agency may suspend or modify one or more of our permits if our well operations are likely to result in pollution of freshwater or substantial violation of permit conditions or applicable rules, or if the well leaks into the environment.
In addition, there exists a growing concern that the injection of produced fluids into belowground disposal wells may trigger seismic activity in certain areas. In response to these concerns, regulators in some states are pursuing initiatives designed to impose additional requirements in connection with the permitting of SWD wells or otherwise to assess any relationship between seismicity and oil and gas operations. For example, in 2014, the Texas Railroad Commission, or TRC, published a rule governing permitting or re-permitting of disposal wells in Texas that would require, among other things, the submission of information on seismic events occurring within a specified radius of the disposal well location, as well as logs, geologic cross sections and structure maps relating to the disposal area in question. If a permittee or a prospective permittee fails to demonstrate that the saltwater or other fluids are confined to the disposal zone or if scientific data indicates such a disposal well is likely to be or determined to be contributing to seismic activity, then the TRC may deny, modify, suspend or terminate the permit application or existing operating permit for that well.
The imposition of permit conditions or the adoption and implementation of any new laws, regulations, or directives that restrict our ability to dispose of produced fluids, including by restricting disposal well locations, changing the depths of disposal wells, reducing the volume of wastewater disposed in wells, or requiring us to shut down disposal wells or otherwise, could lead to operational delays and increased operating costs, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may incur significant costs and liabilities as a result of environmental, health and safety laws and regulations that govern our operations.
Our operations are subject to U.S. federal, state and local laws and regulations that impose limitations on the discharge of pollutants into the environment and establish standards for the handling, storage and disposal of waste materials, including toxic and hazardous wastes. To comply with these laws and regulations, we must obtain and maintain numerous permits, approvals and certificates from various governmental authorities. While the cost of such compliance has not been significant in the past, new laws, regulations or enforcement policies could become more stringent and significantly increase our compliance costs or limit our future business opportunities, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Our operations pose risks of environmental liability, including leakage from our operations to surface or subsurface soils, surface water or groundwater. Some environmental laws and regulations may impose strict liability, joint and several liability, or both. 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 without regard to whether we caused or contributed to the conditions. Actions arising under these laws and regulations could result in the shutdown of our operations, fines and penalties, expenditures for remediation or other corrective measures, and claims for liability for property damage, exposure to hazardous materials, exposure to hazardous waste or personal injuries. Sanctions for noncompliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations also may include the assessment of administrative, civil or criminal penalties, revocation of permits, temporary or permanent cessation of operations in a particular location and issuance of corrective action orders. Such claims or sanctions and related costs could cause us to incur substantial costs or losses and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow. Additionally, an increase in regulatory requirements on oil and natural gas exploration and completion activities could significantly delay or interrupt our operations.
The scope of regulation of our services may increase in light of the April 2010 Macondo accident and resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, including possible increases in liabilities or funding requirements imposed by governmental agencies. In 2012, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or “BSEE,” expanded its regulatory oversight beyond oil and gas operators to include service and equipment contractors. In addition, U.S. federal law imposes on certain entities deemed to be “responsible parties” a variety of regulations related to the prevention of oil spills, releases of hazardous substances, and liability for removal costs and natural resource, real property and certain economic damages arising from such incidents. Some of these laws may impose strict and/or joint and several liability for certain costs and damages without regard to the conduct of the parties. As a provider of services and rental equipment for offshore drilling and workover services, we may be deemed a “responsible party” under federal law. The implementation of such laws and the adoption and implementation of future regulatory initiatives, or the specific responsibilities that may arise from such initiatives may subject us to increased costs and liabilities, which could interrupt our operations or have an adverse effect on our revenue or results of operations.