Quarterly report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d)


6 Months Ended
Jun. 30, 2015
Commitments And Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]  

11.  Contingencies

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.  In March 2014, we received notice from the ONRR of a statutory fine of $2.3 million relative to such underpayment.  We believe the fine is excessive considering the circumstances and in relation to the amount of underpayment.  On April 23, 2014, we filed a request for a hearing on the record and a general denial of the ONRR’s allegations contained in the March notice.  We intend to contest the fine to the fullest extent possible.  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 June 30, 2015 or December 31, 2014 per authoritative guidance.  However, we cannot state with certainty that our estimate of the exposure is accurate concerning this matter.      

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 (“JOA”) related to deepwater wells in the Mississippi Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico.  That lawsuit, styled Apache Corporation v. W&T Offshore, Inc., is currently pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.  Apache contends that W&T has failed to pay its proportional share of the costs associated with plugging and abandoning three wells that are subject to the JOA.  We contend that the costs incurred by Apache are excessive and unreasonable.  Apache seeks an award of unspecified actual damages, interest, court costs, and attorneys’ fees.  In February 2015, we made a payment to Apache for our net share of the amounts that we believe are reasonable to plug and abandon the three wells, all of which was originally recorded as an asset retirement obligation and was accrued on our Condensed Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2014.  Our estimate of the potential exposure ranges from zero to $32 million related to this matter, which excludes potential interest, court costs and attorneys’ fees. 

Insurance Claims.  During the fourth quarter of 2012, underwriters of W&T’s excess liability policies (“Excess Policies”) (Indemnity Insurance Company of North America, New York Marine & General Insurance Company, Navigators Insurance Company, XL Specialty Insurance Company, National Liability & Fire Insurance Company (“Starr Marine”)  and Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.) filed declaratory judgment actions in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas (the “District Court”) seeking a determination that our Excess Policies do not cover removal-of-wreck and debris claims arising from Hurricane Ike except to the extent we have first exhausted the limits of our Energy Package (defined as certain insurance policies relating to our oil and gas properties which includes named windstorm coverage) with only removal-of-wreck and debris claims.  The court consolidated the various suits filed by the underwriters.  In January 2013, we filed a motion for summary judgment seeking the court’s determination that such Excess Policies do not require us to exhaust the limits of our Energy Package policies with only removal-of-wreck and debris claims.  In July 2013, the District Court ruled in favor of the underwriters, adopting their position that the Excess Policies cover removal-of-wreck and debris claims only to the extent the limits of our Energy Package policies have been exhausted with removal-of-wreck and debris claims.  We appealed the decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (the “Fifth Circuit”) and, in June 2014, the Fifth Circuit reversed the District Court’s ruling and ruled in our favor.  The underwriters filed three separate briefs requesting a rehearing or a certification to the Texas Supreme Court, all of which the Court denied.  A brief was subsequently filed by one underwriter requesting a rehearing to the District Court of the Fifth Circuit’s decision, which the District Court denied.  Claims of approximately $42 million were filed, of which approximately $1 million was paid under the Energy Package and of which approximately $1 million was paid under our Comprehensive General Liability policy.  One of the underwriters, Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., paid their portion of the settlement (approximately $5 million), in addition to a portion of interest owed.  The other underwriters have not paid in accordance with the Fifth Circuit ruling, and we filed a lawsuit in September 2014 against these underwriters for amounts owed, interest, attorney fees and damages.  Subsequent to the filing of that lawsuit, Starr Marine has paid their portion ($5 million) of the first excess liability policy without interest.  The lawsuit includes claims for interest underpaid by Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. and interest not paid by Starr Marine. The revised estimate of potential reimbursement is approximately $30 million, plus interest, attorney fees and damages, if any.  Removal-of-wreck costs are recorded in Oil and natural gas properties and equipment on the Condensed Consolidated Balance Sheets and recoveries from claims made on these Excess Policies will be recorded as reductions in this line item, which will reduce our future DD&A rate.

Royalties.  In 2009, the Company 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 Board of Land Appeals (the “BLA”) under the Department of the Interior.  W&T’s brief was filed in November 2014 and we expect the briefing before BLA to be completed in 2015.

The ONRR has publicly announced an “unbundling” initiative to review 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.  In the second quarter of 2015, pursuant to the initiative, the Company received requests from the ONRR for additional data regarding the Company’s transportation and processing allowances on natural gas production that is processed through a specific processing plant. The Company also received a preliminary determination notice from the ONRR asserting its preliminary determination that the Company’s 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. The Company intends to submit a response to the preliminary determination asserting the reasonableness of its own 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  the Company’s Federal oil and gas leases for current and prior periods.  The Company is not able to determine the likelihood or range of any additional royalties or, if and when assessed, whether such amounts would be material.

Notices of Proposed Civil Penalty Assessment.  During the first half of 2015, the Company received two notices from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (the “BSEE”) proposing civil penalties totaling $3.6 million related to Incidents of Noncompliance (“INCs”) at two offshore locations, one of which occurred in 2012 and one occurred in 2014.  The Company’s position is the civil penalties are excessive given the specific facts and circumstances related to the INCs and we have accrued an amount less than the proposed assessment.     

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.

Contingent Liability Recorded.  There were no material expenses recognized related to accrued and settled claims, complaints and fines for the three and six months ended June 30, 2015 and 2014.  As of June 30, 2015 and December 31, 2014, we had no material amounts recorded in liabilities for claims, complaints and fines.