10-K 1 d793975d10k.htm 10-K 10-K
Table of Contents

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

 

Form 10-K

 

 

(Mark One)

x ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2014

OR

 

¨ TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from                  to                 

Commission file number 1-12154

 

 

Waste Management, Inc.

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

 

 

Delaware 73-1309529

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

1001 Fannin Street, Suite 4000

Houston, Texas

77002
(Address of principal executive offices) (Zip code)

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code:

(713) 512-6200

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of Each Class

Name of Exchange on Which Registered

Common Stock, $.01 par value New York Stock Exchange

 

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined by Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes  x    No  ¨

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes  ¨    No  x

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes  x    No  ¨

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulations S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes  x    No  ¨

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulations S-K (§ 229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of Registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.  ¨

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):

 

Large accelerated filer x Accelerated filer ¨
Non-accelerated filer ¨  (Do not check if a smaller reporting company) Smaller reporting company ¨

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes  ¨    No  x

The aggregate market value of the voting stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant at June 30, 2014 was approximately $20.8 billion. The aggregate market value was computed by using the closing price of the common stock as of that date on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”). (For purposes of calculating this amount only, all directors and executive officers of the registrant have been treated as affiliates.)

The number of shares of Common Stock, $0.01 par value, of the registrant outstanding at February 6, 2015 was 459,128,449 (excluding treasury shares of 171,154,012).

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

 

Document

Incorporated as to

Proxy Statement for the

2015 Annual Meeting of Stockholders

Part III

 

 

 


Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

          Page  
   PART I   

Item 1.

   Business      3   

Item 1A.

   Risk Factors      16   

Item 1B.

   Unresolved Staff Comments      28   

Item 2.

   Properties      28   

Item 3.

   Legal Proceedings      29   

Item 4.

   Mine Safety Disclosures      29   
   PART II   

Item 5.

   Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities      29   

Item 6.

   Selected Financial Data      31   

Item 7.

   Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations      32   

Item 7A.

   Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk      70   

Item 8.

   Financial Statements and Supplementary Data      72   

Item 9.

   Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure      151   

Item 9A.

   Controls and Procedures      151   

Item 9B.

   Other Information      151   
   PART III   

Item 10.

   Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance      151   

Item 11.

   Executive Compensation      151   

Item 12.

   Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters      152   

Item 13.

   Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence      152   

Item 14.

   Principal Accounting Fees and Services      152   
   PART IV   

Item 15.

   Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules      152   

 

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PART I

Item 1. Business.

General

The financial statements presented in this report represent the consolidation of Waste Management, Inc., a Delaware corporation; Waste Management’s wholly-owned and majority-owned subsidiaries; and certain variable interest entities for which Waste Management or its subsidiaries are the primary beneficiaries as described in Note 20 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. Waste Management is a holding company and all operations are conducted by its subsidiaries. When the terms “the Company,” “we,” “us” or “our” are used in this document, those terms refer to Waste Management, Inc., its consolidated subsidiaries and consolidated variable interest entities. When we use the term “WM,” we are referring only to Waste Management, Inc., the parent holding company.

WM was incorporated in Oklahoma in 1987 under the name “USA Waste Services, Inc.” and was reincorporated as a Delaware company in 1995. In a 1998 merger, the Illinois-based waste services company formerly known as Waste Management, Inc. became a wholly-owned subsidiary of WM and changed its name to Waste Management Holdings, Inc. (“WM Holdings”). At the same time, our parent holding company changed its name from USA Waste Services to Waste Management, Inc. Like WM, WM Holdings is a holding company and all operations are conducted by subsidiaries. For detail on the financial position, results of operations and cash flows of WM, WM Holdings and their subsidiaries, see Note 23 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Our principal executive offices are located at 1001 Fannin Street, Suite 4000, Houston, Texas 77002. Our telephone number at that address is (713) 512-6200. Our website address is www.wm.com. Our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K are all available, free of charge, on our website as soon as practicable after we file the reports with the SEC. Our stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “WM.”

We are North America’s leading provider of comprehensive waste management environmental services. We partner with our residential, commercial, industrial and municipal customers and the communities we serve to manage and reduce waste at each stage from collection to disposal, while recovering valuable resources and creating clean, renewable energy. Our “Solid Waste” business is operated and managed locally by our subsidiaries that focus on distinct geographic areas and provides collection, transfer, recycling and resource recovery, and disposal services. Through our subsidiaries, we are also a leading developer, operator and owner of landfill gas-to-energy facilities in the United States. In December 2014, we completed the sale of our subsidiary, Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. Our Wheelabrator business provided waste-to-energy services and managed waste-to-energy facilities and independent power production plants. During 2014, our largest customer represented less than 1% of annual revenues. We employed approximately 39,800 people as of December 31, 2014.

We own or operate 252 landfill sites, which is the largest network of landfills in our industry. In order to make disposal more practical for larger urban markets, where the distance to landfills is typically farther, we manage 298 transfer stations that consolidate, compact and transport waste efficiently and economically. We also use waste to create energy, recovering the gas produced naturally as waste decomposes in landfills and using the gas in generators to make electricity. We are a leading recycler in North America, handling materials that include paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, metal and electronics. We provide cost-efficient, environmentally sound recycling programs for municipalities, businesses and households across the U.S. and Canada as well as other services that supplement our traditional Solid Waste business.

Our Company’s goals are targeted at serving our customers, our employees, the environment, the communities in which we work and our stockholders, and achievement of our goals is intended to meet the needs of a changing industry. Our Company and others have recognized the value of the traditional waste stream as a potential resource. Increasingly, customers want more of their waste materials recovered, while waste streams are

 

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becoming more complex, and our aim is to address, and anticipate, the current, expanding and evolving needs of our customers. Accomplishment of our goals will grow our Company and allow us to meet the needs of our customers and communities as they, too, Think Green®.

We believe we are uniquely equipped to meet the challenges of the changing waste industry and our customers’ waste management needs, both today and as we work together to envision and create a more sustainable future. As the waste industry leader, we have the expertise necessary to collect and handle our customers’ waste efficiently and responsibly by delivering environmental performance — maximizing resource value, while minimizing environmental impact — so that both our economy and our environment can thrive. Drawing on our resources and experience, we also pursue projects and initiatives that benefit the waste industry, the customers and communities we serve and the environment.

We remain dedicated to providing long-term value to our stockholders by successfully executing our strategy: to know and service our customers better than anyone in our industry, to extract more value from the materials we manage, and to innovate and optimize our business. We plan to accomplish our strategic goals through competitive advantages derived from a “best cost” structure achieved through operational improvements and differentiation in our industry, driven by capitalizing on our extensive, well-placed network of assets. While we will continue to monitor emerging diversion technologies that may generate additional value, our current attention will be on improving existing diversion technologies, such as recycling operations.

In pursuit of these long-term goals, we recognize that we must grow the business, and do so as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. Accordingly, we are focusing on the following five key company priorities:

 

    Customers: provide the best possible service to our customers;

 

    Traditional Waste Business: continuously improve our operational performance;

 

    Growth: take advantage of opportunities in our current business, as well as considering attractive acquisition opportunities;

 

    Yield Management: remain focused on price leadership while considering competitive dynamics; and

 

    Costs: minimize both operating costs and selling, general & administrative expenses.

We believe that execution of our strategy through these key priorities will drive continued financial performance and leadership in a dynamic industry. In addition, we intend to continue to return value to our stockholders through dividend payments and common stock repurchases. In February 2015, we announced that our Board of Directors expects to increase the quarterly dividend from $0.375 to $0.385 per share for dividends declared in 2015, which is a 2.7% increase from the quarterly dividends we declared in 2014. This will result in an increase in the amount of free cash flow that we expect to pay out as dividends for the 12th consecutive year and is an indication of our ability to generate strong and consistent cash flows. All quarterly dividends will be declared at the discretion of our Board of Directors.

Operations

General

We evaluate, oversee and manage the financial performance of our local Solid Waste business subsidiaries through our 17 Areas. See Note 21 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information about our reportable segments. In December 2014, we sold our Wheelabrator business, which provides waste-to-energy services and manages waste-to-energy facilities and independent power production plants. We intend to re-invest the proceeds from the sale of our Wheelabrator business to create long-term stockholder value. Our priority is to pursue acquisitions in our Solid Waste business, and we will also evaluate repurchasing our common stock and making other investments in support of our strategic growth plans, while continuing our focus on a strong balance sheet. Refer to Note 19 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information related to our

 

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divestiture. We also provide additional services that are not managed through our Solid Waste business as described below. These operations are presented in this report as “Other.”

We have expanded certain of our operations through acquisitions, which are discussed further in Note 19 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. In January 2013, we acquired Greenstar, LLC, (“Greenstar”), an operator of recycling and resource recovery facilities. This acquisition provides the Company’s customers with greater access to recycling solutions, having supplemented the Company’s extensive nationwide recycling network with the operations of one of the nation’s largest private recyclers. In July 2013, we acquired substantially all of the assets of RCI Environnement, Inc. (“RCI”), the largest waste management company in Quebec, and certain related entities. RCI provides collection, transfer, recycling and disposal operations throughout the Greater Montreal area. The acquired RCI operations complement and expand the Company’s existing assets and operations in Quebec.

The table below shows the total revenues (in millions) contributed annually by our Solid Waste and Wheelabrator businesses, in the three-year period ended December 31, 2014. More information about our results of operations is included in Note 21 to the Consolidated Financial Statements and in Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, included in this report.

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2014      2013      2012  

Solid Waste

   $ 13,449       $ 13,477       $ 13,056   

Wheelabrator

     817         845         846   

Other

     2,191         2,185         2,106   

Intercompany

     (2,461      (2,524      (2,359
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

$ 13,996    $ 13,983    $ 13,649   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

The services we currently provide include collection, landfill (solid and hazardous waste landfills), transfer, recycling and resource recovery and other services, as described below. Prior to the sale of our Wheelabrator business in December 2014, we provided waste-to-energy services and managed waste-to-energy facilities and independent power production plants. The following table shows revenues (in millions) contributed by these services for each of the three years presented:

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2014      2013      2012  

Collection

   $ 8,507       $ 8,513       $ 8,405   

Landfill

     2,849         2,790         2,685   

Transfer

     1,353         1,329         1,296   

Wheelabrator

     817         845         846   

Recycling

     1,370         1,447         1,360   

Other

     1,561         1,583         1,416   

Intercompany

     (2,461      (2,524      (2,359
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

$ 13,996    $ 13,983    $ 13,649   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Collection. Our commitment to customers begins with a vast waste collection network. Collection involves picking up and transporting waste and recyclable materials from where it was generated to a transfer station, material recovery facility (“MRF”) or disposal site. We generally provide collection services under one of two types of arrangements:

 

   

For commercial and industrial collection services, typically we have a three-year service agreement. The fees under the agreements are influenced by factors such as collection frequency, type of collection

 

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equipment we furnish, type and volume or weight of the waste collected, distance to the disposal facility, labor costs, cost of disposal and general market factors. As part of the service, we provide steel containers to most customers to store their solid waste between pick-up dates. Containers vary in size and type according to the needs of our customers and the restrictions of their communities. Many are designed to be lifted mechanically and either emptied into a truck’s compaction hopper or directly into a disposal site. By using these containers, we can service most of our commercial and industrial customers with trucks operated by only one employee.

 

    For most residential collection services, we have a contract with, or a franchise granted by, a municipality, homeowners’ association or some other regional authority that gives us the exclusive right to service all or a portion of the homes in an area. These contracts or franchises are typically for periods of three to six years. We also provide services under individual monthly subscriptions directly to households. The fees for residential collection are either paid by the municipality or authority from their tax revenues or service charges, or are paid directly by the residents receiving the service.

Landfill. Landfills are the main depositories for solid waste in North America. At December 31, 2014, we owned or operated 247 solid waste landfills and five secure hazardous waste landfills, which represents the largest network of landfills in North America. Solid waste landfills are constructed and operated on land with engineering safeguards that limit the possibility of water and air pollution, and are operated under procedures prescribed by regulation. A landfill must meet federal, state or provincial, and local regulations during its design, construction, operation and closure. The operation and closure activities of a solid waste landfill include excavation, construction of liners, continuous spreading and compacting of waste, covering of waste with earth or other acceptable material and constructing final capping of the landfill. These operations are carefully planned to maintain environmentally safe conditions and to maximize the use of the airspace.

All solid waste management companies must have access to a disposal facility, such as a solid waste landfill. The significant capital requirements of developing and operating a landfill serve as a barrier to landfill ownership and, as a result, third-party haulers often dispose of waste at our landfills. It is usually preferable for our collection operations to use disposal facilities that we own or operate, a practice we refer to as internalization, rather than using third-party disposal facilities. Internalization generally allows us to realize higher consolidated margins and stronger operating cash flows. The fees charged at disposal facilities, which are referred to as tipping fees, are based on several factors, including competition and the type and weight or volume of solid waste deposited.

Under environmental laws, the federal government (or states with delegated authority) must issue permits for all hazardous waste landfills. All of our hazardous waste landfills have obtained the required permits, although some can accept only certain types of hazardous waste. These landfills must also comply with specialized operating standards. Only hazardous waste in a stable, solid form, which meets regulatory requirements, can be deposited in our secure disposal cells. In some cases, hazardous waste can be treated before disposal. Generally, these treatments involve the separation or removal of solid materials from liquids and chemical treatments that transform waste into inert materials that are no longer hazardous. Our hazardous waste landfills are sited, constructed and operated in a manner designed to provide long-term containment of waste. We also operate a hazardous waste facility at which we isolate treated hazardous waste in liquid form by injection into deep wells that have been drilled in certain acceptable geologic formations far below the base of fresh water to a point that is safely separated by other substantial geological confining layers.

Transfer. At December 31, 2014, we owned or operated 298 transfer stations in North America. We deposit waste at these stations, as do other waste haulers. The solid waste is then consolidated and compacted to reduce the volume and increase the density of the waste and transported by transfer trucks or by rail to disposal sites.

Access to transfer stations is critical to haulers who collect waste in areas not in close proximity to disposal facilities. Fees charged to third parties at transfer stations are usually based on the type and volume or weight of

 

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the waste deposited at the transfer station, the distance to the disposal site, market rates for disposal costs and other general market factors.

The utilization of our transfer stations by our own collection operations improves internalization by allowing us to retain fees that we would otherwise pay to third parties for the disposal of the waste we collect. It enables us to manage costs associated with waste disposal because (i) transfer trucks, railcars or rail containers have larger capacities than collection trucks, allowing us to deliver more waste to the disposal facility in each trip; (ii) waste is accumulated and compacted at transfer stations that are strategically located to increase the efficiency of our network of operations and (iii) we can retain the volume by managing the transfer of the waste to one of our own disposal sites.

The transfer stations that we operate but do not own generally are operated through lease agreements under which we lease property from third parties. There are some instances where transfer stations are operated under contract, generally for municipalities. In most cases we own the permits and will be responsible for any regulatory requirements relating to the operation and closure of the transfer station.

Wheelabrator. On December 19, 2014, we sold our Wheelabrator business to an affiliate of Energy Capital Partners and received cash proceeds of $1.95 billion, net of cash divested, subject to certain post-closing adjustments. We recognized a gain of $519 million on this sale which is included within “(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments (other than goodwill) and unusual items” in the Consolidated Statement of Operations. In conjunction with the sale, the Company entered into several agreements to dispose of a minimum number of tons of waste at certain Wheelabrator facilities. These agreements generally provide for fixed volume commitments, with certain market price resets, for up to seven years.

Wheelabrator provides waste-to-energy services and manages waste-to-energy facilities and independent power production plants. Wheelabrator owns or operates 16 waste-to-energy facilities and four independent power production plants. Prior to the sale, our Wheelabrator business constituted a reportable segment, as discussed in Note 21 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. We concluded that the sale of our Wheelabrator business did not qualify for discontinued operations accounting under current authoritative guidance based on our significant continuing obligations under the long-term waste supply agreements referred to above and in Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Recycling. Our recycling operations provide communities and businesses with an alternative to traditional landfill disposal and support our strategic goals to extract more value from the materials we manage. In 2001, we became the first major solid waste company to focus on residential single-stream recycling, which allows customers to mix recyclable paper, plastic and glass in one bin. Residential single-stream programs have greatly increased the recycling rates. Single-stream recycling is possible through the use of various mechanized screens and optical sorting technologies. We have also been advancing the single-stream recycling programs for commercial applications. Recycling involves the separation of reusable materials from the waste stream for processing and resale or other disposition. Our recycling operations include the following:

Materials processing — Through our collection operations, we collect recyclable materials from residential, commercial and industrial customers and direct these materials to one of our MRFs for processing. We operate 126 MRFs where paper, cardboard, metals, plastics, glass, construction and demolition materials and other recyclable commodities are recovered for resale.

Plastics materials recycling — Using state-of-the-art sorting and processing technology, we process, inventory and sell plastic commodities making the recycling of such items more cost effective and convenient.

Commodities recycling — We market and resell recyclable commodities to customers world-wide. We manage the marketing of recyclable commodities that are processed in our facilities by maintaining comprehensive service centers that continuously analyze market prices, logistics, market demands and product quality.

 

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Recycling brokerage services — We also provide recycling brokerage services, which involve managing the marketing of recyclable materials for third parties. The experience of our recycling operations in managing recyclable commodities for our own operations gives us the expertise needed to effectively manage volumes for third parties. Utilizing the resources and knowledge of our recycling operations’ service centers, we can assist customers in marketing and selling their recyclable commodities with minimal capital requirements. We also provide electronics recycling. We recycle discarded computers, communications equipment, and other electronic equipment. Services include the collection, sorting and disassembling of electronics in an effort to reuse or recycle all collected materials. In recent years, we have teamed with major electronics manufacturers to offer comprehensive “take-back” programs of their products to assist the general public in disposing of their old electronics in a convenient and environmentally safe manner.

Some of the recyclable materials processed in our MRFs are purchased from various sources, including third parties and our own operations. The price we pay for recyclable materials is often referred to as a “rebate.” Rebates generally are based upon the price we receive for sales of processed goods, market conditions and transportation costs, but in some cases are based on fixed contractual rates or on defined minimum per-ton rates. As a result, changes in commodity prices for recycled materials also significantly affect the rebates we pay to our suppliers, which are recorded as “Operating expenses” within our Consolidated Statements of Operations. In recent years, we have been focused on revising our rebate structures to ensure that we cover our cost of handling and processing the materials and generate an acceptable margin on the materials we process and sell.

Other. Other services we provide include the following:

Although many waste management services such as collection and disposal are local services, our strategic accounts program, which is managed by our Strategic Business Solutions organization, works with customers whose locations span the United States. Our strategic accounts program provides centralized customer service, billing and management of accounts to streamline the administration of customers’ multiple and nationwide locations’ waste management needs.

Our Energy and Environmental Services organization offers our customers in all Areas a variety of services in collaboration with our Area and strategic accounts programs, including (i) construction and remediation services; (ii) services associated with the disposal of fly ash, residue generated from the combustion of coal and other fuel stocks; (iii) in-plant services, where our employees work full-time inside our customers’ facilities to provide full-service waste management solutions and consulting services; this service is managed through our Energy and Environmental Services organization but reflected principally in our collection business and (iv) specialized disposal services for oil and gas exploration and production operations; revenues for this service are also reflected principally in our collection business. Our vertically integrated waste management operations enable us to provide customers with full management of their waste. The breadth of our service offerings and the familiarity we have with waste management practices gives us the unique ability to assist customers in minimizing the amount of waste they generate, identifying recycling opportunities, determining the most efficient means available for waste collection and disposal and ensuring that disposal is achieved in a manner that is both reflective of the current regulatory environment and environmentally friendly.

We develop, operate and promote projects for the beneficial use of landfill gas through our WM Renewable Energy Program. Landfill gas is produced naturally as waste decomposes in a landfill. The methane component of the landfill gas is a readily available, renewable energy source that can be gathered and used beneficially as an alternative to fossil fuel. The EPA endorses landfill gas as a renewable energy resource, in the same category as wind, solar and geothermal resources. At December 31, 2014, we had 134 landfill gas beneficial use projects producing commercial quantities of methane gas at 123 of our solid waste landfills and four third-party landfills. At 107 of these landfills, the processed gas is used to fuel electricity generators. The electricity is then sold to public utilities, municipal utilities or power cooperatives. At 16 landfills, the gas is used at the landfill or delivered by pipeline to industrial customers as a direct substitute for fossil fuels in industrial processes. At

 

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10 landfills, the landfill gas is processed to pipeline-quality natural gas and then sold to natural gas suppliers. At one landfill, the gas is processed into liquefied natural gas and used as vehicle fuel.

We continue to invest in businesses and technologies that are designed to offer services and solutions ancillary or supplementary to our current operations. These investments include joint ventures, acquisitions and partial ownership interests. The solutions and services include the collection of project waste, including construction debris and household or yard waste, through our Bagster® program; the development, operation and marketing of plasma gasification facilities; operation of a landfill gas-to-liquid natural gas plant; solar powered trash compactors; and organic waste-to-fuel conversion technology. We also offer portable self-storage services through a joint venture; fluorescent bulb and universal waste mail-back through our LampTracker® program; portable restroom servicing under the name Port-o-Let®; and street and parking lot sweeping services. In addition, we hold interests in oil and gas producing properties.

Competition

We encounter intense competition from governmental, quasi-governmental and private sources in all aspects of our operations. In North America, the industry consists primarily of two national waste management companies and regional and local companies of varying sizes and financial resources, including companies that specialize in certain discrete areas of waste management, operators of alternative disposal facilities and companies that seek to use parts of the waste stream as feedstock for renewable energy and other by-products. Some of our regional competitors can be significant competitors in local markets and are pursuing aggressive regional growth strategies. We compete with these companies as well as with counties and municipalities that maintain their own waste collection and disposal operations.

Operating costs, disposal costs and collection fees vary widely throughout the areas in which we operate. The prices that we charge are determined locally, and typically vary by volume and weight, type of waste collected, treatment requirements, risk of handling or disposal, frequency of collections, distance to final disposal sites, the availability of airspace within the geographic region, labor costs and amount and type of equipment furnished to the customer. We face intense competition in our Solid Waste business based on pricing and quality of service. We have also begun competing for business based on breadth of service offerings. As companies, individuals and communities look for ways to be more sustainable, we are investing in greener technologies and promoting our comprehensive services that go beyond our core business of collecting and disposing of waste.

Seasonal Trends

Our operating revenues tend to be somewhat higher in summer months, primarily due to the higher volume of construction and demolition waste. The volumes of industrial and residential waste in certain regions where we operate also tend to increase during the summer months. Our second and third quarter revenues and results of operations typically reflect these seasonal trends. Through 2014, the operating results of our first quarter also often reflected higher repair and maintenance expenses because, prior to the sale of our Wheelabrator business, we relied on the slower winter months, when waste flows are generally lower, to perform scheduled maintenance at our waste-to-energy facilities.

Service disruptions caused by severe storms, extended periods of inclement weather or climate extremes can significantly affect the operating results of the affected Areas. On the other hand, certain destructive weather conditions that tend to occur during the second half of the year, such as the hurricanes that most often impact our operations in the Southern and Eastern U.S., can actually increase our revenues in the areas affected. While weather-related and other “one-time” occurrences can boost revenues through additional work for a limited time span, as a result of significant start-up costs and other factors, such revenue sometimes generates earnings at comparatively lower margins.

 

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Employees

At December 31, 2014, we had approximately 39,800 full-time employees, of which approximately 7,000 were employed in administrative and sales positions and the balance in operations. Approximately 8,500 of our employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Financial Assurance and Insurance Obligations

Financial Assurance

Municipal and governmental waste service contracts generally require contracting parties to demonstrate financial responsibility for their obligations under the contract. Financial assurance is also a requirement for (i) obtaining or retaining disposal site or transfer station operating permits; (ii) supporting variable-rate tax-exempt debt and (iii) estimated final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remedial obligations at many of our landfills. We establish financial assurance using surety bonds, letters of credit, insurance policies, trust and escrow agreements and financial guarantees. The type of assurance used is based on several factors, most importantly: the jurisdiction, contractual requirements, market factors and availability of credit capacity.

Surety bonds and insurance policies are supported by (i) a diverse group of third-party surety and insurance companies; (ii) an entity in which we have a noncontrolling financial interest or (iii) wholly-owned insurance subsidiary, National Guaranty Insurance Company of Vermont, the sole business of which is to issue surety bonds and/or insurance policies on our behalf. Letters of credit generally are supported by our $2.25 billion revolving credit facility and other credit facilities established for that purpose.

Insurance

We carry a broad range of insurance coverages, including general liability, automobile liability, real and personal property, workers’ compensation, directors’ and officers’ liability, pollution legal liability, business interruption and other coverages we believe are customary to the industry. Our exposure to loss for insurance claims is generally limited to the per-incident deductible under the related insurance policy. As of December 31, 2014, our commercial General Liability Insurance Policy carried self-insurance exposures of up to $2.5 million per incident and our workers’ compensation insurance program carried self-insurance exposures of up to $5 million per incident. As of December 31, 2014, our auto liability insurance program included a per-incident base deductible of $5 million, subject to additional deductibles of $4.8 million in the $5 million to $10 million layer. We do not expect the impact of any known casualty, property, environmental or other contingency to have a material impact on our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows. Our estimated insurance liabilities as of December 31, 2014 are summarized in Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

The Directors’ and Officers’ Liability Insurance policy we choose to maintain covers only individual executive liability, often referred to as “Broad Form Side A,” and does not provide corporate reimbursement coverage, often referred to as “Side B.” The Side A policy covers directors and officers directly for loss, including defense costs, when corporate indemnification is unavailable. Side A-only coverage cannot be exhausted by payments to the Company, as the Company is not insured for any money it advances for defense costs or pays as indemnity to the insured directors and officers.

Regulation

Our business is subject to extensive and evolving federal, state or provincial and local environmental, health, safety and transportation laws and regulations. These laws and regulations are administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), Environment Canada, and various other federal, state, provincial and local environmental, zoning, transportation, land use, health and safety agencies in the United States and Canada. Many of these agencies regularly examine our operations to monitor compliance with these laws and regulations and have the power to enforce compliance, obtain injunctions or impose civil or criminal penalties in case of

 

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violations. In recent years, we have perceived an increase in both the amount of government regulation and the number of enforcement actions being brought by regulatory entities against operations in the waste services industry. We expect this heightened governmental focus on regulation and enforcement to continue.

Because the primary mission of our business is to collect and manage solid waste in an environmentally sound manner, a significant amount of our capital expenditures are related, either directly or indirectly, to environmental protection measures, including compliance with federal, state or provincial and local rules. There are costs associated with siting, design, permitting, operations, monitoring, site maintenance, corrective actions, financial assurance, and facility closure and post-closure obligations. In connection with our acquisition, development or expansion of a management or disposal facility or transfer station, we must often spend considerable time, effort and money to obtain or maintain required permits and approvals. There are no assurances that we will be able to obtain or maintain required governmental approvals. Once obtained, operating permits are subject to renewal, modification, suspension or revocation by the issuing agency. Compliance with current regulations and future requirements could require us to make significant capital and operating expenditures. However, most of these expenditures are made in the normal course of business and do not place us at any competitive disadvantage.

The primary United States federal statutes affecting our business are summarized below:

 

    The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (“RCRA”), as amended, regulates handling, transporting and disposing of hazardous and non-hazardous waste and delegates authority to states to develop programs to ensure the safe disposal of solid waste. In 1991, the EPA issued its final regulations under Subtitle D of RCRA, which set forth minimum federal performance and design criteria for solid waste landfills. These regulations are typically implemented by the states, although states can impose requirements that are more stringent than the Subtitle D standards. We incur costs in complying with these standards in the ordinary course of our operations.

 

    The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, as amended, (“CERCLA”) which is also known as Superfund, provides for federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances into the environment that have created actual or potential environmental hazards. CERCLA’s primary means for addressing such releases is to impose strict liability for cleanup of disposal sites upon current and former site owners and operators, generators of the hazardous substances at the site and transporters who selected the disposal site and transported substances thereto. Liability under CERCLA is not dependent on the intentional release of hazardous substances; it can be based upon the release or threatened release, even as a result of lawful, unintentional and non-negligent action, of hazardous substances as the term is defined by CERCLA and other applicable statutes and regulations. The EPA may issue orders requiring responsible parties to perform response actions at sites, or the EPA may seek recovery of funds expended or to be expended in the future at sites. Liability may include contribution for cleanup costs incurred by a defendant in a CERCLA civil action or by an entity that has previously resolved its liability to federal or state regulators in an administrative or judicially-approved settlement. Liability under CERCLA could also include obligations to a potentially responsible party, or PRP, that voluntarily expends site clean-up costs. Further, liability for damage to publicly-owned natural resources may also be imposed. We are subject to potential liability under CERCLA as an owner or operator of facilities at which hazardous substances have been disposed and as a generator or transporter of hazardous substances disposed of at other locations.

 

   

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, as amended, known as the Clean Water Act, regulates the discharge of pollutants into streams, rivers, groundwater, or other surface waters from a variety of sources, including solid and hazardous waste disposal sites. If run-off from our operations may be discharged into surface waters, the Clean Water Act requires us to apply for and obtain discharge permits, conduct sampling and monitoring, and, under certain circumstances, reduce the quantity of pollutants in those discharges. In 1990, the EPA issued additional standards for management of storm water runoff that require landfills and other waste-handling facilities to obtain

 

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storm water discharge permits. In addition, if a landfill or other facility discharges wastewater through a sewage system to a publicly-owned treatment works, the facility must comply with discharge limits imposed by the treatment works. Also, before the development or expansion of a landfill can alter or affect “wetlands,” a permit may have to be obtained providing for mitigation or replacement wetlands. The Clean Water Act provides for civil, criminal and administrative penalties for violations of its provisions.

 

    The Clean Air Act of 1970, as amended, provides for increased federal, state and local regulation of the emission of air pollutants. Certain of our operations are subject to the requirements of the Clean Air Act, including large municipal solid waste landfills and landfill gas-to-energy facilities. In 1996 the EPA issued new source performance standards (“NSPS”) and emission guidelines (“EG”) controlling landfill gases from new and existing large landfills. In January 2003, the EPA issued Maximum Achievable Control Technology (“MACT”) standards for municipal solid waste landfills subject to the NSPS. These regulations impose limits on air emissions from large municipal solid waste landfills, subject most of our large municipal solid waste landfills to certain operating permit requirements under Title V of the Clean Air Act and, in many instances, require installation of landfill gas collection and control systems to control emissions or to treat and utilize landfill gas on- or off-site. The EPA entered into a settlement agreement with the Environmental Defense Fund to evaluate the 1996 NSPS for new landfills as required by the Clean Air Act every eight years and revise them if deemed necessary. The EPA published a proposed NSPS rule July 17, 2014 and plans to finalize this rule by March 31, 2015. Where we identified potential for increased capital and operating expenses, we provided formal comment and technical support to the EPA to minimize the impact to our operations. We expect the EPA will address our comments in the final rule. Where the EPA does not address our comments in the final rule, we will re-assess the capital and operating cost impact to our operations. The EPA also plans to propose an EG rule for existing landfills by March 31, 2015 and finalize this rule by March 2016. Should the EPA adopt more stringent requirements, capital expenditures and operating costs may increase. However, we do not believe that the regulatory changes would have a material adverse impact on our business as a whole.

 

       Additionally, emission and fuel economy standards have been imposed on manufacturers of transportation vehicles (including waste collection vehicles). The EPA continues to evaluate and develop regulations to increase fuel economy standards and reduce vehicle emissions; such regulations could increase the costs of operating our fleet, but we do not believe any such regulations would have a material adverse impact on our business as a whole.

 

    The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, as amended, (“OSHA”) establishes certain employer responsibilities, including maintenance of a workplace free of recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious injury, compliance with standards promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and various reporting and record keeping obligations as well as disclosure and procedural requirements. Various standards for notices of hazards, safety in excavation and demolition work and the handling of asbestos, may apply to our operations. The Department of Transportation and OSHA, along with other federal agencies, have jurisdiction over certain aspects of hazardous materials and hazardous waste, including safety, movement and disposal. Various state and local agencies with jurisdiction over disposal of hazardous waste may seek to regulate movement of hazardous materials in areas not otherwise preempted by federal law.

We are also actively monitoring the following recent developments in United States federal regulations affecting our business:

 

    In 2010, the EPA issued the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (“PSD”) and Title V Greenhouse Gas (“GHG”) Tailoring Rule, which expanded the EPA’s federal air permitting authority to include the six GHGs, including methane and carbon dioxide. The rule sets new thresholds for GHG emissions that define when Clean Air Act permits are required. The requirements of these rules have not significantly affected our operations or cash flows, due to the tailored thresholds and exclusions of certain emissions from regulation.

 

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       In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that significantly limited the applicability and scope of EPA permitting requirements for GHGs from stationary sources, concluding that: the EPA may not treat GHGs as an air pollutant for purposes of determining whether a source is required to obtain a PSD or Title V permit; and the EPA can continue to require that PSD permits otherwise required based on emissions of conventional pollutants contain limitations on GHG emissions based on Best Available Control Technology (“BACT”). Following this ruling, the EPA issued a policy memorandum advising that it intends to propose exempting biogenic carbon dioxide emissions from waste-derived feedstocks (municipal solid waste and landfill gas) from PSD and Title V air permitting. The EPA anticipates basing this proposal on the rationale that those emissions are likely to have minimal or no net atmospheric contributions, or even reduce such impacts, when compared to an alternate method of disposal. As a result of this U.S. Supreme Court ruling and EPA policy action, the potential impact of the PSD and Title V GHG Tailoring Rule on our air permits, compliance and results of operations is significantly reduced.

 

       Other recent final and proposed rules to increase the stringency of certain National Ambient Air Quality Standards, such as the Ozone rule proposed in December 2014, and related PSD increment/significance thresholds could affect the cost, timeliness and availability of air permits for new and modified large municipal solid waste landfills and landfill gas-to-energy facilities. In general, controlling emissions involves installing collection wells in a landfill and routing the gas to a suitable energy recovery system or combustion device. At December 31, 2014, we had 134 projects at solid waste landfills where landfill gas was captured and utilized for its renewable energy value rather than flared. Efforts to curtail the emission of GHGs and to ameliorate the effect of climate change may require our landfills to deploy more stringent emission controls, with associated capital or operating costs; however, we do not believe that such regulations will have a material adverse impact on our business as a whole. See Item 1A. Risk Factors — “The adoption of climate change legislation or regulations restricting emissions of “greenhouse gases” could increase our costs to operate.”

 

       The EPA recently clarified in its November 2014 policy memorandum that states may rely on waste-derived biogenic feedstocks in their future proposed compliance plans required by the proposed Clean Power Plan rules. This recognition by the EPA may create new or expanded opportunities for renewable energy projects.

 

       We are taking steps to anticipate the future needs of our customers which include investing in and developing ever-more-advanced recycling and reuse technologies. Potential climate change and GHG regulatory initiatives have influenced our business strategy to provide low-carbon services to our customers, and we increasingly view our ability to offer lower carbon services as a key component of our business growth. If the U.S. were to impose a carbon tax or other form of GHG regulation increasing demand for low-carbon service offerings in the future, the services we are developing will be increasingly valuable.

 

    In 2011, the EPA published the Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials (“NHSM”) Rule, which provides the standards and procedures for identifying whether NHSM are solid waste under RCRA when used as fuels or ingredients in combustion units. The EPA also published new source performance standards and emission guidelines for commercial and industrial solid waste incineration units, and Maximum Achievable Control Technology Standards for commercial and industrial boilers. The EPA published clarifications and amendments to these rules in 2013, and there is litigation surrounding the rules. Although the recently published amendments are generally favorable to our industry, some of the potential regulatory interpretations are undergoing review and other regulatory outcomes may be dependent on case-by-case administrative determinations. These could have a significant impact on some of our projects in which we are seeking to convert biomass or other secondary materials into products, fuels or energy. Therefore, it is not possible to quantify the financial impact of these rulemakings or pending administrative determinations at the present time. However, we believe the rules and administrative determinations will not have a material adverse impact on our business as a whole and are more likely to facilitate our efforts to reuse or recover energy value from secondary material streams.

 

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    In December 2014, the EPA issued a final rule regulating the disposal and beneficial use of coal combustion residuals (“CCR”). The regulations encourage beneficial use of CCR in encapsulated uses (e.g., used in cement or wallboard), and use according to established industry standards (e.g., application of sludge for agricultural enrichment). The EPA also deemed disposal and beneficial use of CCR at permitted municipal solid waste landfills exempt from the new regulations because the RCRA Subtitle D standards applicable at municipal solid waste landfills provide at least equivalent protection. The new standards are consistent with our approach to handling CCR at our sites currently, and we believe the new standards will provide a potential growth opportunity for the Company. States may impose standards more stringent than the federal program, and we will be monitoring state implementation to determine impact.

State, Provincial and Local Regulations

There are also various state or provincial and local regulations that affect our operations. Each state and province in which we operate has its own laws and regulations governing solid waste disposal, water and air pollution, and, in most cases, releases and cleanup of hazardous substances and liabilities for such matters. States and provinces have also adopted regulations governing the design, operation, maintenance and closure of landfills and transfer stations. Some counties, municipalities and other local governments have adopted similar laws and regulations. Our facilities and operations are likely to be subject to these types of requirements.

Our landfill operations are affected by the increasing preference for alternatives to landfill disposal. Several state and local governments mandate recycling and waste reduction at the source and prohibit the disposal of certain types of waste, such as yard and food waste, at landfills. The number of cities with food waste recycling requirements and disposal bans continues to grow, while the logistics and economics of food waste recycling remain challenging.

Various states have enacted, or are considering enacting, laws that restrict the disposal within the state of solid waste generated outside the state. While laws that overtly discriminate against out-of-state waste have been found to be unconstitutional, some laws that are less overtly discriminatory have been upheld in court. From time to time, the United States Congress has considered legislation authorizing states to adopt regulations, restrictions, or taxes on the importation of out-of-state or out-of-jurisdiction waste. Additionally, several state and local governments have enacted “flow control” regulations, which attempt to require that all waste generated within the state or local jurisdiction be deposited at specific sites. In 1994, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a flow control ordinance that gave preference to a local facility that was privately owned was unconstitutional, but in 2007, the Court ruled that an ordinance directing waste to a facility owned by the local government was constitutional. The United States Congress’ adoption of legislation allowing restrictions on interstate transportation of out-of-state or out-of-jurisdiction waste or certain types of flow control, or courts’ interpretations of interstate waste and flow control legislation, could adversely affect our solid and hazardous waste management services.

Additionally, regulations establishing extended producer responsibility (“EPR”) are being considered or implemented in many places around the world, including in Canada and the U.S. EPR regulations are designed to place either partial or total responsibility on producers to fund the post-use life cycle of the products they create. Along with the funding responsibility, producers may be required to take over management of local recycling programs by taking back their products from end users or managing the collection operations and recycling processing infrastructure. There is no federal law establishing EPR in the U.S. or Canada; however, state, provincial and local governments could, and in some cases have, taken steps to implement EPR regulations. If wide-ranging EPR regulations were adopted, they could have a fundamental impact on the waste, recycling and other streams we manage and how we operate our business, including contract terms and pricing.

Many states, provinces and local jurisdictions have enacted “fitness” laws that allow the agencies that have jurisdiction over waste services contracts or permits to deny or revoke these contracts or permits based on the

 

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applicant’s or permit holder’s compliance history. Some states, provinces and local jurisdictions go further and consider the compliance history of the parent, subsidiaries or affiliated companies, in addition to the applicant or permit holder. These laws authorize the agencies to make determinations of an applicant’s or permit holder’s fitness to be awarded a contract to operate, and to deny or revoke a contract or permit because of unfitness, unless there is a showing that the applicant or permit holder has been rehabilitated through the adoption of various operating policies and procedures put in place to assure future compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Foreign Import Regulation

Enforcement or implementation of foreign regulations can affect our ability to export products. In 2013, the Chinese government began to strictly enforce regulations that establish limits on moisture and non-conforming materials that may be contained in imported recycled paper and plastics as well as restricting the import of certain other plastic recyclables. The higher quality expectations resulting from initiatives such as “Operation Green Fence” can drive up operating costs in the recycling industry, particularly for single stream MRFs. Single stream MRFs process a wide range of commingled materials and tend to receive a higher percentage of non-recyclables, which results in increased processing and residual disposal costs. Despite these increased costs, we believe we are well positioned among our potential competitors to respond to and comply with such regulations. We are revising our service agreements to address these increased costs and are working with stakeholders to educate the general public on the need to recycle properly.

Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation

Our Energy Services line of business provides specialized environmental management and disposal services for oil and gas exploration and production operations. Recently, there has been increased attention from the public, some states and the EPA on the alleged potential for hydraulic fracturing to impact drinking water supplies. There is also heightened regulatory focus on emissions of methane that occur during drilling and transportation of natural gas, as well as protective disposal of drilling residuals. Increased regulation of hydraulic fracturing and new rules regarding the treatment and disposal of wastes associated with exploration and production operations could increase our costs to provide oilfield services and reduce our margins and revenue from such services. On the other hand, we believe the size, capital structure, regulatory sophistication and established reliability of our Company provide us with an advantage in providing services that must comply with any complex regulatory regime that may govern providing oilfield waste services.

Emissions from Natural Gas Fueling and Infrastructure

We currently operate the largest compressed natural gas (“CNG”) fleet in the waste industry, and we plan to continue to transition a significant portion of our collection fleet from diesel fuel to CNG. We have constructed and operate 72 natural gas fueling stations, 25 of which also serve the public or pre-approved third parties, in 28 states and three Canadian provinces. Concerns have been raised about the potential for emissions from the fueling stations and infrastructure that serve natural gas-fueled vehicles. We have partnered with the environmental organization Environmental Defense Fund, as well as other heavy-duty equipment users and experts, on an emissions study to be made available to policy makers. We anticipate that this comprehensive study of emissions from our heavy-duty fleet may ultimately result in regulations that will affect equipment manufacturers and will define operating procedures across the industry. Additional regulation of, or restrictions on, CNG fueling infrastructure or reductions in associated tax incentives could increase our operating costs. We are not yet able to evaluate potential operating changes or costs associated with such regulations, but we do not anticipate that such regulations would have a material adverse impact on our business or our current plan to continue transitioning to CNG vehicles.

 

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Federal, State and Local Climate Change Initiatives

In light of regulatory and business developments related to concerns about climate change, we have identified a strategic business opportunity to provide our public and private sector customers with sustainable solutions to reduce their GHG emissions. As part of our on-going marketing evaluations, we assess customer demand for and opportunities to develop waste services offering verifiable carbon reductions, such as waste reduction, increased recycling, and conversion of landfill gas and discarded materials into electricity and fuel. We use carbon life cycle tools in evaluating potential new services and in establishing the value proposition that makes us attractive as an environmental service provider. We are active in support of public policies that encourage development and use of lower carbon energy and waste services that lower users’ carbon footprints. We understand the importance of broad stakeholder engagement in these endeavors, and actively seek opportunities for public policy discussion on more sustainable materials management practices. In addition, we work with stakeholders at the federal and state level in support of legislation that encourages production and use of renewable, low-carbon fuels and electricity.

We continue to assess the physical risks to company operations from the effects of severe weather events and use risk mitigation planning to increase our resiliency in the face of such events. We are investing in infrastructure to withstand more severe storm events, which may afford us a competitive advantage and reinforce our reputation as a reliable service provider through continued service in the aftermath of such events.

Item 1A. Risk Factors.

In an effort to keep our stockholders and the public informed about our business, we may make “forward-looking statements.” Forward-looking statements usually relate to future events and anticipated revenues, earnings, cash flows or other aspects of our operations or operating results. Forward-looking statements are often identified by the words, “will,” “may,” “should,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “expect,” “plan,” “forecast,” “project,” “estimate,” “intend” and words of a similar nature and generally include statements containing:

 

    projections about accounting and finances;

 

    plans and objectives for the future;

 

    projections or estimates about assumptions relating to our performance; or

 

    our opinions, views or beliefs about the effects of current or future events, circumstances or performance.

You should view these statements with caution. These statements are not guarantees of future performance, circumstances or events. They are based on facts and circumstances known to us as of the date the statements are made. All aspects of our business are subject to uncertainties, risks and other influences, many of which we do not control. Any of these factors, either alone or taken together, could have a material adverse effect on us and could change whether any forward-looking statement ultimately turns out to be true. Additionally, we assume no obligation to update any forward-looking statement as a result of future events, circumstances or developments. The following discussion should be read together with the Consolidated Financial Statements and the notes thereto. Outlined below are some of the risks that we believe could affect our business and financial statements for 2015 and beyond and that could cause actual results to be materially different from those that may be set forth in forward-looking statements made by the Company.

The waste industry is highly competitive, and if we cannot successfully compete in the marketplace, our business, financial condition and operating results may be materially adversely affected.

We encounter intense competition from governmental, quasi-governmental and private sources in all aspects of our operations. In North America, the industry consists primarily of two national waste management companies and regional and local companies of varying sizes and financial resources, including companies that

 

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specialize in certain discrete areas of waste management, operators of alternative disposal facilities and companies that seek to use parts of the waste stream as feedstock for renewable energy and other by-products. Some of our regional competitors can be significant competitors in local markets and are pursuing aggressive regional growth strategies. We compete with these companies as well as with counties and municipalities that maintain their own waste collection and disposal operations. These counties and municipalities may have financial competitive advantages because tax revenues are available to them and tax-exempt financing is more readily available to them. Also, such governmental units may attempt to impose flow control or other restrictions that would give them a competitive advantage. In addition, some of our competitors may have lower financial expectations, allowing them to reduce their prices to expand sales volume or to win competitively-bid contracts, including large national accounts and exclusive franchise arrangements with municipalities. When this happens, we may lose customers and be unable to execute our pricing strategy, resulting in a negative impact to our revenue growth from yield on base business.

If we fail to implement our business strategy, our financial performance and our growth could be materially and adversely affected.

Our future financial performance and success are dependent in large part upon our ability to implement our business strategy successfully. Implementation of our strategy will require effective management of our operational, financial and human resources and will place significant demands on those resources. See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Overview for more information on our business strategy.

There are risks involved in pursuing our strategy, including the following:

 

    Our employees, customers or investors may not embrace and support our strategy.

 

    We may not be able to hire or retain the personnel necessary to manage our strategy effectively.

 

    In efforts to enhance our revenues, we have implemented price increases and environmental fees, and we have continued our fuel surcharge program to offset fuel costs. The loss of volumes as a result of price increases may negatively affect our cash flows or results of operations.

 

    We may be unsuccessful in implementing improvements to operational efficiency and such efforts may not yield the intended result.

 

    Our restructuring may not achieve and/or maintain the goals and cost savings intended.

 

    Strategic decisions with respect to our asset portfolio may result in impairments to our assets. See Item 1A. Risk Factors — We may record material charges against earnings due to any number of events that could cause impairments to our assets.

 

    Our ability to make strategic acquisitions depends on our ability to identify desirable acquisition targets, negotiate advantageous transactions despite competition for such opportunities, fund such acquisitions on favorable terms, and realize the benefits we expect from those transactions.

 

    Acquisitions, investments and/or new service offerings may not increase our earnings in the timeframe anticipated, or at all, due to difficulties operating in new markets or providing new service offerings, failure of emerging technologies to perform as expected, failure to operate within budget, integration issues, or regulatory issues, among others.

 

    Integration of acquisitions and/or new services offerings could increase our exposure to the risk of inadvertent noncompliance with applicable laws and regulations.

 

    Execution of our strategy, particularly growth through acquisitions, may cause us to incur substantial additional indebtedness, which may divert capital away from our traditional business operations and other financial plans.

 

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    We continue to seek to divest underperforming and non-strategic assets if we cannot improve their profitability. We may not be able to successfully negotiate the divestiture of underperforming and non-strategic operations, which could result in asset impairments or the continued operation of low-margin businesses.

In addition to the risks set forth above, implementation of our business strategy could also be affected by a number of factors beyond our control, such as increased competition, legal developments, government regulation, general economic conditions, increased operating costs or expenses and changes in industry trends. We may decide to alter or discontinue certain aspects of our business strategy at any time. If we are not able to implement our business strategy successfully, our long-term growth and profitability may be adversely affected. Even if we are able to implement some or all of the initiatives of our business strategy successfully, our operating results may not improve to the extent we anticipate, or at all.

Compliance with existing or future regulations and/or enforcement of such regulations may restrict or change our operations, increase our operating costs or require us to make additional capital expenditures.

Stringent government regulations at the federal, state, provincial, and local level in the United States and Canada have a substantial impact on our business, and compliance with such regulations is costly. A large number of complex laws, rules, orders and interpretations govern environmental protection, health, safety, land use, zoning, transportation and related matters. In recent years, we have perceived an increase in both the amount of government regulation and the number of enforcement actions being brought by regulatory entities against operations in the waste services industry. We expect this heightened governmental focus on regulation and enforcement to continue. Among other things, governmental regulations and enforcement actions may restrict our operations and adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows by imposing conditions such as:

 

    limitations on siting and constructing new waste disposal, transfer, recycling or processing facilities or on expanding existing facilities;

 

    limitations, regulations or levies on collection and disposal prices, rates and volumes;

 

    limitations or bans on disposal or transportation of out-of-state waste or certain categories of waste;

 

    mandates regarding the management of solid waste, including requirements to recycle, divert or otherwise process certain waste, recycling and other streams; or

 

    limitations or restrictions on the recycling, processing or transformation of waste, recycling and other streams.

Regulations affecting the siting, design and closure of landfills could require us to undertake investigatory or remedial activities, curtail operations or close landfills temporarily or permanently. Future changes in these regulations may require us to modify, supplement or replace equipment or facilities. The costs of complying with these regulations could be substantial.

In order to develop, expand or operate a landfill or other waste management facility, we must have various facility permits and other governmental approvals, including those relating to zoning, environmental protection and land use. The permits and approvals are often difficult, time consuming and costly to obtain and could contain conditions that limit our operations.

We also have significant financial obligations relating to final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation at our existing landfills. We establish accruals for these estimated costs, but we could underestimate such accruals. Environmental regulatory changes could accelerate or increase capping, closure, post-closure and remediation costs, requiring our expenditures to materially exceed our current accruals.

 

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Various states have enacted, or are considering enacting, laws that restrict the disposal within the state of solid waste generated outside the state. From time to time, the United States Congress has considered legislation authorizing states to adopt regulations, restrictions, or taxes on the importation of out-of-state or out-of-jurisdiction waste. Additionally, several state and local governments have enacted “flow control” regulations, which attempt to require that all waste generated within the state or local jurisdiction be deposited at specific sites. The United States Congress’ adoption of legislation allowing restrictions on interstate transportation of out-of-state or out-of-jurisdiction waste certain types of flow control, or courts’ interpretations of interstate waste and flow control legislation, could adversely affect our solid and hazardous waste management services.

Additionally, regulations establishing extended producer responsibility, or EPR, are being considered or implemented in many places around the world, including in Canada and the U.S. EPR regulations are designed to place either partial or total responsibility on producers to fund the post-use life cycle of the products they create. Along with the funding responsibility, producers may be required to take over management of local recycling programs by taking back their products from end users or managing the collection operations and recycling processing infrastructure. There is no federal law establishing EPR in the U.S. or Canada; however, state, provincial and local governments could, and in some cases have, taken steps to implement EPR regulations. If wide-ranging EPR regulations were adopted, they could have a fundamental impact on the waste streams we manage and how we operate our business, including contract terms and pricing. A significant reduction in the waste, recycling and other streams we manage could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

Enforcement or implementation of foreign regulations can affect our ability to export products. In 2013, the Chinese government began to strictly enforce regulations that establish limits on moisture and non-conforming materials that may be contained in imported recycled paper and plastics. The higher quality expectations resulting from initiatives such as “Operation Green Fence” can drive up operating costs in the recycling industry, particularly for single stream MRFs. Single stream MRFs process a wide range of commingled materials and tend to receive a higher percentage of non-recyclables, which results in increased processing and residual disposal costs. If Operation Green Fence or other similar initiatives or new regulations increase our operating costs in the future, and we are not able to recapture those costs from our customers, such regulations could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.

Our revenues, earnings and cash flows will fluctuate based on changes in commodity prices.

Our recycling operations process for sale certain recyclable materials, including fibers, aluminum and glass, all of which are subject to significant market price fluctuations. The majority of the recyclables that we process for sale are paper fibers, including old corrugated cardboard and old newsprint. The fluctuations in the market prices or demand for these commodities, particularly demand from Chinese paper mills, can affect our operating income and cash flows negatively, such as we experienced in 2014, 2013 and 2012. As we have increased the size of our recycling operations, we have also increased our exposure to commodity price fluctuations. The decline in market prices in 2014, 2013 and 2012 for commodities resulted in year-over-year decreases in revenue of $53 million, $79 million and $428 million, respectively. Additionally, our recycling operations offer rebates to suppliers. Therefore, even if we experience higher revenues based on increased market prices for commodities, the rebates we pay will also increase. In other circumstances, the rebates may be subject to a floor, such that as market prices decrease, any expected profit margins on materials subject to the rebate floor are reduced or eliminated.

Fluctuation in energy prices also affects our business. Significant variations in the price of methane gas, electricity and other energy-related products that are marketed and sold by our landfill gas recovery operations can result in corresponding significant impact to our revenue from yield from such operations. Additionally, we provide specialized disposal services for oil and gas exploration and production operations through our Energy Services business. Demand for these services may decrease if drilling activity slows due to changes in oil and gas prices, such as the pronounced recent price decreases. Any of the commodity prices to which we are subject may fluctuate substantially and without notice in the future.

 

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Changes in regulations applicable to oil and gas drilling and production could adversely affect our Energy Services business.

Energy Services business demand may also be adversely affected if drilling activity slows due to industry conditions beyond our control, in addition to changes in oil and gas prices. Changes in laws or government regulations regarding GHG emissions from oil and gas operations and/or hydraulic fracturing could increase our customers’ costs of doing business and reduce oil and gas exploration and production by customers. Recently, there has been increased attention from the public, some states and the EPA to the alleged potential for hydraulic fracturing to impact drinking water supplies. There is also heightened regulatory focus on emissions of methane that occur during drilling and transportation of natural gas, as well as protective disposal of drilling residuals. Increased regulation of oil and gas exploration and production and new rules regarding the treatment and disposal of wastes associated with exploration and production operations could increase our costs to provide oilfield services and reduce our margins and revenue from such services.

Increasing customer preference for alternatives to landfill disposal could reduce our landfill volumes and cause our revenues and operating results to decline.

Our customers are increasingly diverting waste to alternatives to landfill disposal, such as recycling and composting, while also working to reduce the amount of waste they generate. In addition, several state and local governments mandate recycling and waste reduction at the source and prohibit the disposal of certain types of waste, such as yard and food waste, at landfills or waste-to-energy facilities. Where such organic waste is not banned from the landfill or waste-to-energy facility, some large customers such as grocery stores and restaurants are choosing to divert their organic waste from landfills. Zero-waste goals (sending no waste to the landfill) have been set by many of North America’s largest companies. Although such mandates and initiatives help to protect our environment, these developments reduce the volume of waste going to our landfills which may affect the prices that we can charge for landfill disposal. Our landfills currently provide and, together with our divested waste-to-energy facilities, have historically provided our highest income from operations margins. If we are not successful in expanding our service offerings and growing lines of businesses to service waste streams that do not go to landfills and to provide services for customers that wish to reduce waste entirely, then our revenues and operating results may decline. Additionally, despite the development of new service offerings and lines of business, it is possible that our revenues and our income from operations margins could be negatively affected due to disposal alternatives.

Developments in technology could trigger a fundamental change in the waste management industry, as waste streams are increasingly viewed as a resource, which may adversely impact volumes at our landfills and waste-to-energy facilities and our profitability.

Our Company and others have recognized the value of the traditional waste stream as a potential resource. Research and development activities are on-going to provide disposal alternatives that maximize the value of waste, including using waste as a source for renewable energy and other valuable by-products. We and many other companies are investing in these technologies. It is possible that such investments and technological advancements may reduce the cost of waste disposal or the value of landfill gas recovery to a level below our costs and may reduce the demand for landfill space. As a result, our revenues and margins could be adversely affected due to advancements in disposal alternatives.

If we are not able to develop new service offerings and protect intellectual property, or if a competitor develops or obtains exclusive rights to a breakthrough technology, our financial results may suffer.

Our existing and proposed service offerings to customers may require that we invest in, develop or license, and protect, new technologies. Research and development of new technologies and investment in emerging technologies often requires significant spending that may divert capital investment away from our traditional business operations. We may experience difficulties or delays in the research, development, production and/or marketing of new products and services or emerging technologies in which we have invested, which may

 

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negatively impact our operating results and prevent us from recouping or realizing a return on the investments required to bring new products and services to market. Further, protecting our intellectual property rights and combating unlicensed copying and use of intellectual property is difficult, and any inability to obtain or protect new technologies could impact our services to customers and development of new revenue sources. Our Company and others are increasingly focusing on new technologies that provide alternatives to traditional disposal and maximize the resource value of waste. If a competitor develops or obtains exclusive rights to a “breakthrough technology” that provides a revolutionary change in traditional waste management, or if we have inferior intellectual property to our competitors, our financial results may suffer.

Our business depends on our reputation and the value of our brand.

We believe we have developed a reputation for high-quality service, reliability and social and environmental responsibility, and we believe our brand symbolizes these attributes. The Waste Management brand name, trademarks and logos and our reputation are powerful sales and marketing tools, and we devote significant resources to promoting and protecting them. Adverse publicity, whether or not justified, relating to activities by our operations, employees or agents could tarnish our reputation and reduce the value of our brand. Damage to our reputation and loss of brand equity could reduce demand for our services. This reduction in demand, together with the dedication of time and expense necessary to defend our reputation, could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, liquidity and results of operations, as well as require additional resources to rebuild our reputation and restore the value of our brand.

Our operations are subject to environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, as well as contractual obligations that may result in significant liabilities.

There is risk of incurring significant environmental liabilities in the use, treatment, storage, transfer and disposal of waste materials. Under applicable environmental laws and regulations, we could be liable if our operations cause environmental damage to our properties or to the property of other landowners, particularly as a result of the contamination of air, drinking water or soil. Under current law, we could also be held liable for damage caused by conditions that existed before we acquired the assets or operations involved. This risk is of particular concern as we execute our growth strategy, partially though acquisitions, because we may be unsuccessful in identifying and assessing potential liabilities during our due diligence investigations. Further, the counterparties in such transactions may be unable to perform their indemnification obligations owed to us. Additionally, we could be liable if we arrange for the transportation, disposal or treatment of hazardous substances that cause environmental contamination, or if a predecessor owner made such arrangements and, under applicable law, we are treated as a successor to the prior owner. Any substantial liability for environmental damage could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

In the ordinary course of our business, we have in the past, we are currently, and we may in the future, become involved in legal and administrative proceedings relating to land use and environmental laws and regulations. These include proceedings in which:

 

    agencies of federal, state, local or foreign governments seek to impose liability on us under applicable statutes, sometimes involving civil or criminal penalties for violations, or to revoke or deny renewal of a permit we need; and

 

    local communities, citizen groups, landowners or governmental agencies oppose the issuance of a permit or approval we need, allege violations of the permits under which we operate or laws or regulations to which we are subject, or seek to impose liability on us for environmental damage.

We generally seek to work with the authorities or other persons involved in these proceedings to resolve any issues raised. If we are not successful, the adverse outcome of one or more of these proceedings could result in, among other things, material increases in our costs or liabilities as well as material charges for asset impairments.

 

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Further, we often enter into agreements with landowners imposing obligations on us to meet certain regulatory or contractual conditions upon site closure or upon termination of the agreements. Compliance with these agreements inherently involves subjective determinations and may result in disputes, including litigation. Costs to remediate or restore the condition of closed sites may be significant.

General economic conditions can directly and adversely affect our revenues and our income from operations margins.

Our business is directly affected by changes in national and general economic factors that are outside of our control, including consumer confidence, interest rates and access to capital markets. A weak economy generally results in decreased consumer spending and decreases in volumes of waste generated, which decreases our revenues. A weak market for consumer goods can significantly decrease demand by paper mills for recycled corrugated cardboard used in packaging; such decrease in demand can negatively impact commodity prices and our operating income and cash flows. In addition, we have a relatively high fixed-cost structure, which is difficult to quickly adjust to match shifting volume levels. Consumer uncertainty and the loss of consumer confidence may limit the number or amount of services requested by customers. Economic conditions may also limit our ability to implement our pricing strategy. For example, many of our contracts have price adjustment provisions that are tied to an index such as the Consumer Price Index, and our costs may increase in excess of the increase, if any, in the Consumer Price Index.

Some of our customers, including governmental entities, have suffered financial difficulties affecting their credit risk, which could negatively impact our operating results.

We provide service to a number of governmental entities and municipalities, some of which have suffered significant financial difficulties in recent years, due in part to reduced tax revenue and/or high cost structures. Some of these entities could be unable to pay amounts owed to us or renew contracts with us at previous or increased rates.

Many non-governmental customers have also suffered serious financial difficulties, including bankruptcy in some cases. Purchasers of our recyclable commodities can be particularly vulnerable to financial difficulties in times of commodity price volatility. The inability of our customers to pay us in a timely manner or to pay increased rates, particularly large national accounts, could negatively affect our operating results.

In addition, the financial difficulties of municipalities could result in a decline in investors’ demand for municipal bonds and a correlating increase in interest rates. As of December 31, 2014, we had $501 million of variable-rate tax-exempt bonds that are subject to repricing on either a daily or a weekly basis through a remarketing process and $638 million of tax-exempt bonds with term interest rate periods that are subject to repricing within the next twelve months. If the weakness in the municipal debt market results in repricing of our tax-exempt bonds at significantly higher interest rates, we will incur increased interest expenses that may negatively affect our operating results and cash flows.

We may be unable to obtain or maintain required permits or to expand existing permitted capacity of our landfills, which could decrease our revenue and increase our costs.

Our ability to meet our financial and operating objectives depends in part on our ability to obtain and maintain the permits necessary to operate landfill sites. Permits to build, operate and expand solid waste management facilities, including landfills and transfer stations, have become more difficult and expensive to obtain and maintain. Permits often take years to obtain as a result of numerous hearings and compliance requirements with regard to zoning, environmental and other regulations. These permits are also often subject to resistance from citizen or other groups and other political pressures. Local communities and citizen groups, adjacent landowners or governmental agencies may oppose the issuance of a permit or approval we may need, allege violations of the permits under which we currently operate or laws or regulations to which we are subject,

 

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or seek to impose liability on us for environmental damage. Responding to these challenges has, at times, increased our costs and extended the time associated with establishing new facilities and expanding existing facilities. In addition, failure to receive regulatory and zoning approval may prohibit us from establishing new facilities or expanding existing facilities. Our failure to obtain the required permits to operate our landfills could have a material adverse impact on our consolidated financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

Significant shortages in diesel fuel supply or increases in diesel fuel prices will increase our operating expenses.

The price and supply of diesel fuel can fluctuate significantly based on international, political and economic circumstances, as well as other factors outside our control, such as actions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (“OPEC”) and other oil and gas producers, regional production patterns, weather conditions and environmental concerns. Average diesel fuel prices decreased in both 2014 and 2013 but increased in 2012. We need diesel fuel to run a significant portion of our collection and transfer trucks and our equipment used in our landfill operations. Supply shortages could substantially increase our operating expenses. Additionally, if fuel prices increase, our direct operating expenses increase and many of our vendors raise their prices as a means to offset their own rising costs. We have in place a fuel surcharge program, designed to offset increased fuel expenses; however, we may not be able to pass through all of our increased costs and some customers’ contracts prohibit any pass-through of the increased costs. Additionally, we recently settled litigation that pertained to our fuel and environmental charges included on our invoices, and we may face similar claims in the future. See Note 11 of the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information. Regardless of any offsetting surcharge programs, increased operating costs due to higher diesel fuel prices will decrease our income from operations margins.

We are expanding our compressed natural gas (“CNG”) truck fleet, which makes us increasingly dependent on the availability of CNG and CNG fueling infrastructure and vulnerable to CNG prices.

We currently operate the largest CNG fleet in the waste industry, and we plan to continue to transition a significant portion of our collection fleet from diesel fuel to CNG. However, CNG is not yet broadly available in North America; as a result, we have constructed and operate natural gas fueling stations, some of which also serve the public or pre-approved third parties. Until the public and third parties in North America broadly adopt CNG, which may not be on the timetable we anticipate, it will remain necessary for us to invest capital in CNG fueling infrastructure in order to power our CNG fleet. Concerns have been raised about the potential for emissions from fueling infrastructure that serve natural gas-fueled vehicles. New regulation of, or restrictions on, CNG fueling infrastructure or reductions in associated tax incentives could increase our operating costs. Additionally, fluctuations in the price and supply of CNG could substantially increase our operating expenses, and a reduction in the existing cost differential between CNG and diesel fuel could materially reduce the benefits we anticipate from our investment in CNG vehicles. Further, our fuel surcharge program is currently indexed to diesel fuel prices, and price fluctuations for CNG may not effectively be recovered by this program.

We are increasingly dependent on technology in our operations and if our technology fails, our business could be adversely affected.

We may experience problems with the operation of our current information technology systems or the technology systems of third parties on which we rely, as well as the development and deployment of new information technology systems, that could adversely affect, or even temporarily disrupt, all or a portion of our operations until resolved. Inabilities and delays in implementing new systems can also affect our ability to realize projected or expected cost savings. Additionally, any systems failures could impede our ability to timely collect and report financial results in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.

 

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A cybersecurity incident could negatively impact our business and our relationships with customers.

We use computers in substantially all aspects of our business operations. We also use mobile devices, social networking and other online activities to connect with our employees and our customers. Such uses give rise to cybersecurity risks, including security breach, espionage, system disruption, theft and inadvertent release of information. Our business involves the storage and transmission of numerous classes of sensitive and/or confidential information and intellectual property, including customers’ personal information, private information about employees, and financial and strategic information about the Company and its business partners. We also rely on a Payment Card Industry compliant third party to protect our customers’ credit card information. Further, as the Company pursues its strategy to grow through acquisitions and to pursue new initiatives that improve our operations and cost structure, the Company is also expanding and improving its information technologies, resulting in a larger technological presence and corresponding exposure to cybersecurity risk. If we fail to assess and identify cybersecurity risks associated with acquisitions and new initiatives, we may become increasingly vulnerable to such risks. Additionally, while we have implemented measures to prevent security breaches and cyber incidents, our preventative measures and incident response efforts may not be entirely effective. The theft, destruction, loss, misappropriation, or release of sensitive and/or confidential information or intellectual property, or interference with our information technology systems or the technology systems of third parties on which we rely, could result in business disruption, negative publicity, brand damage, violation of privacy laws, loss of customers, potential liability and competitive disadvantage.

Our operating expenses could increase as a result of labor unions organizing or changes in regulations related to labor unions.

Labor unions continually attempt to organize our employees, and these efforts will likely continue in the future. Certain groups of our employees are currently represented by unions, and we have negotiated collective bargaining agreements with these unions. Additional groups of employees may seek union representation in the future, and, if successful, the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements could divert management attention and result in increased operating expenses and lower net income. If we are unable to negotiate acceptable collective bargaining agreements, our operating expenses could increase significantly as a result of work stoppages, including strikes. Any of these matters could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

We could face significant liabilities for withdrawal from multiemployer pension plans.

We are a participating employer in a number of trustee-managed multiemployer, defined benefit pension plans for employees who are covered by collective bargaining agreements. The risks of participating in these multiemployer plans are different from single-employer plans in that (i) assets contributed to the multiemployer plan by one employer may be used to provide benefits to employees or former employees of other participating employers; (ii) if a participating employer stops contributing to the plan, the unfunded obligations of the plan may be required to be assumed by the remaining participating employers and (iii) if we choose to stop participating in any of our multiemployer plans, we may be required to pay those plans a withdrawal amount based on the underfunded status of the plan.

In connection with our ongoing renegotiations of various collective bargaining agreements, we may discuss and negotiate for the complete or partial withdrawal from one or more of these pension plans. Further, business events, such as the discontinuation or nonrenewal of a customer contract, the decertification of a union, or relocation, reduction or discontinuance of certain operations, which result in the decline of Company contributions to a multiemployer pension plan, could trigger a partial or complete withdrawal. In the event of a withdrawal, we may incur expenses associated with our obligations for unfunded vested benefits at the time of the withdrawal. Various factors affect our liabilities for a plan’s underfunded status, including the numbers of retirees and active workers in the plan, the ongoing solvency of participating employers, the investment returns obtained on plan assets, and the ratio of our historical participation in such plan to all employers’ historical participation; depending on such factors, future withdrawals could have a material adverse effect on results of

 

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operations for a particular reporting period. We reflect any withdrawal liability as an operating expense in our statement of operations and as a liability on our balance sheet.

We have previously withdrawn several employee bargaining units from underfunded multiemployer pension plans, and we recognized related expenses of $4 million in 2014, $5 million in 2013 and $10 million in 2012. We are still negotiating and litigating final resolutions of our withdrawal liability for certain withdrawals, which could be higher than the charges we have recognized.

Our business is subject to operational and safety risks, including the risk of personal injury to employees and others.

Providing environmental and waste management services, including constructing and operating landfills, involves risks such as truck accidents, equipment defects, malfunctions and failures, mass instability or waste slides, severe weather and natural disasters, which could potentially result in releases of hazardous materials and odors, injury or death of employees and others, or a need to shut down or reduce operation of our facilities while remedial actions are undertaken. Additionally, we have built and are operating CNG fueling stations to serve our growing fleet of CNG trucks, some of which also serve the public or third parties. Operation of fueling stations and landfill gas collection and control systems involves additional risks of fire and explosion. All of these risks expose us to potential liability for pollution and other environmental damages, personal injury, loss of life, business interruption, and property damage or destruction.

While we seek to minimize our exposure to such risks through comprehensive training and compliance programs, as well as vehicle and equipment maintenance programs, if we were to incur substantial liabilities in excess of any applicable insurance, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected. Any such incidents could also tarnish our reputation and reduce the value of our brand.

We have substantial financial assurance and insurance requirements, and increases in the costs of obtaining adequate financial assurance, or the inadequacy of our insurance coverages, could negatively impact our liquidity and increase our liabilities.

The amount of insurance we are required to maintain for environmental liability is governed by statutory requirements. We believe that the cost for such insurance is high relative to the coverage it would provide and, therefore, our coverages are generally maintained at the minimum statutorily-required levels. We face the risk of incurring additional costs for environmental damage if our insurance coverage is ultimately inadequate to cover those damages. We also carry a broad range of other insurance coverages that are customary for a company our size. We use these programs to mitigate risk of loss, thereby enabling us to manage our self-insurance exposure associated with claims. The inability of our insurers to meet their commitments in a timely manner and the effect of significant claims or litigation against insurance companies may subject us to additional risks. To the extent our insurers are unable to meet their obligations, or our own obligations for claims are more than we estimated, there could be a material adverse effect to our financial results.

In addition, to fulfill our financial assurance obligations with respect to variable-rate tax-exempt debt, final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation obligations, we generally obtain letters of credit or surety bonds, rely on insurance, including captive insurance, fund trust and escrow accounts or rely upon WM financial guarantees. We currently have in place all financial assurance instruments necessary for our operations. Our financial position, which can be negatively affected by asset impairments, our credit profile and general economic factors, may adversely affect the cost of our current financial assurance instruments, and changes in regulations may impose stricter requirements on the types of financial assurance that will be accepted. Additionally, in the event we are unable to obtain sufficient surety bonding, letters of credit or third-party insurance coverage at reasonable cost, or one or more states cease to view captive insurance as adequate coverage, we would need to rely on other forms of financial assurance. It is possible that we could be forced to deposit cash to collateralize our obligations. Other forms of financial assurance could be more expensive to

 

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obtain, and any requirements to use cash to support our obligations would negatively impact our liquidity and capital resources and could affect our ability to meet our obligations as they become due.

We may record material charges against our earnings due to any number of events that could cause impairments to our assets.

In accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“GAAP”), we capitalize certain expenditures and advances relating to disposal site development, expansion projects, acquisitions, software development costs and other projects. Events that could, in some circumstances, lead to an impairment include, but are not limited to, shutting down a facility or operation or abandoning a development project or the denial of an expansion permit. Additionally, declining waste volumes and development of, and customer preference for, alternatives to traditional waste disposal could warrant asset impairments. If we determine an asset or expansion project is impaired, we will charge against earnings any unamortized capitalized expenditures and advances relating to such asset or project reduced by any portion of the capitalized costs that we estimate will be recoverable, through sale or otherwise. We also carry a significant amount of goodwill on our Consolidated Balance Sheet, which is required to be assessed for impairment annually, and more frequently in the case of certain triggering events. We may be required to incur charges against earnings if such impairment tests indicate that the fair value of a reporting unit is below its carrying value. Any such charges could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.

Our capital requirements and our business strategy could increase our expenses, cause us to change our growth and development plans, or fail to maintain our desired credit profile.

If economic conditions or other risks and uncertainties cause a significant reduction in our cash flows from operations, we may reduce or suspend capital expenditures, growth and acquisition activity, implementation of our business strategy, dividend declarations or share repurchases. We may choose to incur indebtedness to pay for these activities, although our access to capital markets is not assured and we may not be able to incur indebtedness at a cost that is consistent with current borrowing rates. We also may need to incur indebtedness to refinance scheduled debt maturities, and it is possible that the cost of financing could increase significantly, thereby increasing our expenses and decreasing our net income. Further, our ability to execute our financial strategy and our ability to incur indebtedness is somewhat dependent upon our ability to maintain investment grade ratings on our senior debt. The credit rating process is contingent upon our credit profile, as well as a number of other factors, many of which are beyond our control, including methodologies established and interpreted by third party rating agencies. If we were unable to maintain our investment grade credit ratings in the future, our interest expense would increase and our ability to obtain financing on favorable terms could be adversely affected.

Additionally, we have $1.4 billion of debt as of December 31, 2014 that is exposed to changes in market interest rates within the next 12 months because of the combined impact of our tax-exempt bonds and borrowings outstanding under our Canadian term loan. If interest rates increase, our interest expense would also increase, lowering our net income and decreasing our cash flow.

We may use our $2.25 billion revolving credit facility and our C$150 million Canadian revolving credit facility to meet our cash needs, to the extent available, until maturity in July 2018 and November 2017, respectively. As of December 31, 2014, we had no outstanding borrowings and $785 million of letters of credit issued and supported by the $2.25 billion revolving credit facility, leaving an unused and available credit capacity of $1,465 million, and we had no borrowings under the Canadian revolving credit facility. In the event of a default under our credit facilities, we could be required to immediately repay all outstanding borrowings and make cash deposits as collateral for all obligations the facility supports, which we may not be able to do. Additionally, any such default could cause a default under many of our other credit agreements and debt instruments. Without waivers from lenders party to those agreements, any such default would have a material adverse effect on our ability to continue to operate.

 

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The adoption of climate change legislation or regulations restricting emissions of “greenhouse gases” could increase our costs to operate.

Our landfill operations emit methane, identified as a GHG. There are a number of legislative and regulatory efforts at the state, regional and federal levels to curtail the emission of GHGs to ameliorate the effect of climate change. Should comprehensive federal climate change legislation be enacted, we expect it could impose costs on our operations that might not be offset by the revenue increases associated with our lower-carbon service options, the materiality of which we cannot predict. In 2010, the EPA published a Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule, which expanded the EPA’s federal air permitting authority to include the six GHGs. The rule sets new thresholds for GHG emissions that define when Clean Air Act permits are required. The current requirements of these rules have not significantly affected our operations or cash flows, due to the tailored thresholds and exclusions of certain emissions from regulation. However, if certain changes to these regulations were enacted, such as lowering the thresholds or the inclusion of biogenic emissions, then the amendments could have an adverse effect on our operating costs.

The seasonal nature of our business, severe weather events and “one-time” special projects cause our results to fluctuate, and prior performance is not necessarily indicative of our future results.

Our operating revenues tend to be somewhat higher in summer months, primarily due to the higher volume of construction and demolition waste. The volumes of industrial and residential waste in certain regions where we operate also tend to increase during the summer months. Our second and third quarter revenues and results of operations typically reflect these seasonal trends. The operating results of our first quarter often reflect higher repair and maintenance expenses because we rely on the slower winter months, when waste flows are generally lower, to perform scheduled maintenance at our waste-to-energy facilities.

Service disruptions caused by severe storms, extended periods of inclement weather or climate extremes resulting from climate change can significantly affect the operating results of the affected Areas. On the other hand, certain destructive weather conditions that tend to occur during the second half of the year, such as the hurricanes that most often impact our operations in the Southern and Eastern U.S., can actually increase our revenues in the areas affected. While weather-related and other “one-time” occurrences can boost revenues through additional work for a limited time span, as a result of significant start-up costs and other factors, such revenue sometimes generates earnings at comparatively lower margins.

For these and other reasons, operating results in any interim period are not necessarily indicative of operating results for an entire year, and operating results for any historical period are not necessarily indicative of operating results for a future period. Our stock price may be negatively impacted by interim variations in our results.

We could be subject to significant fines and penalties, and our reputation could be adversely affected, if our businesses, or third parties with whom we have a relationship, were to fail to comply with United States or foreign laws or regulations.

Some of our projects and new business may be conducted in countries where corruption has historically been prevalent. It is our policy to comply with all applicable anti-bribery laws, such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and with applicable local laws of the foreign countries in which we operate, and we monitor our local partners’ compliance with such laws as well. Our reputation may be adversely affected if we were reported to be associated with corrupt practices or if we or our local partners failed to comply with such laws. Such damage to our reputation could adversely affect our ability to grow our business. Additionally, violations of such laws could subject us to significant fines and penalties.

 

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Currently pending or future litigation or governmental proceedings could result in material adverse consequences, including judgments or settlements.

We are involved in civil litigation in the ordinary course of our business and from time-to-time are involved in governmental proceedings relating to the conduct of our business. The timing of the final resolutions to these types of matters is often uncertain. Additionally, the possible outcomes or resolutions to these matters could include adverse judgments or settlements, either of which could require substantial payments, adversely affecting our liquidity.

We may experience adverse impacts on our reported results of operations as a result of adopting new accounting standards or interpretations.

Our implementation of and compliance with changes in accounting rules, including new accounting rules and interpretations, could adversely affect our reported financial position or operating results or cause unanticipated fluctuations in our reported operating results in future periods.

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.

None.

Item 2. Properties.

Our principal executive offices are in Houston, Texas, where we lease approximately 380,000 square feet under leases expiring through 2020. We also have administrative offices in Arizona, Illinois, Texas, Connecticut and India. We own or lease real property in most locations where we have operations or administrative functions. We have operations in all 50 states. We also have operations in the District of Columbia and throughout Canada.

Our principal property and equipment consists of land (primarily landfills and other disposal facilities, transfer stations and bases for collection operations), buildings, vehicles and equipment. We believe that our vehicles, equipment, and operating properties are adequately maintained and sufficient for our current operations. However, we expect to continue to make investments in additional equipment and property for expansion, for replacement of assets, and in connection with our strategic growth plans. For more information, see Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations included within this report.

The following table summarizes our various operations at December 31 for the periods noted:

 

     2014      2013  

Landfills:

     

Owned

     202         209   

Operated through lease agreements

     17         22   

Operated through contractual agreements

     33         36   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 
  252      267   

Transfer stations

  298      315   

Material recovery facilities

  126      120   

Secondary processing facilities

       5   

Waste-to-energy facilities

       16   

Independent power production plants

       4   

 

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The following table provides certain information regarding the 219 landfills owned or operated through lease agreements and a count of landfills operated through contractual agreements, transfer stations and material recovery facilities as of December 31, 2014:

 

     Landfills Owned or Operated
Through Lease Agreements
     Landfills
Operating
Through
Contractual
Agreements
     Transfer
Stations
     Material
Recovery
Facilities
 
     Landfills      Total
Acreage(a)
     Permitted
Acreage(b)
     Expansion
Acreage(c)
          

Solid Waste

     219         138,567         35,637         1,210         33         298         126   

 

(a) “Total acreage” includes permitted acreage, expansion acreage, other acreage available for future disposal that has not been permitted, buffer land and other land owned or leased by our landfill operations.
(b) “Permitted acreage” consists of all acreage at the landfill encompassed by an active permit to dispose of waste.
(c) “Expansion acreage” consists of unpermitted acreage where the related expansion efforts meet our criteria to be included as expansion airspace. A discussion of the related criteria is included within Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Critical Accounting Estimates and Assumptions included herein.

 

Item 3. Legal Proceedings.

Information regarding our legal proceedings can be found under the Environmental Matters and Litigation sections of Note 11 in the Consolidated Financial Statements included in this report.

 

Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures.

Information concerning mine safety and other regulatory matters required by Section 1503(a) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and Item 104 of Regulation S-K is included in Exhibit 95 to this annual report.

PART II

 

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

Our common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) under the symbol “WM.” The following table sets forth the range of the high and low per-share sales prices for our common stock as reported on the NYSE:

 

     High      Low  

2013

     

First Quarter

   $ 39.26       $ 33.70   

Second Quarter

     42.99         37.97   

Third Quarter

     43.58         39.60   

Fourth Quarter

     46.37         40.29   

2014

     

First Quarter

   $ 44.80       $ 40.36   

Second Quarter

     44.87         41.05   

Third Quarter

     47.67         43.50   

Fourth Quarter

     51.94         45.50   

2015

     

First Quarter (through February 6, 2015)

   $ 53.49       $ 50.82   

 

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On February 6, 2015, the closing sales price as reported on the NYSE was $52.44 per share. The number of holders of record of our common stock on February 6, 2015 was 11,821.

The graph below shows the relative investment performance of Waste Management, Inc. common stock, the Dow Jones Waste & Disposal Services Index and the S&P 500 Index for the last five years, assuming reinvestment of dividends at date of payment into the common stock. The graph is presented pursuant to SEC rules and is not meant to be an indication of our future performance.

Comparison of Cumulative Five Year Total Return

 

LOGO

 

     12/31/09      12/31/10      12/31/11      12/31/12      12/31/13      12/31/14  

Waste Management, Inc.

   $ 100       $ 113       $ 104       $ 112       $ 155       $ 183   

S&P 500 Index

   $ 100       $ 115       $ 117       $ 136       $ 180       $ 205   

Dow Jones Waste & Disposal Services Index

   $ 100       $ 119       $ 119       $ 129       $ 161       $ 183   

Our quarterly dividends have been declared and approved by our Board of Directors and paid in accordance with our financial plans. Cash dividends declared and paid were $693 million in 2014, or $1.50 per common share, $683 million in 2013, or $1.46 per common share and $658 million in 2012, or $1.42 per common share.

In February 2015, we announced that our Board of Directors expects to increase the quarterly dividend from $0.375 to $0.385 per share for dividends declared in 2015. However, all future dividend declarations are at the discretion of the Board of Directors and depend on various factors, including our net earnings, financial condition, cash required for future business plans and other factors the Board may deem relevant.

Our share repurchases have been made in accordance with financial plans approved by our Board of Directors. In February 2014, the Board of Directors authorized up to $600 million in future share repurchases. During the third quarter of 2014, we entered into accelerated share repurchase (“ASR”) agreements with two financial institutions to repurchase an aggregate of $600 million of our common stock. At the beginning of the ASR repurchase periods, we delivered the $600 million in cash and received 9.6 million shares, which represented 70% of the shares expected to be repurchased based on then-current market prices. These agreements were completed in February 2015 and we received approximately 2.8 million additional shares. The final weighted average per share purchase price for the completed ASR agreements was $48.58.

We announced in February 2015 that the Board of Directors has authorized up to $1 billion in future share repurchases. Any future share repurchases will be made at the discretion of management, and will depend on factors similar to those considered by the Board in making dividend declarations.

 

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Item 6. Selected Financial Data.

The information below was derived from the audited Consolidated Financial Statements included in this report and in previous annual reports we filed with the SEC. This information should be read together with those Consolidated Financial Statements and the notes thereto. The adoption of new accounting pronouncements and certain reclassifications impact the comparability of the financial information presented below. These historical results are not necessarily indicative of the results to be expected in the future.

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2014(a)     2013(a)     2012(a)     2011     2010  
     (In millions, except per share amounts)  

Statement of Operations Data:

          

Operating revenues

   $ 13,996      $ 13,983      $ 13,649      $ 13,378      $ 12,515   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Costs and expenses:

Operating

  9,002      9,112      8,879      8,541      7,824   

Selling, general and administrative

  1,481      1,468      1,472      1,551      1,461   

Depreciation and amortization

  1,292      1,333      1,297      1,229      1,194   

Restructuring

  82      18      67      19      (2

Goodwill impairments

  10      509      4      1      —     

(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments (other than goodwill) and unusual items

  (170   464      79      9      (78
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 
  11,697      12,904      11,798      11,350      10,399   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Income from operations

  2,299      1,079      1,851      2,028      2,116   

Other expense, net

  (548   (585   (548   (508   (485
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Income before income taxes

  1,751      494      1,303      1,520      1,631   

Provision for income taxes

  413      364      443      511      629   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Consolidated net income

  1,338      130      860      1,009      1,002   

Less: Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests

  40      32      43      48      49   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net income attributable to Waste Management, Inc.

$ 1,298    $ 98    $ 817    $ 961    $ 953   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Basic earnings per common share

$ 2.80    $ 0.21    $ 1.76    $ 2.05    $ 1.98   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Diluted earnings per common share

$ 2.79    $ 0.21    $ 1.76    $ 2.04    $ 1.98   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Cash dividends declared per common share

$ 1.50    $ 1.46    $ 1.42    $ 1.36    $ 1.26   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Balance Sheet Data (at end of period):

Working capital (deficit)

$ 156    $ (515 $ (613 $ (689 $ (3

Goodwill and other intangible assets, net

  6,180      6,599      6,688      6,672      6,021   

Total assets

  21,412      22,603      23,097      22,569      21,476   

Debt, including current portion

  9,435      10,226      9,916      9,756      8,907   

Total Waste Management, Inc. stockholders’ equity

  5,866      5,707      6,354      6,070      6,260   

Total equity

  5,889      6,002      6,675      6,390      6,591   

 

(a) For more information regarding these financial data, see Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations included in this report. For disclosures associated with the impact of the adoption of new accounting pronouncements on the comparability of this information, see Note 2 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

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Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

This section includes a discussion of our results of operations for the three years ended December 31, 2014. This discussion may contain forward-looking statements that anticipate results based on management’s plans that are subject to uncertainty. We discuss in more detail various factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from expectations in Item 1A, Risk Factors. The following discussion should be read in light of that disclosure and together with the Consolidated Financial Statements and the notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Overview

Our Company’s goals are targeted at serving our customers, our employees, the environment, the communities in which we work and our stockholders, and achievement of our goals is intended to meet the needs of a changing industry. Our Company and others have recognized the value of the traditional waste stream as a potential resource. Increasingly, customers want more of their waste materials recovered, while waste streams are becoming more complex, and our aim is to address, and anticipate, the current, expanding and evolving needs of our customers. Accomplishment of our goals will grow our Company and allow us to meet the needs of our customers and communities as they, too, Think Green®.

We believe we are uniquely equipped to meet the challenges of the changing waste industry and our customers’ waste management needs, both today and as we work together to envision and create a more sustainable future. As the waste industry leader, we have the expertise necessary to collect and handle our customers’ waste efficiently and responsibly by delivering environmental performance — maximizing resource value, while minimizing environmental impact — so that both our economy and our environment can thrive. Drawing on our resources and experience, we also pursue projects and initiatives that benefit the waste industry, the customers and communities we serve and the environment.

We remain dedicated to providing long-term value to our stockholders by successfully executing our strategy: to know and service our customers better than anyone in our industry, to extract more value from the materials we manage, and to innovate and optimize our business. We plan to accomplish our strategic goals through competitive advantages derived from a “best cost” structure achieved through operational improvements and differentiation in our industry, driven by capitalizing on our extensive, well-placed network of assets. While we will continue to monitor emerging diversion technologies that may generate additional value, our current attention will be on improving existing diversion technologies, such as recycling operations.

In pursuit of these long-term goals, we recognize that we must grow the business, and do so as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. Accordingly, we are focusing on the following five key company priorities:

 

    Customers: provide the best possible service to our customers;

 

    Traditional Waste Business: continuously improve our operational performance;

 

    Growth: take advantage of opportunities in our current business, as well as considering attractive acquisition opportunities;

 

    Yield Management: remain focused on price leadership while considering competitive dynamics; and

 

    Costs: minimize both operating costs and selling, general & administrative expenses.

We believe that execution of our strategy through these key priorities will drive continued financial performance and leadership in a dynamic industry.

Notable items of our 2014 financial results include:

 

   

Revenues of $13,996 million in 2014 compared with $13,983 million in 2013, an increase of $13 million. This increase in revenues is primarily attributable to (i) positive revenue growth from

 

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yield on our collection and disposal operations of $262 million, or 2.3%, and (ii) revenue from acquired operations, particularly the RCI operations acquired in July 2013, which increased revenues by $77 million. Substantially offsetting these increases were (i) lower volumes which decreased our revenues by $188 million; (ii) divestitures of our Puerto Rico operations and certain other collection and landfill assets as well as the December 2014 sale of our Wheelabrator business, which decreased our revenues by $90 million and (iii) foreign currency translation of $61 million related to our Canadian operations;

 

    Operating expenses of $9,002 million in 2014, or 64.3% of revenues, compared with $9,112 million, or 65.2% of revenues, in 2013. This decrease of $110 million is largely driven by our decline in collection volumes and divestitures, both of which affect several of our operating expense categories, particularly labor costs, transfer and disposal costs, and fuel costs;

 

    Selling, general and administrative expenses of $1,481 million in 2014, or 10.6% of revenues, compared with $1,468 million, or 10.5% of revenues, in 2013. This increase of $13 million is driven mainly by higher litigation settlements;

 

    Restructuring costs of $82 million in 2014 compared to $18 million in 2013. The 2014 restructuring charges relate to the consolidation and realignment of several Corporate functions. We anticipate saving in excess of $100 million annually from these actions when fully implemented in 2015;

 

    Income from operations of $2,299 million, or 16.4% of revenues, in 2014 compared with $1,079 million, or 7.7% of revenues, in 2013, the increase of which is primarily attributable to the $519 million gain on the sale of our Wheelabrator business in December 2014 and impairment charges of $355 million recognized in 2014 compared to impairment charges of $981 million recognized in 2013 discussed below;

 

    Net income attributable to Waste Management, Inc. of $1,298 million, or $2.79 per diluted share for 2014, as compared with $98 million, or $0.21 per diluted share for 2013, the increase of which is primarily attributable to the increase in income from operations discussed above; and

 

    In 2014, we returned $1,293 million to our shareholders through dividends and share repurchases compared with $922 million in 2013.

The following explanation of certain items that impacted the comparability of our 2014 results with 2013 has been provided to support investors’ understanding of our performance. Our 2014 results were affected by the following:

 

    The recognition of net pre-tax gains of $515 million, which includes the $519 million gain on the sale of our Wheelabrator business. These items had a positive impact of $1.10 on our diluted earnings per share;

 

    Net income was negatively impacted by the recognition of net pre-tax charges aggregating $420 million primarily related to (i) $272 million of charges to impair our oil and gas producing properties; (ii) $69 million of charges to impair investments related to waste diversion technology companies; (iii) $31 million of litigation settlements; (iv) $10 million of goodwill impairment charges associated with our recycling operations; and (v) other charges to write down the carrying value of assets to their estimated fair values related to certain of our operations. These items had a negative impact of $0.68 on our diluted earnings per share; and

 

    The recognition of pre-tax restructuring charges of $82 million, which had a negative impact of $0.11 on our diluted earnings per share.

The following explanation of certain items that impacted the comparability of our 2013 results with 2012 has been provided to support investors’ understanding of our performance. Our 2013 results were affected by the following:

 

   

The recognition of net pre-tax charges aggregating $1.0 billion, primarily related to (i) a $483 million charge to impair goodwill associated with our Wheelabrator business; (ii) $262 million of charges to

 

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impair certain landfills, primarily in our Eastern Canada Area; (iii) $144 million of charges to write down the carrying value of three waste-to-energy facilities and (iv) $71 million of impairment charges relating to investments in waste diversion technology companies. These items had a negative impact of $1.91 on our diluted earnings per share; and

 

    The recognition of pre-tax charges aggregating $23 million primarily related to our acquisitions of Greenstar and RCI as well as our 2012 restructuring and other charges. These items had a negative impact of $0.03 on our diluted earnings per share.

Our 2012 results were affected by the following:

 

    The recognition of pre-tax impairment charges aggregating $109 million attributable primarily to facilities in our medical waste services business and investments in waste diversion technologies. These items had a negative impact of $0.17 on our diluted earnings per share;

 

    The recognition of pre-tax costs aggregating $82 million primarily related to our July 2012 restructuring as well as integration costs associated with our acquisition of Oakleaf. These items had a negative impact of $0.11 on our diluted earnings per share;

The recognition of a pre-tax charge of $10 million related to the withdrawal from an underfunded multiemployer pension plan and a pre-tax charge of $6 million resulting from a labor union dispute. These items had a negative impact of $0.02 on our diluted earnings per share; and

 

    The recognition of pre-tax charges aggregating $10 million related to an accrual for legal reserves and the impact of a decrease in the risk-free discount rate used to measure our environmental remediation liabilities. These items had a negative impact of $0.01 on our diluted earnings per share.

We began the year with a focus on growing earnings and free cash flow, increasing yield and exercising discipline around capital spending and costs, and the Company’s execution on these goals translated into strong overall operating results in 2014. Additionally, we increased the amount we returned to stockholders in 2014 compared to 2013 by increasing our dividend and share repurchases. Our fourth quarter results capitalized on the momentum we built throughout the year, delivering growth in income from operations and income from operations margin in our Solid Waste business that we expect to continue into 2015. During the fourth quarter, we also completed our previously announced divestiture of our Wheelabrator business for cash proceeds of $1.95 billion, net of cash divested, subject to certain post-closing adjustments. We intend to use these proceeds in support of our strategic growth plans to drive long-term stockholder value, with our priority being on making accretive acquisitions in our Solid Waste business. We also expect our focus on our five key priorities set forth above — Customers; Traditional Waste Business; Growth; Yield Management and Costs – to translate into continued strong free cash flow to pay our dividends, repurchase shares and make other growth investments, while continuing our commitment to maintain a strong balance sheet.

Free Cash Flow

As is our practice, we are presenting free cash flow, which is a non-GAAP measure of liquidity, in our disclosures because we use this measure in the evaluation and management of our business. We define free cash flow as net cash provided by operating activities, less capital expenditures, plus proceeds from divestitures of businesses (net of cash divested) and other sales of assets. We believe it is indicative of our ability to pay our quarterly dividends, repurchase common stock, fund acquisitions and other investments and, in the absence of refinancings, to repay our debt obligations. Free cash flow is not intended to replace “Net cash provided by operating activities,” which is the most comparable GAAP measure. However, we believe free cash flow gives investors useful insight into how we view our liquidity. Nevertheless, the use of free cash flow as a liquidity measure has material limitations because it excludes certain expenditures that are required or that we have committed to, such as declared dividend payments and debt service requirements.

 

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Our calculation of free cash flow and reconciliation to “Net cash provided by operating activities” is shown in the table below (in millions), and may not be calculated the same as similarly-titled measures presented by other companies:

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2014      2013      2012  

Net cash provided by operating activities

   $ 2,331       $ 2,455       $ 2,295   

Capital expenditures

     (1,151      (1,271      (1,510

Proceeds from divestitures of businesses and other assets (net of cash divested)

     2,253         138         44   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Free cash flow

$ 3,433    $ 1,322    $ 829   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

When comparing our cash flows from operating activities for the year ended December 31, 2014 to the comparable period in 2013, the decrease of $124 million is primarily related to higher income tax payments of $247 million in the current year and a payment of $36 million made in the first quarter of 2014 to terminate our forward starting swaps. These decreases were partially offset by higher cash earnings and favorable working capital changes.

When comparing our cash flows from operating activities for the year ended December 31, 2013 to the comparable period in 2012, the increase of $160 million was primarily related to the impact of higher cash earnings, favorable impacts of working capital changes and the payment of $59 million to settle the liabilities associated with the termination of our forward starting swaps in September 2012. The increase was partially offset by an increase in tax payments of $145 million and the favorable cash receipt of $72 million resulting from the termination of interest rate swaps in April 2012.

The decrease in capital expenditures when comparing the year ended December 31, 2014 to the comparable period in 2013 and comparing the year ended December 31, 2013 to the comparable period in 2012 can generally be attributed to increased focus on capital spending management.

The increase in proceeds from divestitures of businesses and other assets (net of cash divested) for the year ended December 31, 2014 from the comparable period in 2013 is largely driven by (i) the sale of our Wheelabrator business in the fourth quarter of 2014 for $1.95 billion; (ii) the sale of our investment in Shanghai Environment Group (“SEG”), which was part of our Wheelabrator business, in the first quarter of 2014 for $155 million; (iii) the sale of our Puerto Rico operations and certain other collection and landfill assets in the second quarter of 2014, for proceeds of $80 million, including $65 million in cash; (iv) the sale of certain landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area in the third quarter of 2014 for $39 million and (v) the sale of a vacant facility in the second quarter of 2014 for $19 million.

Pending Acquisition

On September 17, 2014, the Company signed a definitive agreement to acquire the outstanding stock of Deffenbaugh Disposal, Inc., one of the largest privately owned collection and disposal firms in the Midwest. Closing of the acquisition is expected to occur in early 2015, subject to the receipt of regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of customary closing conditions.

Acquisitions

Greenstar, LLC — On January 31, 2013, we paid $170 million inclusive of certain adjustments, to acquire Greenstar, LLC (“Greenstar”). Pursuant to the sale and purchase agreement, up to an additional $40 million is payable to the sellers during the period from 2014 to 2018, of which $20 million is guaranteed. The remaining $20 million of this consideration is contingent based on changes in certain recyclable commodity indexes and

 

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had an estimated fair value at closing of $16 million. Greenstar was an operator of recycling and resource recovery facilities. This acquisition provides the Company’s customers with greater access to recycling solutions, having supplemented our extensive nationwide recycling network with the operations of one of the nation’s largest private recyclers.

RCI Environnement, Inc. — On July 5, 2013, we paid C$509 million, or $481 million, to acquire substantially all of the assets of RCI Environnement, Inc. (“RCI”), the largest waste management company in Quebec, and certain related entities. Total consideration, inclusive of amounts for estimated working capital, was C$515 million, or $487 million. RCI provides collection, transfer, recycling and disposal operations throughout the Greater Montreal area. The acquired RCI operations complement and expand the Company’s existing assets and operations in Quebec.

Divestitures

Divestiture of Wheelabrator Business

On December 19, 2014, we sold our Wheelabrator business to an affiliate of Energy Capital Partners and received cash proceeds of $1.95 billion, net of cash divested, subject to certain post-closing adjustments. We recognized a gain of $519 million on this sale which is included within “(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments (other than goodwill) and unusual items” in the Consolidated Statement of Operations. In conjunction with the sale, the Company entered into several agreements to dispose of a minimum number of tons of waste at certain Wheelabrator facilities. These agreements generally provide for fixed volume commitments, with certain market price resets, for up to seven years.

Wheelabrator provides waste-to-energy services and manages waste-to-energy facilities and independent power production plants. Wheelabrator owns or operates 16 waste-to-energy facilities and four independent power production plants. Prior to the sale, our Wheelabrator business constituted a reportable segment for the Company, as discussed in Note 21 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. We concluded that the sale of our Wheelabrator business did not qualify for discontinued operations accounting under current authoritative guidance based on our significant continuing obligations under the long-term waste supply agreements referred to above and in Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Other Divestitures

In the second quarter of 2014, we sold our Puerto Rico operations and certain other collection and landfill assets which were included in Tier 3 and Tier 1, respectively, of our Solid Waste business. We received proceeds from the sale of $80 million, consisting of $65 million of cash and $15 million of preferred stock and recognized a loss on the sale of $25 million.

In the third quarter of 2014, we sold certain landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area, which were included in Tier 3. We received cash proceeds from the sale of $39 million and recognized a gain of $18 million.

The gain or loss on these divestitures is included within “(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments (other than goodwill) and unusual items” in the Consolidated Statement of Operations. The remaining proceeds from divestitures in 2014 were comprised substantially of cash. Additional information on our reportable segments can be found in Note 21 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Basis of Presentation of Consolidated Financial Information

Comprehensive Income — In February 2013, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) issued amended authoritative guidance associated with comprehensive income, which requires companies to provide

 

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information about the amounts that are reclassified out of accumulated other comprehensive income by component. Additionally, companies are required to present significant amounts reclassified out of accumulated other comprehensive income by the respective line items of net income. The amendment to authoritative guidance associated with comprehensive income was effective for the Company on January 1, 2013. The adoption of this guidance did not have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements. We have presented the information required by this amendment in Note 14 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Indefinite-Lived Intangible Assets Impairment Testing — In July 2012, the FASB amended authoritative guidance associated with indefinite-lived intangible assets impairment testing. The amended guidance provides companies the option to first assess qualitative factors to determine whether the existence of events or circumstances leads to a determination that it is more likely than not that the indefinite-lived intangible asset is impaired. If, after assessing the totality of events or circumstances, an entity determines it is not more likely than not that the indefinite-lived intangible asset is impaired, then the entity is not required to take further action. The amendments were effective for indefinite-lived intangible impairment tests performed for fiscal years beginning after September 15, 2012; however, early adoption was permitted. The Company’s early adoption of this guidance in 2012 did not have an impact on our consolidated financial statements. Additional information on impairment testing can be found in Note 3 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Critical Accounting Estimates and Assumptions

In preparing our financial statements, we make numerous estimates and assumptions that affect the accounting for and recognition and disclosure of assets, liabilities, equity, revenues and expenses. We must make these estimates and assumptions because certain information that we use is dependent on future events, cannot be calculated with precision from available data or simply cannot be calculated. In some cases, these estimates are difficult to determine, and we must exercise significant judgment. In preparing our financial statements, the most difficult, subjective and complex estimates and the assumptions that present the greatest amount of uncertainty relate to our accounting for landfills, environmental remediation liabilities, asset impairments, deferred income taxes and reserves associated with our insured and self-insured claims. Each of these items is discussed in additional detail below. Actual results could differ materially from the estimates and assumptions that we use in the preparation of our financial statements.

Landfills

Accounting for landfills requires that significant estimates and assumptions be made regarding (i) the cost to construct and develop each landfill asset; (ii) the estimated fair value of final capping, closure and post-closure asset retirement obligations, which must consider both the expected cost and timing of these activities; (iii) the determination of each landfill’s remaining permitted and expansion airspace and (iv) the airspace associated with each final capping event.

Landfill Costs — We estimate the total cost to develop each of our landfill sites to its remaining permitted and expansion capacity. This estimate includes such costs as landfill liner material and installation, excavation for airspace, landfill leachate collection systems, landfill gas collection systems, environmental monitoring equipment for groundwater and landfill gas, directly related engineering, capitalized interest, on-site road construction and other capital infrastructure costs. Additionally, landfill development includes all land purchases for the landfill footprint and required landfill buffer property. The projection of these landfill costs is dependent, in part, on future events. The remaining amortizable basis of each landfill includes costs to develop a site to its remaining permitted and expansion capacity and includes amounts previously expended and capitalized, net of accumulated airspace amortization, and projections of future purchase and development costs.

Final Capping Costs — We estimate the cost for each final capping event based on the area to be finally capped and the capping materials and activities required. The estimates also consider when these costs are anticipated to be paid and factor in inflation and discount rates. Our engineering personnel allocate landfill final

 

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capping costs to specific final capping events. The landfill capacity associated with each final capping event is then quantified and the final capping costs for each event are amortized over the related capacity associated with the event as waste is disposed of at the landfill. We review these costs annually, or more often if significant facts change. Changes in estimates, such as timing or cost of construction, for final capping events immediately impact the required liability and the corresponding asset. When the change in estimate relates to a fully consumed asset, the adjustment to the asset must be amortized immediately through expense. When the change in estimate relates to a final capping event that has not been fully consumed, the adjustment to the asset is recognized in income prospectively as a component of landfill airspace amortization.

Closure and Post-Closure Costs — We base our estimates for closure and post-closure costs on our interpretations of permit and regulatory requirements for closure and post-closure monitoring and maintenance. The estimates for landfill closure and post-closure costs also consider when the costs are anticipated to be paid and factor in inflation and discount rates. The possibility of changing legal and regulatory requirements and the forward-looking nature of these types of costs make any estimation or assumption less certain. Changes in estimates for closure and post-closure events immediately impact the required liability and the corresponding asset. When the change in estimate relates to a fully consumed asset, the adjustment to the asset must be amortized immediately through expense. When the change in estimate relates to a landfill asset that has not been fully consumed, the adjustment to the asset is recognized in income prospectively as a component of landfill airspace amortization.

Remaining Permitted Airspace — Our engineers, in consultation with third-party engineering consultants and surveyors, are responsible for determining remaining permitted airspace at our landfills. The remaining permitted airspace is determined by an annual survey, which is used to compare the existing landfill topography to the expected final landfill topography.

Expansion Airspace — We also include currently unpermitted expansion airspace in our estimate of remaining permitted and expansion airspace in certain circumstances. First, to include airspace associated with an expansion effort, we must generally expect the initial expansion permit application to be submitted within one year, and the final expansion permit to be received within five years. Second, we must believe that obtaining the expansion permit is likely, considering the following criteria:

 

    Personnel are actively working on the expansion of an existing landfill, including efforts to obtain land use and local, state or provincial approvals;

 

    It is likely that the approvals will be received within the normal application and processing time periods for approvals in the jurisdiction in which the landfill is located;

 

    We have a legal right to use or obtain land to be included in the expansion plan;

 

    There are no significant known technical, legal, community, business, or political restrictions or similar issues that could negatively affect the success of such expansion; and

 

    Financial analysis has been completed based on conceptual design, and the results demonstrate that the expansion has a positive financial and operational impact.

For unpermitted airspace to be initially included in our estimate of remaining permitted and expansion airspace, the expansion effort must meet all of the criteria listed above. These criteria are evaluated by our field-based engineers, accountants, managers and others to identify potential obstacles to obtaining the permits. Once the unpermitted airspace is included, our policy provides that airspace may continue to be included in remaining permitted and expansion airspace even if certain of these criteria are no longer met as long as we continue to believe we will ultimately obtain the permit, based on the facts and circumstances of a specific landfill. In these circumstances, continued inclusion must be approved through a landfill-specific review process that includes approval by our Chief Financial Officer and a review by the Audit Committee of our Board of Directors on a quarterly basis. Of the 23 landfill sites with expansions included at December 31, 2014, five landfills required the

 

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Chief Financial Officer to approve the inclusion of the unpermitted airspace. Two of these landfills required approval by our Chief Financial Officer because of community or political opposition that could impede the expansion process. The remaining three landfills required approval due to local zoning restrictions or because the permit application processes do not meet the one- or five-year requirements.

When we include the expansion airspace in our calculations of remaining permitted and expansion airspace, we also include the projected costs for development, as well as the projected asset retirement costs related to final capping, closure and post-closure of the expansion in the amortization basis of the landfill.

Once the remaining permitted and expansion airspace is determined in cubic yards, an airspace utilization factor (“AUF”) is established to calculate the remaining permitted and expansion capacity in tons. The AUF is established using the measured density obtained from previous annual surveys and is then adjusted to account for future settlement. The amount of settlement that is forecasted will take into account several site-specific factors including current and projected mix of waste type, initial and projected waste density, estimated number of years of life remaining, depth of underlying waste, anticipated access to moisture through precipitation or recirculation of landfill leachate, and operating practices. In addition, the initial selection of the AUF is subject to a subsequent multi-level review by our engineering group, and the AUF used is reviewed on a periodic basis and revised as necessary. Our historical experience generally indicates that the impact of settlement at a landfill is greater later in the life of the landfill when the waste placed at the landfill approaches its highest point under the permit requirements.

After determining the costs and remaining permitted and expansion capacity at each of our landfills, we determine the per ton rates that will be expensed as waste is received and deposited at the landfill by dividing the costs by the corresponding number of tons. We calculate per ton amortization rates for each landfill for assets associated with each final capping event, for assets related to closure and post-closure activities and for all other costs capitalized or to be capitalized in the future. These rates per ton are updated annually, or more often, as significant facts change.

It is possible that actual results, including the amount of costs incurred, the timing of final capping, closure and post-closure activities, our airspace utilization or the success of our expansion efforts could ultimately turn out to be significantly different from our estimates and assumptions. To the extent that such estimates, or related assumptions, prove to be significantly different than actual results, lower profitability may be experienced due to higher amortization rates or higher expenses; or higher profitability may result if the opposite occurs. Most significantly, if it is determined that expansion capacity should no longer be considered in calculating the recoverability of a landfill asset, we may be required to recognize an asset impairment or incur significantly higher amortization expense. If at any time management makes the decision to abandon the expansion effort, the capitalized costs related to the expansion effort are expensed immediately.

Environmental Remediation Liabilities

We are subject to an array of laws and regulations relating to the protection of the environment. Under current laws and regulations, we may have liabilities for environmental damage caused by operations, or for damage caused by conditions that existed before we acquired a site. These liabilities include potentially responsible party (“PRP”) investigations, settlements, and certain legal and consultant fees, as well as costs directly associated with site investigation and clean up, such as materials, external contractor costs and incremental internal costs directly related to the remedy. We provide for expenses associated with environmental remediation obligations when such amounts are probable and can be reasonably estimated. We routinely review and evaluate sites that require remediation and determine our estimated cost for the likely remedy based on a number of estimates and assumptions.

Where it is probable that a liability has been incurred, we estimate costs required to remediate sites based on site-specific facts and circumstances. We routinely review and evaluate sites that require remediation,

 

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considering whether we were an owner, operator, transporter, or generator at the site, the amount and type of waste hauled to the site and the number of years we were associated with the site. Next, we review the same type of information with respect to other named and unnamed PRPs. Estimates of the costs for the likely remedy are then either developed using our internal resources or by third-party environmental engineers or other service providers. Internally developed estimates are based on:

 

    Management’s judgment and experience in remediating our own and unrelated parties’ sites;

 

    Information available from regulatory agencies as to costs of remediation;

 

    The number, financial resources and relative degree of responsibility of other PRPs who may be liable for remediation of a specific site; and

 

    The typical allocation of costs among PRPs, unless the actual allocation has been determined.

Asset Impairments

Our long-lived assets, including landfills and landfill expansions, are carried on our financial statements based on their cost less accumulated depreciation or amortization. We monitor the carrying value of our long-lived assets for potential impairment on an ongoing basis and test the recoverability of such assets using significant unobservable (“Level 3”) inputs whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that their carrying amounts may not be recoverable. These events or changes in circumstances, including management decisions pertaining to such assets, are referred to as impairment indicators. If an impairment indicator occurs, we perform a test of recoverability by comparing the carrying value of the asset or asset group to its undiscounted expected future cash flows. If cash flows cannot be separately and independently identified for a single asset, we will determine whether an impairment has occurred for the group of assets for which we can identify the projected cash flows. If the carrying values are in excess of undiscounted expected future cash flows, we measure any impairment by comparing the fair value of the asset or asset group to its carrying value. Fair value is generally determined by considering (i) internally developed discounted projected cash flow analysis of the asset or asset group; (ii) actual third-party valuations and/or (iii) information available regarding the current market for similar assets. If the fair value of an asset or asset group is determined to be less than the carrying amount of the asset or asset group, an impairment in the amount of the difference is recorded in the period that the impairment indicator occurs and is included in the “(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments (other than goodwill) and unusual items” line item in our Consolidated Statement of Operations. Estimating future cash flows requires significant judgment and projections may vary from the cash flows eventually realized, which could impact our ability to accurately assess whether an asset has been impaired.

There are additional considerations for impairments of landfills, goodwill and other indefinite-lived intangible assets, as described below.

Landfills — The assessment of impairment indicators and the recoverability of our capitalized costs associated with landfills and related expansion projects require significant judgment due to the unique nature of the waste industry, the highly regulated permitting process and the sensitive estimates involved. During the review of a landfill expansion application, a regulator may initially deny the expansion application although the expansion permit is ultimately granted. In addition, management may periodically divert waste from one landfill to another to conserve remaining permitted landfill airspace, or a landfill may be required to cease accepting waste, prior to receipt of the expansion permit. However, such events occur in the ordinary course of business in the waste industry and do not necessarily result in impairment of our landfill assets because, after consideration of all facts, such events may not affect our belief that we will ultimately obtain the expansion permit. As a result, our tests of recoverability, which generally make use of a probability-weighted cash flow estimation approach, may indicate that no impairment loss should be recorded. See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Critical Accounting Estimates and Assumptions — Expansion Airspace above for discussion of criteria involved in assessing our likelihood of obtaining an expansion permit.

 

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At December 31, 2014, one of our landfill sites for which we believe receipt of the expansion permit is probable, is not currently accepting waste. The net recorded capitalized landfill asset cost for this site was $247 million at December 31, 2014. We performed a test of recoverability for this landfill and the undiscounted cash flows resulting from our probability-weighted estimation approach significantly exceeded the carrying value of this site. During the year ended December 31, 2013, we recognized $262 million of charges to impair certain of our landfills, primarily as a result of our consideration of management’s decision in the fourth quarter of 2013 not to actively pursue expansion and/or development of such landfills. These charges were primarily associated with two landfills in our Eastern Canada Area, which are no longer accepting waste. We had previously concluded that receipt of permits for these landfills was probable. However, in connection with our asset rationalization and capital allocation analysis, which was influenced, in part, by our acquisition of RCI, we determined that the future costs to construct these landfills could be avoided as we are able to allocate disposal that would have gone to these landfills to other facilities and not materially impact operations. As a result of management’s decision, we determined that the carrying values of landfill assets were no longer able to be recovered by the undiscounted cash flows attributable to these assets. As such, we wrote their carrying values down to their estimated fair values using a market approach considering the highest and best use of the assets.

See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — (Income) Expense from Divestitures, Asset Impairments (Other than Goodwill) and Unusual Items and Note 13 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information related to landfill asset impairments recognized during the reported periods.

Goodwill — At least annually, and more frequently if warranted, we assess our goodwill for impairment using Level 3 inputs.

We assess whether a goodwill impairment exists using both qualitative and quantitative assessments. Our qualitative assessment involves determining whether events or circumstances exist that indicate it is more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount, including goodwill. If based on this qualitative assessment we determine it is not more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount, we will not perform a quantitative assessment.

If the qualitative assessment indicates that it is more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount or if we elect not to perform a qualitative assessment, we perform a quantitative assessment, or two-step impairment test, to determine whether a goodwill impairment exists at the reporting unit. The first step in our quantitative assessment identifies potential impairments by comparing the estimated fair value of the reporting unit to its carrying value, including goodwill. If the carrying value exceeds estimated fair value, there is an indication of potential impairment and the second step is performed to measure the amount of impairment. Fair value is typically estimated using a combination of the income approach and market approach or only an income approach when applicable. The income approach is based on the long-term projected future cash flows of the reporting units. We discount the estimated cash flows to present value using a weighted-average cost of capital that considers factors such as market assumptions, the timing of the cash flows and the risks inherent in those cash flows. We believe that this approach is appropriate because it provides a fair value estimate based upon the reporting units’ expected long-term performance considering the economic and market conditions that generally affect our business. The market approach estimates fair value by measuring the aggregate market value of publicly-traded companies with similar characteristics to our business as a multiple of their reported cash flows. We then apply that multiple to the reporting units’ cash flows to estimate their fair values. We believe that this approach is appropriate because it provides a fair value estimate using valuation inputs from entities with operations and economic characteristics comparable to our reporting units.

Fair value computed by these two methods is arrived at using a number of factors, including projected future operating results, economic projections, anticipated future cash flows, comparable marketplace data and the cost of capital. There are inherent uncertainties related to these factors and to our judgment in applying them to this analysis. However, we believe that these two methods provide a reasonable approach to estimating the fair value of our reporting units.

 

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During our annual 2013 impairment test of our goodwill balances we determined the fair value of our Wheelabrator business had declined and the associated goodwill was impaired. As a result, we recognized an impairment charge of $483 million, which had no related tax benefit. We estimated the implied fair value of our Wheelabrator reporting unit goodwill using a combination of income and market approaches. Because the annual impairment test indicated that Wheelabrator’s carrying value exceeded its estimated fair value, we performed the “step two” analysis. In the “step two” analysis, the fair values of all assets and liabilities were estimated, including tangible assets, power contracts, customer relationships and trade name for the purpose of deriving an estimate of the implied fair value of goodwill. The implied fair value of goodwill was then compared to the carrying amount of goodwill to determine the amount of the impairment. The factors contributing to the $483 million goodwill impairment charge principally related to the continued challenging business environment in areas of the country in which Wheelabrator operated, characterized by lower available disposal volumes (which impact disposal rates and overall disposal revenue, as well as the amount of electricity Wheelabrator was able to generate), lower electricity pricing due to the pricing pressure created by availability of natural gas and increased operating costs as Wheelabrator’s facilities aged. These factors caused us to lower prior assumptions for electricity and disposal revenue, and increase assumed operating costs. Additionally, the discount factor previously utilized in the income approach in 2013 increased mainly due to increases in interest rates. In 2013, we incurred an additional $10 million of charges to impair goodwill associated with our Puerto Rico operations and $4 million to impair goodwill associated with our recycling business. In 2014, we recognized $10 million of goodwill impairment charges associated with our recycling operations.

See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Goodwill Impairments and Notes 6 and 13 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information related to goodwill impairments recognized during the reported periods.

Indefinite-Lived Intangible Assets Other Than Goodwill — At least annually, and more frequently if warranted, we assess indefinite-lived intangible assets other than goodwill for impairment.

When performing the impairment test for indefinite-lived intangible assets, we generally first conduct a qualitative analysis to determine whether we believe it is more likely than not that an asset has been impaired. If we believe an impairment has occurred, we then evaluate for impairment by comparing the estimated fair value of assets to the carrying value. An impairment charge is recognized if the asset’s estimated fair value is less than its carrying value.

Fair value is typically estimated using an income approach. The income approach is based on the long-term projected future cash flows. We discount the estimated cash flows to present value using a weighted-average cost of capital that considers factors such as market assumptions, the timing of the cash flows and the risks inherent in those cash flows. We believe that this approach is appropriate because it provides a fair value estimate based upon the expected long-term performance considering the economic and market conditions that generally affect our business.

Fair value computed by this method is arrived at using a number of factors, including projected future operating results, economic projections, anticipated future cash flows, comparable marketplace data and the cost of capital. There are inherent uncertainties related to these factors and to our judgment in applying them to this analysis. However, we believe that this method provides a reasonable approach to estimating the fair value of the reporting units.

Deferred Income Taxes

Deferred income taxes are based on the difference between the financial reporting and tax basis of assets and liabilities. The deferred income tax provision represents the change during the reporting period in the deferred tax assets and deferred tax liabilities, net of the effect of acquisitions and dispositions. Deferred tax assets include tax loss and credit carry-forwards and are reduced by a valuation allowance if, based on available evidence, it is more likely than not that some portion or all of the deferred tax assets will not be realized.

 

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Significant judgment is required in assessing the timing and amounts of deductible and taxable items. We establish reserves for uncertain tax positions when, despite our belief that our tax return positions are fully supportable, we believe that certain positions may be challenged and potentially disallowed. When facts and circumstances change, we adjust these reserves through our provision for income taxes. To the extent interest and penalties may be assessed by taxing authorities on any underpayment of income tax, such amounts have been accrued and are classified as a component of income tax expense in our Consolidated Statements of Operations.

Insured and Self-Insured Claims

We have retained a significant portion of the risks related to our health and welfare, automobile, general liability and workers’ compensation insurance programs. The exposure for unpaid claims and associated expenses, including incurred but not reported losses, are based on an actuarial valuation and internal estimates. The accruals for these liabilities could be revised if future occurrences or loss development significantly differ from our assumptions used. Estimated recoveries associated with our insured claims are recorded as assets when we believe that the receipt of such amounts is probable.

Results of Operations

Operating Revenues

Our operating revenues set forth below have generally come from fees charged for our collection, disposal, transfer, recycling and resource recovery, and waste-to-energy services and from sales of commodities by our recycling, waste-to-energy and landfill gas-to-energy operations. Revenues from our collection operations are influenced by factors such as collection frequency, type of collection equipment furnished, type and volume or weight of the waste collected, distance to the disposal facility or MRF and our disposal costs. Revenues from our landfill operations consist of tipping fees, which are generally based on the type and weight or volume of waste being disposed of at our disposal facilities. Fees charged at transfer stations are generally based on the weight or volume of waste deposited, taking into account our cost of loading, transporting and disposing of the solid waste at a disposal site. Recycling revenue generally consists of tipping fees and the sale of recyclable commodities to third parties. The fees we charge for our collection, disposal, transfer and recycling services generally include fuel surcharges, which are indexed to current market costs for diesel fuel. Our recently divested Wheelabrator business provided waste-to-energy services and managed waste-to-energy facilities and independent power production plants. We also provide additional services that are not managed through our Solid Waste or Wheelabrator businesses, including Strategic Business Solutions (“WMSBS”), Energy and Environmental Services, recycling brokerage and electronic recycling services, landfill gas-to-energy services, and expanded service offerings and solutions. We also offer portable self-storage services through a joint venture; fluorescent bulb and universal waste mail-back through our LampTracker® program; portable restroom servicing under the name Port-o-Let® and street and parking lot sweeping services. In addition, we hold interests in oil and gas producing properties. These operations are presented as “Other” in the table below. The following table summarizes revenues during each period (in millions):

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2014      2013      2012  

Solid Waste:

        

Tier 1

   $ 3,495       $ 3,487       $ 3,370   

Tier 2

     6,416         6,438         6,273   

Tier 3

     3,538         3,552         3,413   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Solid Waste

  13,449      13,477      13,056   

Wheelabrator

  817      845      846   

Other

  2,191      2,185      2,106   

Intercompany

  (2,461   (2,524   (2,359
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

$ 13,996    $ 13,983    $ 13,649   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

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The mix of operating revenues from our major lines of business is reflected in the table below (in millions):

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2014      2013      2012  

Collection:

        

Commercial

   $ 3,393       $ 3,423       $ 3,417   

Residential

     2,543         2,608         2,584   

Industrial

     2,231         2,209         2,129   

Other

     340         273         275   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total collection

  8,507      8,513      8,405   

Landfill

  2,849      2,790      2,685   

Transfer

  1,353      1,329      1,296   

Wheelabrator

  817      845      846   

Recycling

  1,370      1,447      1,360   

Other

  1,561      1,583      1,416   

Intercompany

  (2,461   (2,524   (2,359
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

$ 13,996    $ 13,983    $ 13,649   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

The following table provides details associated with the period-to-period change in revenues (dollars in millions) along with an explanation of the significant components of the current period changes:

 

     Period-to-Period
Change
2014 vs. 2013
    Period-to-Period
Change
2013 vs. 2012
 
     Amount      As a % of
Total
Company(a)
    Amount      As a % of
Total
Company(a)
 

Average yield(b)

   $ 228         1.6   $ 206         1.5

Volume

     (188      (1.4     (133      (1.0
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

Internal revenue growth

  40      0.2      73      0.5   

Acquisitions

  124      0.9      292      2.1   

Divestitures

  (90   (0.6   (6   —     

Foreign currency translation

  (61   (0.4   (25   (0.2
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

$ 13      0.1 $ 334      2.4
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(a) Calculated by dividing the amount of current year increase or decrease by the prior year’s total company revenue adjusted to exclude the impacts of current year divestitures ($13,893 million and $13,643 million for 2014 and 2013, respectively).
(b)

The amounts reported herein represent the changes in our revenue attributable to average yield for the total Company. We also analyze the changes in average yield in terms of related-business revenues in order to differentiate the changes in yield attributable to our pricing strategies from the changes that are caused by

 

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  market-driven price changes in commodities. The following table summarizes changes in revenues from average yield on a related-business basis (dollars in millions):

 

     Period-to-Period
Change
2014 vs. 2013
    Period-to-Period
Change
2013 vs. 2012
 
     Amount      As a % of
Related
Business(i)
    Amount      As a % of
Related
Business(i)
 

Average yield:

     

Collection, landfill and transfer

   $ 263         2.4   $ 241         2.2

Waste-to-energy disposal(ii)

     (1      (0.2     (6      (1.4
  

 

 

      

 

 

    

Collection and disposal(ii)

  262      2.3      235      2.1   

Recycling commodities

  (53   (3.7   (79   (5.8

Electricity(ii)

  21      7.9      18      6.8   

Fuel surcharges and mandated fees

  (2   (0.3   32      4.9   
  

 

 

      

 

 

    

Total

$ 228      1.6    $ 206      1.5   
  

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

(i) Calculated by dividing the increase or decrease for the current year by the prior year’s related business revenue, adjusted to exclude the impacts of divestitures for the current year. The table below summarizes the related business revenues for each year, adjusted to exclude the impacts of divestitures (in millions):

 

     Denominator  
     2014      2013  

Related-business revenues:

     

Collection, landfill and transfer

   $ 11,103       $ 10,939   

Waste-to-energy disposal

     409         431   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Collection and disposal

  11,512      11,370   

Recycling commodities

  1,431      1,357   

Electricity

  266      266   

Fuel surcharges and mandated fees

  684      650   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total Company

$ 13,893    $ 13,643   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(ii) Average revenue growth for yield for “Collection and disposal” excludes all electricity-related revenues generated by our Wheelabrator business and our landfill gas-to-energy operations, which are reported as “Electricity” revenues.

Our revenues increased $13 million, or 0.1%, for the year ended December 31, 2014. Our revenue fluctuation in the current period has been driven by (i) revenue growth from yield on our collection and disposal operations; (ii) revenue from acquired operations, particularly the RCI operations acquired in July 2013, which contributed approximately $77 million to the revenue growth for the year ended December 31, 2014; and (iii) fluctuations in electricity prices at Wheelabrator’s merchant waste-to-energy facilities that favorably affected revenues. Offsetting these revenue increases were (i) revenue declines due to lower volumes; (ii) divestitures, primarily our Puerto Rico divestiture in the second quarter of 2014, certain landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area in the third quarter of 2014, and our Wheelabrator business in December 2014; (iii) foreign currency translation, which affects revenues from our Canadian operations; and (iv) revenue declines resulting from lower recyclable commodity prices.

Our revenues increased $334 million, or 2.4%, for the year ended December 31, 2013. Our revenue fluctuation in the prior period was driven by (i) revenue from acquired operations, particularly Greenstar acquired in January 2013 and RCI, which increased revenues by $138 million and $80 million, respectively; (ii) increased revenue growth from our collection and disposal average yield; (iii) higher revenues provided by

 

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our fuel surcharge program; and (iv) fluctuations in electricity prices at our merchant waste-to-energy facilities. Offsetting these revenue increases were (i) revenue declines resulting from lower recyclable commodity prices; (ii) foreign currency translation, which negatively affected revenues from our Canadian operations; and (iii) revenue declines due to lower volumes.

The following provides further details associated with our period-to-period change in revenues.

Average yield

Collection and disposal average yield — This measure reflects the effect on our revenue from the pricing activities of our collection, transfer, landfill and waste-to-energy disposal operations, exclusive of volume changes. Revenue growth from collection and disposal average yield includes not only base rate changes and environmental and service fee increases, but also (i) certain average price changes related to the overall mix of services, which are due to both the types of services provided and the geographic locations where our services are provided; (ii) changes in average price from new and lost business and (iii) price decreases to retain customers.

Revenue growth from collection and disposal average yield was $262 million, or 2.3%, and $235 million, or 2.1%, for the years ended December 31, 2014 and 2013, respectively.

We experienced growth in all three of our principal collection lines of business in both 2014 and 2013. The details are as follows (dollars in millions):

 

     Period-to-Period
Change
2014 vs. 2013
    Period-to-Period
Change
2013 vs. 2012
 
     Amount      As a % of
Related
Business
    Amount      As a % of
Related
Business
 

Commercial

   $ 134         4.3   $ 101         3.3

Industrial

     84         4.2        88         4.5   

Residential

     32         1.3        43         1.8   
  

 

 

      

 

 

    
$ 250    $ 232   
  

 

 

      

 

 

    

Our year-over-year yield growth in both 2014 and 2013 was driven largely by our pricing strategy that combines focused effort on price increases with lower rollbacks. Conversely, our revenue growth due to volume has been negatively affected by our pricing strategy, with more significant volume declines during 2014. However, our pricing strategy and our focus on controlling variable costs have consistently provided margin improvements in our collection line of business, although we have seen margin deterioration in our residential line of business throughout 2014. Other drivers affecting the current period average yield include:

 

    A fee instituted in April 2013 to help us recover a portion of the significant regulatory costs and fees, such as host fees and disposal taxes, which have not been recouped by our pricing programs. Revenues generated from this fee are approximately $97 million and $43 million for the years ended December 31, 2014 and 2013, respectively, principally in our collection business, with the most significant impact in our commercial line of business.

 

    Revenue growth from yield in our industrial line of business was aided by our Energy Services business, which typically has higher average rates due to extended transportation distances, special waste handling costs and higher disposal costs as compared with our typical industrial business.

 

    Our focus on bidding on residential contracts to improve our yield performance and increase our overall returns. Our effort to increase yield in our residential line of business is a challenge principally due to a very competitive environment. A high percentage of our residential business is in municipal franchise markets, and many municipalities are facing significant budget challenges, which results in increased competition on the basis of price as we rebid contracts and try to win new contracts.

 

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    Yield growth from our landfill and transfer station operations also improved slightly for both 2014 and 2013.

Recycling commodities — Decreases in the prices of the recycling commodities we sell resulted in revenue declines of $53 million and $79 million for the years ended December 31, 2014 and 2013, respectively, compared with the same prior year period.

Fuel surcharges and mandated fees — These revenues, which are predominantly generated by our fuel surcharge program, decreased $2 million and increased $32 million for the years ended December 31, 2014 and 2013, respectively. These revenues fluctuate in response to changes in the national average prices for diesel fuel on which our surcharge is based. We experienced a fuel price decline of approximately 2.4% in 2014, which caused a slight decrease in our fuel surcharge revenues. These revenues increased in 2013 resulting from a revision of the surcharge calculation implemented to better capture price increases intended to be recovered by the surcharge. The mandated fees included in this line item are primarily related to pass-through fees and taxes assessed by various state, county and municipal government agencies at our landfills and transfer stations.

Volume — Declines in our volume caused our revenue to decrease $188 million, or 1.4%, and $133 million, or 1.0%, for the years ended December 31, 2014 and 2013, respectively, as compared with prior year periods, driven primarily by declines in our collection business. Our volume fluctuations are generally attributable to economic conditions, pricing changes, competition and diversion of waste by customers. Our revenue growth due to volume has been negatively affected by our pricing strategy. We are experiencing volume declines due to the loss of low margin customers that we are not willing to keep at current rates. Additionally, we are experiencing losses of certain municipal contracts that are up for bid. As a result of both the very competitive environment and our focus on reasonable returns, we continue to face challenges to keep existing contracts and to win new contracts. Finally, we experienced revenue declines associated with the loss of certain large accounts in our WMSBS organization.

Other drivers affecting the comparability of volumes for the periods presented include:

 

    We experienced revenue declines due to lower volumes in our material recovery facilities in 2014 primarily driven by the rationalization of our underperforming assets. Revenue increased due to higher volumes in 2013 driven by additional recycling capacity that we added in 2012.

 

    We experienced revenue declines of approximately $23 million associated with the severe winter weather conditions in the first quarter of 2014.

 

    We experienced higher landfill volumes in both comparable periods primarily driven by our municipal solid waste business. In addition, higher special waste volumes in the Southern U.S. also contributed to our higher landfill volumes in 2014.

 

    We experienced revenue increases due to higher volumes in our ancillary services, primarily driven by increases in our Energy and Environmental Services, our WM Renewable Energy Program and our portable self-storage services in 2014.

Acquisitions and Divestitures — Revenues increased $124 million and $292 million for the years ended December 31, 2014 and 2013, respectively, due to acquisitions. The revenue increase due to acquisitions in both 2014 and 2013 was principally associated with the RCI operations acquired in July 2013. To a lesser extent, 2013 revenues increased due to the acquisition of Greenstar in January of that year, which is reported in our “Recycling” line of business.

These revenues were offset partially by revenue decreases of $90 million and $6 million due to divestitures for the years ended 2014 and 2013, respectively. The revenue decrease in 2014 is primarily due to (i) our divestiture of our Puerto Rico operations and certain other collection and landfill assets in the second quarter of 2014; (ii) the divestiture of certain landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area in the third quarter of 2014; and (iii) the divestiture of our Wheelabrator business in December 2014.

 

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Operating Expenses

Our operating expenses are comprised of (i) labor and related benefits (excluding labor costs associated with maintenance and repairs discussed below), which include salaries and wages, bonuses, related payroll taxes, insurance and benefits costs and the costs associated with contract labor; (ii) transfer and disposal costs, which include tipping fees paid to third-party disposal facilities and transfer stations; (iii) maintenance and repairs relating to equipment, vehicles and facilities and related labor costs; (iv) subcontractor costs, which include the costs of independent haulers who transport waste collected by us to disposal facilities and are affected by variables such as volumes, distance and fuel prices; (v) costs of goods sold, which are primarily rebates paid to suppliers associated with recycling commodities; (vi) fuel costs, which represent the costs of fuel and oil to operate our truck fleet and landfill operating equipment; (vii) disposal and franchise fees and taxes, which include landfill taxes, municipal franchise fees, host community fees, contingent landfill lease payments and royalties; (viii) landfill operating costs, which include interest accretion on landfill liabilities, interest accretion on and discount rate adjustments to environmental remediation liabilities and recovery assets, leachate and methane collection and treatment, landfill remediation costs and other landfill site costs; (ix) risk management costs, which include auto liability, workers’ compensation, general liability and insurance and claim costs and (x) other operating costs, which include telecommunications, equipment and facility rent, property taxes, utilities and supplies.

Our operating expenses decreased $110 million, or 1.2%, when comparing 2014 with 2013 and increased $233 million, or 2.6%, when comparing 2013 with 2012. Operating expenses as a percentage of revenues were 64.3% in 2014, 65.2% in 2013, and 65.1% in 2012.

Divestitures — During 2014, we divested our Wheelabrator business in the fourth quarter, our Puerto Rico operations and certain other collection and landfill assets in the second quarter, and certain landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area in the third quarter. As mentioned above, we estimate that divestitures reduced our annual revenues by $90 million. Commensurately, we estimate our operating expenses decreased by approximately $56 million due to divestitures when compared to the prior year period. The decreases in costs were primarily in (i) labor and related benefits and (ii) maintenance and repairs.

The following table summarizes the major components of our operating expenses, including the impact of foreign currency translation, for the years ended December 31 (dollars in millions), with significant changes in our operating expenses discussed below:

 

     2014      Period-to-Period
Change
    2013      Period-to-Period
Change
     2012  

Labor and related benefits

   $ 2,452       $ (54      (2.2 )%    $ 2,506       $ 99         4.1    $ 2,407   

Transfer and disposal costs

     935         (38      (3.9     973         9         0.9         964   

Maintenance and repairs

     1,181         —           —          1,181         24         2.1         1,157   

Subcontractor costs

     1,223         41         3.5        1,182         (8      (0.7      1,190   

Cost of goods sold

     974         (26      (2.6     1,000         81         8.8         919   

Fuel

     553         (50      (8.3     603         (46      (7.1      649   

Disposal and franchise fees and taxes

     669         16         2.5        653         23         3.7         630   

Landfill operating costs

     266         34         14.7        232         8         3.6         224   

Risk management

     219         (25      (10.2     244         14         6.1         230   

Other

     530         (8      (1.5     538         29         5.7         509   
  

 

 

    

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

 

       

 

 

 
$ 9,002    $ (110   (1.2 )%  $ 9,112    $ 233      2.6 $ 8,879   
  

 

 

    

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

 

       

 

 

 

Labor and related benefits — The following significant items affected the comparability of expenses for the periods presented.

 

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The decrease in labor and related benefits in 2014 as compared with 2013 was due to:

 

    Lower headcount and contract labor due to lower volumes in our collection line of business and operating efficiencies in our recycling line of business;

 

    Lower costs resulting from recent divestitures, particularly the divestiture of our Puerto Rico operations, offset in part by;

 

    Higher wages due to merit increases effective in the second quarter of 2013 and 2014; and

 

    Increased health and welfare costs.

The increase in labor and related benefits in 2013 as compared with 2012 was due to:

 

    Higher wages due to merit increases effective in the second quarter of 2013;

 

    Higher incentive compensation expense in 2013;

 

    Higher contract labor principally attributed to the recycling line of business;

 

    Recent acquisitions, principally the Greenstar acquisition, offset in part by; and

 

    Lower headcount resulting principally from the flexing of our costs in response to lower collection volumes.

Maintenance and repairs — The increase in 2013 compared to 2012 was driven by (i) the Greenstar acquisition and (ii) higher internal shop labor costs due in part to higher incentive compensation and merit increases.

Subcontractor costs — The increase in 2014 was driven by (i) remediation services within our Energy and Environmental Services business and (ii) the RCI operations acquired in July 2013; offset in part by the volume decline related to the loss of certain large accounts in our WMSBS organization. The decrease in 2013 was driven primarily by the volume decline associated with the loss of certain large accounts in our WMSBS organization. These decreases were offset, in part, by higher costs associated with the acquired RCI operations.

Cost of goods sold — The decrease in cost of goods sold in 2014 is due to (i) increased efforts to reduce controllable recycling rebates paid to customers; (ii) better alignment of rebate structures to commodity prices for new recycling contracts; (iii) ongoing recycling business improvement efforts around inbound quality control and (iv) lower commodity prices. These cost decreases were offset in part by our business in portable self-storage services and remediation services. The increase in cost of goods sold in 2013 is due in large part to higher customer rebates resulting from higher volumes in our recycling commodity business driven primarily by the acquired Greenstar operations.

Fuel — The decrease in fuel expense in both 2014 and 2013 when compared to the prior year periods was driven by (i) lower fuel purchases due to reduced collection volumes; (ii) lower costs resulting from the conversion of our fleet to CNG vehicles; (iii) lower fuel prices and (iv) retroactive CNG fuel excise credits.

Disposal and franchise fees and taxes— The increase in costs in both 2014 and 2013 can be attributable to (i) higher disposal fees and taxes due to higher landfill volumes and (ii) higher municipal franchise fees relating to the collection line of business. A disposal surcharge at one of our waste-to-energy facilities in 2013 affected the comparability in both periods.

Landfill operating costs — Significant items affecting the comparability of expenses for the periods presented include (i) unfavorable adjustments in 2014 and 2012 as well as favorable adjustments in 2013 related to changes in U.S. Treasury rates used to discount the present value of our environmental remediation obligations and recovery rates and (ii) higher leachate costs for all comparable periods.

 

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Risk management — The decrease in costs in 2014 was primarily due to lower auto and general liability claims and, to a lesser extent, decreased workers’ compensation, claims and lower truck insurance expenses. The increase in costs in 2013 was driven principally by higher workers’ compensation claims.

Other — The decrease in 2014 is primarily due to the gain on the sale of a vacant facility and lower rental costs. The increased costs in 2013 when compared to 2012 were due in part to (i) higher telecommunications costs driven by our initiative to equip our fleet with onboard computers; (ii) higher utilities; (iii) higher property taxes and (iv) lower gains on the sale of assets. These increases were offset, in part, by favorable adjustments to contingent consideration associated with acquisitions.

Selling, General and Administrative

Our selling, general and administrative expenses consist of (i) labor and related benefit costs, which include salaries, bonuses, related insurance and benefits, contract labor, payroll taxes and equity-based compensation; (ii) professional fees, which include fees for consulting, legal, audit and tax services; (iii) provision for bad debts, which includes allowances for uncollectible customer accounts and collection fees and (iv) other selling, general and administrative expenses, which include, among other costs, facility-related expenses, voice and data telecommunication, advertising, travel and entertainment, rentals, postage and printing. In addition, the financial impacts of litigation settlements generally are included in our “Other” selling, general and administrative expenses.

Our selling, general and administrative expenses increased by $13 million, or 0.9%, and decreased by $4 million, or 0.3%, when comparing 2014 with 2013 and 2013 with 2012, respectively. Our selling, general and administrative expenses as a percentage of revenues were 10.6% in 2014, 10.5% in 2013 and 10.8% in 2012.

The following table summarizes the major components of our selling, general and administrative expenses for the years ended December 31 (dollars in millions):

 

     2014      Period-to-
Period
Change
    2013      Period-to-
Period
Change
    2012  

Labor and related benefits

   $ 933       $ 2        0.2   $ 931       $ 81        9.5   $ 850   

Professional fees

     126         (5     (3.8     131         (32     (19.6     163   

Provision for bad debts

     41         —          —          41         (19     (31.7     60   

Other

     381         16        4.4        365         (34     (8.5     399   
  

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 
$ 1,481    $ 13      0.9 $ 1,468    $ (4   (0.3 )%  $ 1,472   
  

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 

Labor and related benefits — Factors affecting the year-over-year changes in our labor and related benefits costs include:

 

    Merit increases;

 

    Higher incentive compensation cost, particularly in 2013, as compared with the prior year periods, including bonuses and equity-based compensation;

 

    Higher health and welfare costs in 2014 as compared to 2013; and

 

    Year-over-year labor and related benefits cost savings of approximately $40 million in 2014 and $45 million in 2013 from restructuring plans implemented in 2014 and 2012.

Professional fees — Our professional fees continued to decline during 2014 as a result of our concerted effort to reduce consulting fees. Our 2013 consulting fees were lower as we incurred significant fees during 2012 resulting from company-wide initiatives. The lower consulting fees were partially offset by higher legal fees in 2014 as compared to 2013.

 

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Provision for bad debts — Our provision for bad debts decreased in 2013 as compared to 2012 primarily as a result of (i) the collection of certain fully reserved receivables related to our Puerto Rico operations and (ii) resolution of billing delay issues experienced during 2012 in our WMSBS organization.

Other — In 2014, increased costs resulting principally from litigation settlements were partially offset by a decline in controllable costs associated with advertising and travel and entertainment costs. In 2013, controllable costs associated with (i) building and equipment; (ii) advertising; (iii) computer and telecommunication; (iv) travel and entertainment and (v) seminars and education declined primarily as a result of our July 2012 restructuring and focus on cost-control initiatives.

Depreciation and Amortization

Depreciation and amortization includes (i) depreciation of property and equipment, including assets recorded for capital leases, on a straight-line basis from three to 50 years; (ii) amortization of landfill costs, including those incurred and all estimated future costs for landfill development, construction and asset retirement costs arising from closure and post-closure, on a units-of-consumption method as landfill airspace is consumed over the total estimated remaining capacity of a site, which includes both permitted capacity and expansion capacity that meets our Company-specific criteria for amortization purposes; (iii) amortization of landfill asset retirement costs arising from final capping obligations on a units-of-consumption method as airspace is consumed over the estimated capacity associated with each final capping event and (iv) amortization of intangible assets with a definite life, using either a 150% declining balance approach or a straight-line basis over the definitive terms of the related agreements, which are generally from two to 15 years depending on the type of asset.

The following table summarizes the components of our depreciation and amortization expenses for the years ended December 31 (dollars in millions):

 

     2014      Period-to-
Period
Change
    2013      Period-to-
Period
Change
    2012  

Depreciation of tangible property and equipment

   $ 834       $ (19     (2.2 )%    $ 853       $ 20         2.4   $ 833   

Amortization of landfill airspace

     380         (20     (5.0     400         5         1.3        395   

Amortization of intangible assets

     78         (2     (2.5     80         11         15.9        69   
  

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

    

 

 

      

 

 

 
$ 1,292    $ (41   (3.1 )%  $ 1,333    $ 36      2.8 $ 1,297   
  

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

    

 

 

      

 

 

 

The decrease in depreciation and amortization expense during 2014 is primarily attributable to favorable adjustments resulting from changes in landfill estimates and fixed asset depreciation that was suspended when our Wheelabrator business was classified as held-for-sale in the third quarter of 2014 and subsequently sold in December 2014. The increase in amortization of intangible assets in 2013 that continued in 2014 is primarily related to the amortization of customer relationships acquired through our acquisition of RCI.

Restructuring

In August 2014, we announced a consolidation and realignment of several Corporate functions to better support achievement of the Company’s strategic goals, including cost reduction. Voluntary separation arrangements were offered to all salaried employees within these organizations. Approximately 650 employees have separated from our Corporate and recycling organizations in connection with this restructuring, but we do not anticipate that all of these positions will be permanently eliminated.

During the year ended December 31, 2014 we recognized a total of $82 million of pre-tax restructuring charges, of which $70 million was related to employee severance and benefit costs. The remaining charges were primarily related to operating lease obligations for property that will no longer be utilized. We do not expect to incur any material charges associated with our 2014 restructuring in future periods.

 

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During the year ended December 31, 2013, we recognized a total of $18 million of pre-tax restructuring charges, of which $7 million was related to employee severance and benefit costs, including costs associated with our acquisitions of Greenstar and RCI and our 2012 restructurings. The remaining charges were primarily related to operating lease obligations for property that will no longer be utilized.

In July 2012, we announced a reorganization of operations, designed to streamline management and staff support and reduce our cost structure, while not disrupting our front-line operations. Principal organizational changes included removing the management layer of our four geographic Groups, each of which previously constituted a reportable segment, and consolidating and reducing the number of our geographic Areas through which we evaluate and oversee our Solid Waste subsidiaries from 22 to 17. This reorganization eliminated approximately 700 employee positions throughout the Company, including positions at both the management and support level. Voluntary separation arrangements were offered to many employees.

During the year ended December 31, 2012, we recognized a total of $67 million of pre-tax restructuring charges, of which $56 million were primarily related to employee severance and benefit costs associated with these reorganizations. The remaining charges were primarily related to operating lease obligations for property that will no longer be utilized.

Goodwill Impairments

During the year ended December 31, 2014, we recognized $10 million of goodwill impairment charges associated with our recycling operations. During the year ended December 31, 2013, we recognized $509 million of goodwill impairment charges, primarily related to (i) $483 million associated with our Wheelabrator business; (ii) $10 million associated with our Puerto Rico operations and (iii) $9 million associated with a majority-owned waste diversion technology company. During the year ended December 31, 2012, we recognized goodwill impairment charges of $4 million related to certain of our non-Solid Waste operations. See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Critical Estimates and Assumptions — Asset Impairments and Notes 3 and 6 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information related to these impairment charges as well as the accounting policy and analysis involved in identifying and calculating impairments.

(Income) Expense from Divestitures, Asset Impairments (Other than Goodwill) and Unusual Items

The following table summarizes the major components of “(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments and unusual items” for the year ended December 31 for the respective periods (in millions):

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
       2014          2013          2012    

(Income) expense from divestitures

   $ (515    $ (8    $   

Asset impairments

     345         472         79   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
$ (170 $ 464    $ 79   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

During the year ended December 31, 2014, we recognized net income of $170 million, primarily related to the following:

 

    (Income) expense from divestitures — We recognized net gains of $515 million, primarily as a result of a $519 million gain on the sale of our Wheelabrator business and an $18 million gain on the sale of certain landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area. Partially offsetting these gains was a $25 million loss on the divestiture of our Puerto Rico operations and certain other collection and landfill assets. Refer to Note 19 for additional information related to our divestitures.

 

   

Oil and gas properties impairments — We recognized $272 million of charges to impair certain of our oil and gas producing properties, primarily as a result of the pronounced decrease in oil and gas prices

 

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in the fourth quarter of 2014. We wrote down the carrying value of these properties to their estimated fair value using an income approach.

 

    Other impairments — We recognized additional impairment charges of $73 million to write down assets in our waste diversion technology, renewable energy, recycling and medical waste operations.

During the year ended December 31, 2013, we recognized net charges of $464 million, primarily related to the following:

 

    Landfill impairments — We recognized $262 million of charges to impair certain of our landfills, primarily as a result of our consideration of management’s decision in the fourth quarter of 2013 not to actively pursue expansion and/or development of such landfills. These charges were primarily associated with two landfills in our Eastern Canada Area, which are no longer accepting waste. We had previously concluded that receipt of permits for these landfills was probable. However, in connection with our asset rationalization and capital allocation analysis, which was influenced, in part, by our acquisition of RCI, we determined that the future costs to construct these landfills could be avoided as we are able to allocate disposal that would have gone to these landfills to other facilities and not materially impact operations. As a result of management’s decision, we determined that the landfill assets were no longer able to be recovered by the undiscounted cash flows attributable to these assets. As such, we wrote them down to their estimated fair values using a market approach considering the highest and best use of the assets.

 

    Waste-to-energy impairments — We recognized $144 million of impairment charges relating to three waste-to-energy facilities, primarily as a result of closure or anticipated closure due to continued difficulty securing sufficient volumes to operate the plants at capacity and the prospect of additional capacity entering the market where the largest facility is located. We wrote down the carrying value of our facilities to their estimated fair value using a market approach.

 

    Other impairments — The remainder of our 2013 charges were attributable to (i) $31 million of charges to impair various recycling assets; (ii) $20 million of charges to write down assets related to a majority-owned waste diversion technology company and (iii) a $15 million charge to write down the carrying value of an oil and gas property to its estimated fair value.

 

    Divestitures — Partially offsetting these charges were $8 million of net gains on divestitures.

During the year ended December 31, 2012, we recognized impairment charges of $79 million, attributable to (i) $45 million of charges related to three facilities in our medical waste services business as a result of projected operating losses at each of these facilities; (ii) $20 million of charges related to investments in waste diversion technology companies and (iii) other charges to write down the carrying value of assets to their estimated fair values, all of which are individually immaterial.

See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Critical Accounting Estimates and Assumptions — Asset Impairments for additional information related to the accounting policy and analysis involved in identifying and calculating impairments.

In addition to the impairments discussed above, we are continuing to evaluate opportunities associated with the sale or discontinued use of assets that may no longer meet our strategic objectives or are underperforming. Accordingly, it is possible that additional charges may be recorded as assets are sold or become held-for-sale.

 

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Income from Operations

The following table summarizes income from operations for the years ended December 31 (dollars in millions):

 

     2014     Period-to-
Period Change
    2013     Period-to-
Period Change
    2012  

Solid Waste:

              

Tier 1

   $ 893      $ 41        4.8   $ 852      $ 1        0.1   $ 851   

Tier 2

     1,318        27        2.1        1,291        21        1.7        1,270   

Tier 3

     588        297        *        291        (213     (42.3     504   
  

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

 

Solid Waste

  2,799      365      15.0      2,434      (191   (7.3   2,625   

Wheelabrator

  669      1,186      *      (517   (630   *      113   

Other

  (400   (229   *      (171   71      (29.3   (242

Corporate and other

  (769   (102   15.3      (667   (22   3.4      (645
  

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

 

Total

$ 2,299    $ 1,220      *    $ 1,079    $ (772   (41.7 )%  $ 1,851   
  

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

* Percentage change does not provide a meaningful comparison.

Items affecting the comparability of our results of operations include (i) charges associated with our August 2014 and July 2012 restructurings; (ii) subsequent benefits realized as a result of these restructurings and ongoing cost containment efforts; (iii) increased labor costs due to merit increases effective in 2014 and 2013 and (iv) lower 2012 year-over-year incentive compensation costs.

Solid Waste — The comparability of our income from operations for the periods presented is driven by $279 million of net charges primarily related to impairments recognized in 2013. The most significant impairment charges were in our Eastern Canada Area, which is included in Tier 3, and were associated with the impairment of certain landfills as discussed above in (Income) Expense from Divestitures, Asset Impairments (Other than Goodwill) and Unusual Items. Other significant items affecting the results of operations of our Solid Waste business during the three years ended December 31, 2014 are summarized below:

 

    Our base business benefited from (i) internal revenue growth, principally in our collection and disposal business; (ii) increased fuel cost recovery and (iii) decreased fuel costs. These favorable variances were offset, in part, by net cost increases driven by higher operating expenses in 2013;

 

    Results from our recycling business contributed favorably in 2014 when compared to the prior period principally due to (i) increased efforts to reduce controllable recycling rebates paid to customers; (ii) better alignment of rebate structures to commodity prices for new recycling contracts and (iii) ongoing business improvement efforts around inbound quality control. These favorable variances more than offset lower market prices for recyclable commodities and lower volumes. Results from our recycling business contributed unfavorably in 2013 when compared to the prior period primarily due to (i) lower prices for commodities; (ii) higher processing costs driven in part by increased outbound quality control in 2013 and (iii) operating losses related to the operations of Greenstar acquired in 2013.

In addition, the following items affected comparability of 2014 to 2013 within specific segments:

 

    The loss on the sale of our Puerto Rico operations and certain other collection and landfill assets in 2014, which were included in Tier 3 and Tier 1, respectively;

 

    Adverse weather in the first quarter of 2014 unfavorably affected income from operations primarily in Tier 2;

 

    The gain on the sale of certain landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area in 2014, which were included in Tier 3;

 

    The accretive benefits of the RCI operations acquired in July 2013, which are included in Tier 3;

 

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    The gain on the sale of a vacant facility in 2014, which was included in Tier 3; and

 

    A reversal of a reserve in 2014 due to a favorable litigation resolution, which was included in Tier 1.

In addition, the following items affected comparability of 2013 to 2012 within specific segments:

 

    A decrease in bad debt expense during 2013 due primarily to the collection of receivables previously reserved during 2012, principally in Puerto Rico, which was included in Tier 3;

 

    The accretive benefits of the RCI operations acquired, as discussed above;

 

    A charge for the withdrawal from an underfunded multiemployer pension plan in New England in 2012, which is included in Tier 2; and

 

    Incremental operating expenses due to a labor union dispute in the Pacific Northwest Area in 2012, which is included in Tier 3.

Wheelabrator — The most significant items affecting the results of operations of our Wheelabrator business in 2014 and 2013 were (i) a $519 million gain on sale of our Wheelabrator business in December 2014 and (ii) $627 million of pre-tax charges to impair goodwill and certain waste-to-energy facilities in 2013 as discussed above in Goodwill Impairments and (Income) Expense from Divestitures, Asset Impairments (Other than Goodwill) and Unusual Items. Other items contributing to the variability included (i) higher year-over-year electricity prices at our merchant waste-to-energy facilities and (ii) impairment charges at a waste-to-energy facility as a result of projected operating losses in 2013.

Other — Our “Other” income from operations includes (i) those elements of our landfill gas-to-energy operations and third-party subcontract and administration revenues managed by our Energy and Environmental Services and Renewable Energy organizations, that are not included with the operations of our reportable segments; (ii) our recycling brokerage and electronic recycling services and (iii) the results of investments that we are making in expanded service offerings, such as portable self-storage and fluorescent lamp recycling, and in oil and gas producing properties. In addition, our “Other” income from operations reflects the results of non-operating entities that provide financial assurance and self-insurance support for our Solid Waste.

Significant items affecting the comparability of expenses for the periods presented include:

 

    Net charges of $339 million and $59 million primarily related to impairments recognized in 2014 and 2013, respectively;

 

    Improved results in our Strategic Business Solutions as a result of our system and process enhancements;

 

    Favorable adjustments in 2014 and 2013 to contingent consideration associated with the Greenstar acquisition, offset by higher administrative and restructuring costs associated with the acquired operations in 2013; and

 

    Improved results in our organics and medical waste services in 2013.

Corporate and Other — Significant items affecting the comparability of expenses for the periods presented include:

 

    Restructuring charges recognized in 2014 and subsequent benefits realized as a result of the restructuring;

 

    Charges for the settlement of a legal dispute and related fees in 2014;

 

    Increased health and welfare costs in 2014;

 

 

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    Unfavorable adjustments in both 2014 and 2012 as well as favorable adjustments in 2013 related to changes in U.S. Treasury rates used to discount the present value of our environmental remediation obligations and recovery assets;

 

    Our professional fees continued to decline during 2014 as a result of our concerted effort to reduce consulting fees. Our 2013 consulting fees were lower as we incurred significant fees during 2012 resulting from company-wide initiatives; and

 

    Favorable risk management allocation in 2014 and higher year-over-year risk management expense in 2013 primarily due to increased overall costs associated with auto and general liability insurance.

Interest Expense, net

Our interest expense, net was $466 million in 2014, $477 million in 2013 and $484 million in 2012. During 2014, the decrease in interest expense was primarily attributable to (i) the impacts that lower market interest rates have had on certain of our tax-exempt debt; (ii) issuing new debt at lower fixed interest rates than debt repaid upon scheduled maturities and (iii) reduced costs associated with our letter of credit facilities due to improvements in the Company’s overall credit rating. These decreases were partially offset by increases in expense associated with our terminated interest rate swaps due to the maturity of the underlying senior notes. In December 2014, the Company decided to redeem $947 million of senior notes due in 2015, 2017 and 2019 with a weighted average coupon rate of 7.0%. The Company incurred a make-whole premium of $130 million to repay these notes with available cash in January 2015. We anticipate that a near-term refinancing of these debt balances will reduce interest expense in future years.

During 2013, our debt balances increased by approximately $300 million, which can generally be attributed to the debt financing of our acquisition of RCI offset by debt repayments. In spite of this increase in debt, we reduced our interest costs by (i) reducing the interest rate periods of some of our tax-exempt bonds, allowing us to benefit from lower rates available for shorter-term remarketings; (ii) issuing new debt at lower fixed interest rates than debt repaid upon scheduled maturities and (iii) reducing the cost of our revolving credit facility by amending the credit agreement to provide for lower fees and rates.

Equity in Net Losses of Unconsolidated Entities

We recognized “Equity in net losses of unconsolidated entities” of $53 million, $34 million and $46 million in 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. These losses are primarily related to our noncontrolling interests in two limited liability companies established to invest in and manage low-income housing properties and a refined coal facility, as well as (i) noncontrolling investments made to support our strategic initiatives and (ii) unconsolidated trusts for final capping, closure, post-closure or environmental obligations. The tax impacts realized as a result of our investments in low-income housing properties and the refined coal facility are discussed below in Provision for Income Taxes. Refer to Notes 9 and 20 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information related to these investments. The expense in 2014 as compared to 2013 was impacted by charges of $11 million in 2014 primarily to write down equity method investments in waste diversion technology companies to their fair value. The expense in 2013 as compared to 2012 was impacted by a charge of $10 million in 2012 related to a payment we made under a guarantee on behalf of an equity method investment in an unconsolidated entity that went into liquidation.

Other, net

We recognized other, net expense of $29 million, $74 million and $18 million in 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. The expenses for 2014, 2013 and 2012 were impacted by impairment charges of $22 million, $71 million and $16 million, respectively, related to other-than-temporary declines in the value of investments in waste diversion technology companies which were accounted for under the cost method. We wrote down our investments to their fair value which was primarily determined using an income approach based on estimated

 

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future cash flow projections and, to a lesser extent, third-party investors’ recent transactions in these securities. Partially offsetting the 2013 charges was a $4 million gain on the sale of a similar investment. The remaining expenses recognized during the reported periods are primarily related to the impact of foreign currency translation.

Provision for Income Taxes

We recorded provisions for income taxes of $413 million in 2014, $364 million in 2013 and $443 million in 2012. These tax provisions resulted in an effective income tax rate of approximately 23.6%, 73.8% and 34.0% for the years ended 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. The comparability of our reported income taxes for the years ended December 31, 2014, 2013 and 2012 is primarily affected by (i) variations in our income before income taxes; (ii) the tax implications of divestitures; (iii) federal tax credits; (iv) adjustments to our accruals and related deferred taxes; (v) tax audit settlements; (vi) the realization of federal and state net operating loss and credit carry-forwards and (vii) the tax implications of impairments. The impacts of these items are summarized below:

 

    Tax Implications of Divestitures — During 2014, the Company recorded a net gain of $515 million primarily related to the divestiture of our Wheelabrator business, our Puerto Rico operations and certain landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area. Had this net gain been fully taxable, our provision for income taxes would have increased by $138 million. Refer to Note 19 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information related to divestitures.

 

    Investment in Refined Coal Facility — Our refined coal facility investment and the resulting federal tax credits reduced our provision for income taxes by $21 million, $20 million and $21 million for the years ended December 31, 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. Refer to Note 9 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information related to our refined coal facility investment.

 

    Investment in Low-Income Housing Properties — Our low-income housing properties investment and the resulting federal tax credits reduced our provision for income taxes by $37 million, $38 million and $38 million for the years ended December 31, 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. Refer to Note 9 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information related to our low-income housing properties investment.

 

    Adjustments to Accruals and Related Deferred Taxes — Adjustments to our accruals and related deferred taxes due to the filing of our income tax returns and changes in state law resulted in a reduction of $24 million and increases of $4 million and $7 million to our provision for income taxes for the years ended December 31, 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively.

 

    Tax Audit Settlements — The settlement of various tax audits resulted in reductions to our provision for income taxes of $12 million, $11 million and $10 million for the years ended December 31, 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively.

 

    State Net Operating Loss and Credit Carry-forwards — During 2014, 2013 and 2012, we recognized state net operating loss and credit carry-forwards resulting in a reduction to our provision for income taxes of $16 million, $16 million and $5 million, respectively.

 

    Federal Net Operating Loss Carry-Forwards — During 2012, we recognized additional federal net operating loss carry-forwards resulting in a reduction to our provision for income taxes of $8 million.

 

    Tax Implications of Impairments — A portion of the impairment charges recognized are not deductible for tax purposes. Had the charges been fully deductible, our provision for income taxes would have been reduced by $8 million, $235 million and $7 million for the years ended December 31, 2014, 2013, and 2012 respectively. See Notes 6 and 13 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information related to asset impairments and unusual items.

We expect our 2015 recurring effective tax rate will be approximately 36.0% based on projected income before income taxes, federal tax credits and other permanent items.

 

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The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 was signed into law on December 19, 2014 and included an extension for one year of the bonus depreciation allowance. As a result, 50% of qualifying capital expenditures on property placed in service before January 1, 2015 were depreciated immediately. The acceleration of deductions on 2014 qualifying capital expenditures resulting from the bonus depreciation provisions had no impact on our effective income tax rate for 2014 although it will reduce our future cash taxes by approximately $60 million. Taking accelerated deductions results in increased cash taxes in subsequent periods when the deductions related to the capital expenditures would have otherwise been taken.

Noncontrolling Interests

Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests was $40 million in 2014, $32 million in 2013 and $43 million in 2012. These amounts are principally related to third parties’ equity interests in two limited liability companies (“LLCs”) that own three waste-to-energy facilities operated by our Wheelabrator business. In December 2014, we purchased the noncontrolling interests in the LLCs from the third parties in anticipation of our sale of the Wheelabrator business. The LLCs were then subsequently sold as part of the divestment of our Wheelabrator business. Refer to Notes 19 and 20 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for information related to the sale of our Wheelabrator business and the consolidation of these variable interest entities, respectively.

The decrease in 2013 is primarily due to the net loss of $10 million attributable to noncontrolling interest holders associated with the $20 million impairment charge related to a majority-owned waste diversion technology company discussed above in (Income) Expense from Divestitures, Asset Impairments (Other than Goodwill) and Unusual Items.

Landfill and Environmental Remediation Discussion and Analysis

We owned or operated 247 solid waste and five secure hazardous waste landfills at December 31, 2014 and 262 solid waste and five secure hazardous waste landfills at December 31, 2013. At December 31, 2014 and 2013, the expected remaining capacity, in cubic yards and tonnage of waste that can be accepted at our owned or operated landfills, is shown below (in millions):

 

     December 31, 2014      December 31, 2013  
     Remaining
Permitted
Capacity
     Expansion
Capacity
     Total
Capacity
     Remaining
Permitted
Capacity
     Expansion
Capacity
     Total
Capacity
 

Remaining cubic yards

     4,708         275         4,983         4,839         279         5,118   

Remaining tonnage

     4,660         275         4,935         4,769         282         5,051   

Based on remaining permitted airspace as of December 31, 2014 and projected annual disposal volumes, the weighted average remaining landfill life for all of our owned or operated landfills is approximately 46 years. Many of our landfills have the potential for expanded disposal capacity beyond what is currently permitted. We monitor the availability of permitted disposal capacity at each of our landfills and evaluate whether to pursue an expansion at a given landfill based on estimated future waste volumes and prices, remaining capacity and likelihood of obtaining an expansion permit. We are seeking expansion permits at 23 of our landfills that meet the expansion criteria outlined in the Critical Accounting Estimates and Assumptions section above. Although no assurances can be made that all future expansions will be permitted or permitted as designed, the weighted average remaining landfill life for all owned or operated landfills is approximately 49 years when considering remaining permitted airspace, expansion airspace and projected annual disposal volume.

 

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The number of landfills we own or operate as of December 31, 2014, segregated by their estimated operating lives (in years), based on remaining permitted and expansion airspace and projected annual disposal volume, was as follows:

 

     0 to 5      6 to 10      11 to 20      21 to 40      41+      Total  

Owned

     11         12         27         63         89         202   

Operated through lease(a)

     5         3         1         2         6         17   

Operating contracts(b)

     9         7         3         6         8         33   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total landfills

  25      22      31      71      103      252   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(a) Landfills we operate through lease agreements are similar to landfills we own because we own the landfill’s operating permit and will operate the landfill for the entire lease term, which in many cases is the life of the landfill. We are usually responsible for the final capping, closure and post-closure obligations of the landfills we lease.
(b) For operating contracts, the property owner owns the permit and we operate the landfill for a contracted term, which may be the life of the landfill. However, we are generally responsible for final capping, closure and post-closure obligations under the operating contracts.

The following table reflects landfill capacity and airspace changes, as measured in tons of waste, for landfills owned or operated by us during the years ended December 31, 2014 and 2013 (in millions):

 

     December 31, 2014     December 31, 2013  
     Remaining
Permitted
Capacity
    Expansion
Capacity
    Total
Capacity
    Remaining
Permitted
Capacity
    Expansion
Capacity
    Total
Capacity
 

Balance, beginning of year

     4,769        282        5,051        4,558        612        5,170   

Acquisitions, divestitures, newly permitted landfills and closures

     (90     (5     (95     22        —          22   

Changes in expansions pursued(a)

     —          90        90        —          33        33   

Expansion permits granted(b)

     94        (94     —          364        (364     —     

Airspace consumed

     (96     —          (96     (93     —          (93

Changes in engineering estimates and other(c)

     (17     2        (15     (82     1        (81
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Balance, end of year

  4,660      275      4,935      4,769      282      5,051   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

(a) Amounts reflected here relate to the combined impacts of (i) new expansions pursued; (ii) increases or decreases in the airspace being pursued for ongoing expansion efforts; (iii) adjustments for differences between the airspace being pursued and airspace granted and (iv) decreases due to decisions to no longer pursue expansion permits.
(b) We received expansion permits at eight of our landfills during 2014 and 12 of our landfills during 2013, demonstrating our continued success in working with municipalities and regulatory agencies to expand the disposal capacity of our existing landfills.
(c) Changes in engineering estimates can result in changes to the estimated available remaining capacity of a landfill or changes in the utilization of such landfill capacity, affecting the number of tons that can be placed in the future. Estimates of the amount of waste that can be placed in the future are reviewed annually by our engineers and are based on a number of factors, including standard engineering techniques and site-specific factors such as current and projected mix of waste type; initial and projected waste density; estimated number of years of life remaining; depth of underlying waste; anticipated access to moisture through precipitation or recirculation of landfill leachate; and operating practices. We continually focus on improving the utilization of airspace through efforts that include recirculating landfill leachate where allowed by permit; optimizing the placement of daily cover materials; and increasing initial compaction through improved landfill equipment, operations and training.

 

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The tons received at our landfills in 2014 and 2013 are shown below (tons in thousands):

 

     2014      2013  
     # of
Sites
    Total
Tons
    Tons per
Day
     # of
Sites
     Total
Tons
    Tons per
Day
 

Solid waste landfills

     247 (a)      92,847        341         262         93,804        345   

Hazardous waste landfills.

     5        505        2         5         568        2   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

 
  252      93,352      343      267      94,372      347   
      

 

 

         

 

 

 

Solid waste landfills closed, divested or contract expired during related year

  15      3,768      5      390   
    

 

 

         

 

 

   
  97,120 (b)    94,762 (b) 
    

 

 

         

 

 

   

 

(a) In 2014, we divested 11 landfills, our contract expired at three landfills and we closed one landfill.
(b) These amounts include 1.2 million tons at December 31, 2014 and 1.5 million tons at December 31, 2013, that were received at our landfills but were used for beneficial purposes and generally were redirected from the permitted airspace to other areas of the landfill. Waste types that are frequently identified for beneficial use include green waste for composting and clean dirt for on-site construction projects.

When a landfill we own or operate receives certification of closure from the applicable regulatory agency, we generally transfer the management of the site, including any remediation activities, to our closed sites management group. As of December 31, 2014, our closed sites management group managed 210 closed landfills.

Landfill Assets — We capitalize various costs that we incur to prepare a landfill to accept waste. These costs generally include expenditures for land (including the landfill footprint and required landfill buffer property), permitting, excavation, liner material and installation, landfill leachate collection systems, landfill gas collection systems, environmental monitoring equipment for groundwater and landfill gas, directly related engineering, capitalized interest, and on-site road construction and other capital infrastructure costs. The cost basis of our landfill assets also includes estimates of future costs associated with landfill final capping, closure and post-closure activities, which are discussed further below.

The following table reflects the total cost basis of our landfill assets and accumulated landfill airspace amortization as of December 31, 2014 and 2013, and summarizes significant changes in these amounts during 2014 (in millions):

 

     Cost Basis of
Landfill Assets
     Accumulated
Landfill Airspace
Amortization
     Landfill Assets  

December 31, 2013

   $ 13,416       $ (7,518    $ 5,898   

Capital additions

     407         —           407   

Asset retirement obligations incurred and capitalized

     54         —           54   

Amortization of landfill airspace

     —           (380      (380

Foreign currency translation

     (106      34         (72

Asset retirements and other adjustments

     (308      174         (134
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

December 31, 2014

$ 13,463    $ (7,690 $ 5,773   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

As of December 31, 2014, we estimate that we will spend approximately $400 million in 2015, and approximately $800 million in 2016 and 2017 combined, for the construction and development of our landfill assets. The specific timing of landfill capital spending is dependent on future events, and spending estimates are subject to change due to fluctuations in landfill waste volumes, changes in environmental requirements and other factors impacting landfill operations.

 

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Landfill and Environmental Remediation Liabilities — As we accept waste at our landfills, we incur significant asset retirement obligations, which include liabilities associated with landfill final capping, closure and post-closure activities. These liabilities are accounted for in accordance with authoritative guidance associated with accounting for asset retirement obligations and are discussed in Note 3 of our Consolidated Financial Statements. We also have liabilities for the remediation of properties that have incurred environmental damage, which generally was caused by operations or for damage caused by conditions that existed before we acquired operations or a site. We recognize environmental remediation liabilities when we determine that the liability is probable and the estimated cost for the likely remedy can be reasonably estimated.

The following table reflects our landfill liabilities and our environmental remediation liabilities as of December 31, 2014 and 2013, and summarizes significant changes in these amounts during 2014 (in millions):

 

     Landfill      Environmental
Remediation
 

December 31, 2013

   $ 1,421       $ 227   

Obligations incurred and capitalized

     54         —     

Obligations settled

     (69      (21

Interest accretion

     88         5   

Revisions in estimates and interest rate assumptions

     (9      25   

Acquisitions, divestitures and other adjustments

     (42      (1
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

December 31, 2014

$ 1,443    $ 235   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Landfill Costs and Expenses — As disclosed in the Operating Expenses section above, our landfill operating costs include interest accretion on asset retirement obligations, interest accretion on and discount rate adjustments to environmental remediation liabilities and recovery assets, leachate and methane collection and treatment, landfill remediation costs, and other landfill site costs. The following table summarizes these costs for each of the three years indicated (in millions):

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
       2014          2013          2012    

Interest accretion on landfill liabilities

   $ 88       $ 87       $ 84   

Interest accretion on and discount rate adjustments to environmental remediation liabilities and recovery assets

     14         (10      6   

Leachate and methane collection and treatment

     84         77         67   

Landfill remediation costs

     9         10         —     

Other landfill site costs

     71         68         67   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total landfill operating costs

$ 266    $ 232    $ 224   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

The comparison of these costs for the reported periods has been significantly affected by accounting for changes in the risk-free discount rate that we use to estimate the present value of our environmental remediation liabilities and environmental remediation recovery assets, which is based on the rate for U.S. Treasury bonds with a term approximating the weighted-average period until settlement of the underlying obligations.

Amortization of landfill airspace, which is included as a component of “Depreciation and amortization” expense, includes the following:

 

    the amortization of landfill capital costs, including (i) costs that have been incurred and capitalized and (ii) estimated future costs for landfill development and construction required to develop our landfills to their remaining permitted and expansion airspace; and

 

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    the amortization of asset retirement costs arising from landfill final capping, closure and post-closure obligations, including (i) costs that have been incurred and capitalized and (ii) projected asset retirement costs.

Amortization expense is recorded on a units-of-consumption basis, applying cost as a rate per ton. The rate per ton is calculated by dividing each component of the amortizable basis of a landfill by the number of tons needed to fill the corresponding asset’s airspace. Landfill capital costs and closure and post-closure asset retirement costs are generally incurred to support the operation of the landfill over its entire operating life and are, therefore, amortized on a per-ton basis using a landfill’s total airspace capacity. Final capping asset retirement costs are related to a specific final capping event and are, therefore, amortized on a per-ton basis using each discrete final capping event’s estimated airspace capacity. Accordingly, each landfill has multiple per-ton amortization rates.

The following table presents our landfill airspace amortization expense on a per-ton basis:

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2014      2013      2012  

Amortization of landfill airspace (in millions)

   $ 380       $ 400       $ 395   

Tons received, net of redirected waste (in millions)

     96         93         92   

Average landfill airspace amortization expense per ton

   $ 3.96       $ 4.29       $ 4.30   

Different per-ton amortization rates are applied at each of our 252 landfills, and per-ton amortization rates vary significantly from one landfill to another due to (i) inconsistencies that often exist in construction costs and provincial, state and local regulatory requirements for landfill development and landfill final capping, closure and post-closure activities and (ii) differences in the cost basis of landfills that we develop versus those that we acquire. Accordingly, our landfill airspace amortization expense measured on a per-ton basis can fluctuate due to changes in the mix of volumes we receive across the Company year-over-year.

Liquidity and Capital Resources

We continually monitor our actual and forecasted cash flows, our liquidity and our capital resources, enabling us to plan for our present needs and fund unbudgeted business activities that may arise during the year as a result of changing business conditions or new opportunities. In addition to our working capital needs for the general and administrative costs of our ongoing operations, we have cash requirements for: (i) the construction and expansion of our landfills; (ii) additions to and maintenance of our trucking fleet and landfill equipment; (iii) construction, refurbishments and improvements at materials recovery facilities; (iv) the container and equipment needs of our operations; (v) final capping, closure and post-closure activities at our landfills; (vi) the repayment of debt and discharging of other obligations and (vii) capital expenditures, acquisitions and investments in support of our strategic growth plans. We also are committed to providing our shareholders with a return on their investment through dividend payments, and we have also returned value to our shareholders through share repurchases.

 

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Summary of Cash and Cash Equivalents, Restricted Trust and Escrow Accounts and Debt Obligations

The following is a summary of our cash and cash equivalents, restricted trust and escrow accounts and debt balances as of December 31, 2014 and 2013 (in millions):

 

     2014      2013  

Cash and cash equivalents

   $ 1,307       $ 58   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Restricted trust and escrow accounts:

Final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation funds

$ 129    $ 125   

Tax-exempt bond funds

  1      27   

Other

  41      15   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total restricted trust and escrow accounts

$ 171    $ 167   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Debt:

Current portion

$ 1,090    $ 726   

Long-term portion

  8,345      9,500   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total debt

$ 9,435    $ 10,226   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Increase in carrying value of debt due to hedge accounting for interest rate swaps

$ 45    $ 59   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Cash and cash equivalents — Cash and cash equivalents consist primarily of short-term interest-bearing instruments with maturities of three months or less at date of purchase. The increase at December 31, 2014 is primarily related to the December 2014 sale of our Wheelabrator business.

Restricted trust and escrow accounts — Restricted trust and escrow accounts consist primarily of funds deposited for purposes of settling landfill final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation obligations. These balances are primarily included within “Other assets” in our Consolidated Balance Sheets. The “Other” balance at December 31, 2014 includes the $29.2 million funding of a legal settlement pending final court approval for disbursement.

Debt — We use long-term borrowings in addition to the cash we generate from operations as part of our overall financial strategy to support and grow our business. We primarily use senior notes and tax-exempt bonds to borrow on a long-term basis, but we also use other instruments and facilities when appropriate. The components of our long-term borrowings as of December 31, 2014 are described in Note 7 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Changes in our outstanding debt balances from December 31, 2014 to December 31, 2013 were primarily attributable to (i) the use of cash proceeds from the sale of our Wheelabrator business to temporarily repay outstanding borrowings under our $2.25 billion revolving credit facility; (ii) the use of cash generated from our Canadian operations to reduce the balance of our Canadian term loan and (iii) the impacts of other non-cash changes in our debt balances due to hedge accounting for interest rate swaps, foreign currency translation, interest accretion and capital leases and other debt obligations.

Our current debt balances as of December 31, 2014, are primarily related to $947 million of senior notes that the Company decided to redeem in advance of their scheduled maturity, including $350 million of 6.375% senior notes that were scheduled to mature in March 2015, $147 million of 7.125% senior notes that were scheduled to mature in December 2017 and $450 million of 7.375% senior notes that were scheduled to mature in March 2019. We repaid these notes and the related make-whole premium and accrued interest with available cash in January 2015. We anticipate that a near-term refinancing of these debt balances will reduce interest expense in future years.

 

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We have credit facilities in place to support our liquidity and financial assurance needs. The following table summarizes our outstanding letters of credit (in millions) at December 31, categorized by type of facility:

 

     2014      2013  

Revolving credit facility(a)

   $ 785       $ 872   

Letter of credit facilities(b)

     400         400   

Other(c)

     278         267   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 
$ 1,463    $ 1,539   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(a) In July 2013, we amended and restated our revolving credit facility, increasing our total credit capacity to $2.25 billion and extending the term through July 2018. At December 31, 2014, we had no outstanding borrowings and $785 million of letters of credit issued and supported by the facility, leaving an unused and available credit capacity of $1,465 million.
(b) As of December 31, 2014, we had an aggregate committed capacity of $400 million under letter of credit facilities with terms extending through December 2018. This letter of credit capacity was fully utilized as of December 31, 2014.
(c) These letters of credit are outstanding under various arrangements that do not obligate the counterparty to provide a committed capacity.

Summary of Cash Flow Activity

The following is a summary of our cash flows for the years ended December 31 (in millions):

 

     2014      2013      2012  

Net cash provided by operating activities

   $ 2,331       $ 2,455       $ 2,295   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net cash provided by (used in) investing activities

$ 995    $ (1,900 $ (1,830
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net cash used in financing activities

$ (2,072 $ (687 $ (530
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net Cash Provided by Operating Activities — The most significant items affecting the comparisons of our operating cash flows in 2014 as compared to 2013 are summarized below:

 

    Increase in earnings – Our income from operations, excluding depreciation and amortization, increased by $1.2 billion, on a year-over-year basis. Certain of the more significant drivers of our earnings improvement include:

 

    Lower non-cash impairment charges of $652 million in 2014 as compared to 2013; and

 

    The net gain on the sale of our Wheelabrator business of $519 million in 2014.

After considering these items, and certain other non-cash items included in our comparative results, our earnings drove an improvement in our cash flows from operating activities of approximately $100 million.

 

    Increase in tax payments — Cash paid for income taxes was approximately $247 million higher on a year-over-year basis due to (i) higher pre-tax earnings; (ii) approximately $210 million anticipated overpayment during 2014, when comparing our year-end tax provisions to payments made throughout the year; and (iii) taxes associated with the divestiture of our Puerto Rico operations and certain other collection and landfill assets.

 

    Forward starting swaps — During the first quarter of 2014, the forward-starting interest rate swaps associated with the anticipated issuance of senior notes in 2014 matured, and we paid cash of $36 million to settle the liabilities related to the swaps. This cash payment has been classified as a change in “Accounts payable and accrued liabilities” within “Net cash provided by operating activities” in the Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows.

 

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    Changes in assets and liabilities, net of effects from business acquisitions and divestitures — Our cash flow from operations was favorably impacted on a year-over-year basis by changes in our working capital accounts. Although our working capital changes may vary from year to year, they are typically driven by changes in accounts receivable, which are affected by both revenue changes and timing of payments received, and accounts payable changes, which are affected by both cost changes and timing of payments.

The most significant items affecting the comparison of our operating cash flows in 2013 as compared with 2012 are summarized below:

 

    Earnings change — Our 2013 earnings drove our improved net cash provided by operating activities in spite of a year-over-year decrease in income from operations, of $772 million. Our income from operations decline resulted from higher non-cash charges during 2013 of $945 million, associated principally with higher impairment charges. Absent these non-cash charges, we experienced higher earnings, which resulted in cash flow expansion.

 

    Increased income tax payments — Cash paid for income taxes, net of excess tax benefits associated with equity-based transactions, was approximately $144 million higher on a year-over-year basis. Note that, while pre-tax income on a year-over-year basis has declined $809 million, a significant portion of the 2013 impairments discussed above do not qualify for a tax benefit. See Liquidity Impacts of Income Tax Items below for additional information.

 

    Forward starting swaps — During the third quarter of 2012, the forward-starting interest rate swaps associated with anticipated fixed-rate debt issuances were terminated contemporaneously with the actual issuance of senior notes requiring a cash payment of $59 million. This cash payment has been classified as a change in “Other liabilities” within “Net cash provided by operating activities” in the Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows.

 

    Termination of interest rate swaps — In April 2012, we elected to terminate our $1 billion interest rate swap portfolio associated with senior notes that were scheduled to mature from November 2012 through March 2018. Upon termination of the swaps, we received $72 million in cash for their fair value. The cash proceeds received from the termination of interest rate swap agreements have been classified as a change in “Other assets” within “Net cash provided by operating activities” in the Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows.

 

    Changes in assets and liabilities, net of effects from business acquisitions and divestitures — Our cash flow from operations was favorably impacted in 2013 by changes in our working capital accounts. Although our working capital changes may vary from year to year, they are typically driven by changes in accounts receivable, which are affected by both revenue changes and timing of payments received, and accounts payable, which are affected by both cost changes and timing of payments. Additionally, accruals for our annual incentive plan favorably affected our working capital comparison, driven by both higher incentive plan expense accruals in 2013 compared to 2012 and lower incentive plan payments in 2013 as compared to 2012.

Net Cash Provided by (Used in) Investing Activities — The most significant items affecting the comparison of our investing cash flows for the periods presented are summarized below:

 

    Capital expenditures — We used $1,151 million during 2014 for capital expenditures, compared with $1,271 million in 2013 and $1,510 million in 2012. The decrease can generally be attributed to increased focus on capital spending management. Capital expenditures in 2012 included increased spending on compressed natural gas vehicles, related fueling infrastructure, and information technology infrastructure and growth initiatives, as well as our taking advantage of the bonus depreciation legislation.

 

   

Proceeds from divestitures — Proceeds from divestitures and other assets (net of cash divested) were $2,253 million in 2014, $138 million in 2013 and $44 million in 2012. These divestitures were made as

 

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part of our initiative to improve or divest certain non-strategic or underperforming operations. In 2014, our proceeds from divestitures were primarily related to the sale of our Wheelabrator business for $1.95 billion and, to a lesser extent, the sale of our Puerto Rico operations and certain other collection and landfill assets and certain landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area. In 2013, our proceeds from divestitures included approximately $41 million related to oil and gas producing properties and $14 million related to certain of our medical waste service operations and a transfer station in our Greater Mid-Atlantic Area. The remaining amount reported for 2013, as well as the proceeds in 2012 generally relate to the sale of fixed assets.

 

    Acquisitions — Our spending on acquisitions was $35 million in 2014 compared with $724 million in 2013 and $250 million in 2012. All of our 2014 acquisitions related to our Solid Waste business. In 2013, our acquisitions consisted primarily of the recycling operations of Greenstar, for which we paid $170 million, and substantially all of the assets of RCI, for which we paid $481 million. The remainder of our 2013 acquisitions related to our Solid Waste business and energy services operations. In 2012, our acquisitions consisted primarily of interests in oil and gas producing properties acquired through two transactions, for which we paid $94 million. See Note 19 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information related to our acquisitions. We continue to focus on accretive acquisitions and growth opportunities that will enhance and expand our existing service offerings.

 

    Investments in unconsolidated entities — We made $33 million, $33 million and $77 million of cash investments in unconsolidated entities during 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. In 2014 and 2013, our investments primarily related to additional capital contributions associated with our investment in a refined coal facility and waste diversion technology companies. In 2012, our investments primarily related to furthering our goal of expanding our service offerings and developing waste diversion technologies.

 

    Net receipts from restricted funds — Net cash received from our restricted trust and escrow accounts, which are largely generated from the issuance of tax-exempt bonds for our capital needs, contributed $19 million to our investing activities in 2014 compared with $71 million in 2013 and $14 million in 2012. The significant increase in cash received from our restricted trust and escrow accounts during 2013 was due to an increase in tax-exempt borrowings.

 

    Other — Net cash used by our other investing activities of $58 million, $81 million and $51 million during 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively, was primarily associated with the funding of notes receivable associated with Wheelabrator’s investments in the U.K., prior to the sale of our Wheelabrator business in December 2014.

Net Cash Used in Financing Activities — The most significant items affecting the comparison of our financing cash flows for the periods presented are summarized below:

 

    Share repurchases — For the periods presented, all share repurchases have been made in accordance with financial plans approved by our Board of Directors.

During the third quarter of 2014, we entered into accelerated share repurchase (“ASR”) agreements with two financial institutions to repurchase an aggregate of $600 million of our common stock. At the beginning of the ASR repurchase periods, we delivered the $600 million in cash and received 9.6 million shares, which represented 70% of the shares expected to be repurchased based on then-current market prices. These agreements were completed in February 2015 and we received approximately 2.8 million additional shares. The final weighted average per share purchase price for the completed ASR agreements was $48.58.

We paid $239 million to repurchase 5.4 million shares of our common stock in 2013. We did not repurchase any shares during 2012.

We announced in February 2015 that the Board of Directors has authorized up to $1 billion in future share repurchases; this authorization is the only currently outstanding authorization for share

 

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repurchases. Any future share repurchases will be made at the discretion of management and will depend on factors similar to those considered by the Board of Directors in making dividend declarations.

 

    Dividend payments — For the periods presented, all dividends have been declared and approved by our Board of Directors and paid in accordance with our financial plans.

We paid an aggregate of $693 million in cash dividends during 2014, compared with $683 million in 2013, and $658 million in 2012. The increase in dividend payments is due to our quarterly per share dividend increasing from $0.355 in 2012, to $0.365 in 2013, and to $0.375 in 2014 and has been offset, in part, by a reduction in our common stock outstanding during 2013 and 2014 as a result of our share repurchase programs.

In February 2015, we announced that our Board of Directors expects to increase the quarterly dividend from $0.375 to $0.385 per share for dividends declared in 2015. However, all future dividend declarations are at the discretion of the Board of Directors, and depend on various factors, including our net earnings, financial condition, cash required for future business plans and other factors the Board of Directors may deem relevant.

 

    Proceeds from the exercise of common stock options — The exercise of common stock options and the related excess tax benefits generated a total of $93 million of financing cash inflows during 2014 compared with $132 million during 2013 and $43 million during 2012. The increase in exercised stock options during 2013 and, to a lesser extent, during 2014 is primarily due to the increase in the Company’s stock price combined with exercises in advance of stock option expiration dates.

 

    Debt borrowings (repayments) — Net debt repayments were $751 million in 2014 compared to net debt borrowings of $155 million and $122 million in 2013 and 2012, respectively. The following summarizes our cash borrowings and debt repayments made during each year (in millions):

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2014      2013      2012  

Borrowings:

        

U.S. revolving credit facility

   $ 2,225       $ 1,140       $ 650   

Canadian credit facility

     88         1,007         379   

Senior notes

     347         —           495   

Capital leases and other debt

     157         85         96   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
$ 2,817    $ 2,232    $ 1,620   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Repayments:

U.S. revolving credit facility

$ (2,645 $ (1,120 $ (400

Canadian credit facility

  (243   (666   (447

Senior notes

  (350   —        (400

Tax-exempt bonds

  (123   (162   (129

Capital leases and other debt

  (207   (129   (122
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
$ (3,568 $ (2,077 $ (1,498
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net borrowings (repayments)

$ (751 $ 155    $ 122   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

During 2014 and 2012, we did not have any significant non-cash investing and financing activities. For the year ended December 31, 2013, non-cash investing and financing activities included proceeds from tax-exempt borrowings, net of principal payments made directly from trust funds, of $99 million.

 

   

Acquisitions of and distributions paid to noncontrolling interests — The purchases of and distributions paid to our noncontrolling interests were $125 million, $59 million and $46 million in 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. The increase during 2014 compared to 2013 is primarily attributable to the purchase of the noncontrolling interests in the LLCs related to our waste-to-energy facilities in December 2014

 

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for $91 million, in anticipation of our sale of our Wheelabrator business. The LLCs were then subsequently sold as part of the divestment of our Wheelabrator business. See Note 20 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further discussion of these LLCs.

Summary of Contractual Obligations

The following table summarizes our contractual obligations as of December 31, 2014 and the anticipated effect of these obligations on our liquidity in future years (in millions):

 

    2015     2016     2017     2018     2019     Thereafter     Total  

Recorded Obligations:

             

Expected environmental liabilities:(a)

             

Final capping, closure and post-closure

  $ 104      $ 120      $ 128      $ 115      $ 116      $ 2,112      $ 2,695   

Environmental remediation

    43        26        26        24        12        98        229   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 
  147      146      154      139      128      2,210      2,924   

Debt payments(b),(c),(d)

  1,075      717      402      801      132      6,349      9,476   

Unrecorded Obligations:(e)

Non-cancelable operating lease obligations

  103      83      70      57      47      308      668   

Estimated unconditional purchase obligations(f)

  189      172      156      116      91      430      1,154   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Anticipated liquidity impact as of December 31, 2014

$ 1,514    $ 1,118    $ 782    $ 1,113    $ 398    $ 9,297    $ 14,222   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

(a) Environmental liabilities include final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation costs. The amounts included here reflect environmental liabilities recorded in our Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2014 without the impact of discounting and inflation. Our recorded environmental liabilities for final capping, closure and post-closure will increase as we continue to place additional tons within the permitted airspace at our landfills.
(b) The amounts reported here represent the scheduled principal payments related to our long-term debt, excluding related interest. Refer to Note 7 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for information regarding interest rates.
(c) Our debt obligations as of December 31, 2014 include $638 million of tax-exempt bonds subject to repricing within the next 12 months, which is prior to their scheduled maturities. If the re-offerings of the bonds are unsuccessful, then the bonds can be put to us, requiring immediate repayment. We have classified the anticipated cash flows for these contractual obligations based on the scheduled maturity of the borrowing for purposes of this disclosure. For additional information regarding the classification of these borrowings in our Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2014, refer to Note 7 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
(d) Our recorded debt obligations include non-cash adjustments associated with discounts, premiums and fair value adjustments for interest rate hedging activities. These amounts have been excluded here because they will not result in an impact to our liquidity in future periods.
(e) Our unrecorded obligations represent operating lease obligations and purchase commitments from which we expect to realize an economic benefit in future periods. We have also made certain guarantees, as discussed in Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements, that we do not expect to materially affect our current or future financial position, results of operations or liquidity.
(f) Our unconditional purchase obligations are for various contractual obligations that we generally incur in the ordinary course of our business. Certain of our obligations are quantity driven. For contracts that require us to purchase minimum quantities of goods or services, we have estimated our future minimum obligations based on the current market values of the underlying products or services. Accordingly, the amounts reported in the table are not necessarily indicative of our actual cash flow obligations. See Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for discussion of the nature and terms of our unconditional purchase obligations.

 

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Liquidity Impacts of Income Tax Items

Bonus Depreciation — The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 was signed into law on December 19, 2014 and included an extension for one year of the bonus depreciation allowance. As a result, 50% of qualifying capital expenditures on property placed in service before January 1, 2015 were depreciated immediately. The acceleration of deductions on 2014 qualifying capital expenditures resulting from the bonus depreciation provisions had no impact on our effective income tax rate for 2014 although it will reduce our cash taxes by approximately $60 million.

Taking accelerated deductions results in increased cash taxes in subsequent periods when the deductions related to the capital expenditures would have otherwise been taken. Overall, the effect of all applicable years’ bonus depreciation programs resulted in increased cash taxes of $30 million in 2014. Separately, our tax payments in 2014 were $247 million higher than the tax payments made in 2013 primarily due to (i) higher pre-tax earnings, (ii) an anticipated overpayment of taxes, and (iii) divestiture of our Puerto Rico operations and certain other collection and landfill assets.

Uncertain Tax Positions — We have liabilities associated with unrecognized tax benefits and related interest. These liabilities are included as a component of long-term “Other liabilities” in our Consolidated Balance Sheets because the Company does not anticipate that settlement of the liabilities will require payment of cash within the next 12 months. We are not able to reasonably estimate when we would make any cash payments required to settle these liabilities, but we do not believe that the ultimate settlement of our obligations will materially affect our liquidity. We anticipate that approximately $12 million of liabilities for unrecognized tax benefits, including accrued interest, and $3 million of related tax assets may be reversed within the next 12 months. The anticipated reversals primarily relate to state tax items, none of which are material, and are expected to result from audit settlements or the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations period.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements

We have financial interests in unconsolidated variable interest entities as discussed in Note 20 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. Additionally, we are party to guarantee arrangements with unconsolidated entities as discussed in the Guarantees section of Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. These arrangements have not materially affected our financial position, results of operations or liquidity during the year ended December 31, 2014, nor are they expected to have a material impact on our future financial position, results of operations or liquidity.

New Accounting Standard Pending Adoption

In May 2014, the FASB amended authoritative guidance associated with revenue recognition. The amended guidance requires companies to recognize revenue to depict the transfer of promised goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods or services. Additionally, the amendments will require enhanced qualitative and quantitative disclosures regarding customer contracts. The amended authoritative guidance associated with revenue recognition is effective for the Company on January 1, 2017. The amended guidance may be applied retrospectively for all periods presented or retrospectively with the cumulative effect of initially applying the amended guidance recognized at the date of initial application. We are in the process of assessing the provisions of the amended guidance and have not determined whether the adoption will have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements.

Inflation

While inflationary increases in costs, including the cost of diesel fuel, have affected our income from operations margins in recent years, we believe that inflation generally has not had, and in the near future is not

 

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expected to have, any material adverse effect on our results of operations. However, as of December 31, 2014, approximately 30% of our collection revenues are generated under long-term agreements with price adjustments based on various indices intended to measure inflation. Additionally, management’s estimates associated with inflation have had, and will continue to have, an impact on our accounting for landfill and environmental remediation liabilities.

 

Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk.

In the normal course of business, we are exposed to market risks, including changes in interest rates, Canadian currency rates and certain commodity prices. From time to time, we use derivatives to manage some portion of these risks. Our derivatives are agreements with independent counterparties that provide for payments based on a notional amount. As of December 31, 2014, all of our derivative transactions were related to actual or anticipated economic exposures. We are exposed to credit risk in the event of non-performance by our derivative counterparties. However, we monitor our derivative positions by regularly evaluating our positions and the creditworthiness of the counterparties.

Interest Rate Exposure — Our exposure to market risk for changes in interest rates relates primarily to our financing activities, although our interest costs can also be significantly affected by our on-going financial assurance needs, which are discussed in the Financial Assurance and Insurance Obligations section of Item 1.

As of December 31, 2014, we had $9.4 billion of long-term debt when excluding the impacts of accounting for fair value adjustments attributable to interest rate derivatives, discounts and premiums. The effective interest rates of approximately $1.4 billion of our outstanding debt obligations are subject to change during 2015. The most significant components of our variable-rate debt obligations are (i) $501 million of tax-exempt bonds that are subject to repricing on either a daily or weekly basis through a remarketing process; (ii) $638 million of tax-exempt bonds with term interest rate periods that are subject to repricing within 12 months and (iii) $232 million of outstanding advances under our Canadian credit facility. We currently estimate that a 100 basis point increase in the interest rates of our outstanding variable-rate debt obligations would increase our 2015 interest expense by approximately $11.2 million. As of December 31, 2013, the effective interest rates of approximately $2.4 billion of our outstanding debt obligations were subject to change within 12 months.

Our remaining outstanding debt obligations have fixed interest rates through either the scheduled maturity of the debt or, for certain of our “fixed-rate” tax exempt bonds, through the end of a term interest rate period that exceeds twelve months. The fair value of our fixed-rate debt obligations and various interest rate derivative instruments, if any, can increase or decrease significantly if market interest rates change.

We have performed sensitivity analyses to determine how market rate changes might affect the fair value of our market risk-sensitive derivatives and related positions. These analyses are inherently limited because they reflect a singular, hypothetical set of assumptions. Actual market movements may vary significantly from our assumptions. An instantaneous, one percentage point increase in interest rates across all maturities and applicable yield curves attributable to these instruments would have decreased the fair value of our combined debt and interest rate derivative positions by approximately $650 million at December 31, 2014.

We are also exposed to interest rate market risk because we have significant cash and cash equivalent balances as well as assets held in restricted trust funds and escrow accounts. These assets are generally invested in high quality, liquid instruments including money market funds that invest in U.S. government obligations with original maturities of three months or less. Because of the short terms to maturity of these investments, we believe that our exposure to changes in fair value due to interest rate fluctuations is insignificant.

Commodity Price Exposure — In the normal course of our business, we are subject to operating agreements that expose us to market risks arising from changes in the prices for commodities such as diesel fuel; recyclable materials, including old corrugated cardboard, old newsprint and plastics; and electricity, which generally

 

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correlates with natural gas prices in many of the markets in which we operate. During the three years ended December 31, 2014, we generally have not entered into derivatives to hedge the risks associated with changes in the market prices of these commodities, with the exception of electricity commodity derivatives divested in conjunction with the sale of our Wheelabrator business in December 2014. Alternatively, we attempt to manage these risks through operational strategies that focus on capturing our costs in the prices we charge our customers for the services provided. Accordingly, as the market prices for these commodities increase or decrease, our revenues also increase or decrease.

Currency Rate Exposure — We have operations in Canada as well as a cost center in India and investments in Hong Kong. From time to time, we use currency derivatives to mitigate the impact of currency translation on cash flows of intercompany Canadian-currency denominated debt transactions. Our foreign currency derivatives have not materially affected our financial position or results of operations for the periods presented. In addition, while changes in foreign currency exchange rates could significantly affect the fair value of our foreign currency derivatives, we believe these changes in fair value would not have a material impact to the Company. The foreign currency exposure associated with these investments has not been material. Refer to Notes 8 and 14 of the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding our foreign currency derivatives.

 

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Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.

INDEX TO

CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

 

     Page  

Management’s Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting

     73   

Reports of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

     74   

Consolidated Balance Sheets as of December 31, 2014 and 2013

     76   

Consolidated Statements of Operations for the Years Ended December 31, 2014, 2013 and 2012

     77   

Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Income for the Years Ended December 31, 2014, 2013 and 2012

     77   

Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows for the Years Ended December 31, 2014, 2013 and 2012

     78   

Consolidated Statements of Changes in Equity for the Years Ended December 31, 2014, 2013 and 2012

     79   

Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements

     80   

 

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MANAGEMENT’S REPORT ON INTERNAL CONTROL

OVER FINANCIAL REPORTING

Management of the Company, including the principal executive and financial officers, is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate internal control over financial reporting, as defined in Rules 13a-15(f) and 15d-15(f) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Our internal controls are designed to provide reasonable assurance as to the reliability of our financial reporting and the preparation of the consolidated financial statements for external purposes in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States and includes those policies and procedures that:

 

  i. pertain to the maintenance of records that in reasonable detail accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the Company;

 

  ii. provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and that receipts and expenditures of the Company are being made only in accordance with authorizations of management and directors of the Company; and

 

  iii. provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use or disposition of the Company’s assets that could have a material effect on the financial statements.

Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.

Management of the Company assessed the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2014 based on the Internal Control — Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (2013 framework). Based on its assessment, management has concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2014.

The effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting has been audited by Ernst & Young LLP, the independent registered public accounting firm that audited our consolidated financial statements, as stated in their report, which is included herein.

 

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REPORT OF INDEPENDENT REGISTERED PUBLIC ACCOUNTING FIRM

The Board of Directors and Stockholders of Waste Management, Inc.

We have audited Waste Management, Inc.’s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2014, based on criteria established in Internal Control-Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (2013 framework) (the COSO criteria). Waste Management, Inc.’s management is responsible for maintaining effective internal control over financial reporting, and for its assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting included in the accompanying Management’s Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on the company’s internal control over financial reporting based on our audit.

We conducted our audit in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether effective internal control over financial reporting was maintained in all material respects. Our audit included obtaining an understanding of internal control over financial reporting, assessing the risk that a material weakness exists, testing and evaluating the design and operating effectiveness of internal control based on the assessed risk, and performing such other procedures as we considered necessary in the circumstances. We believe that our audit provides a reasonable basis for our opinion.

A company’s internal control over financial reporting is a process designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements for external purposes in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. A company’s internal control over financial reporting includes those policies and procedures that (1) pertain to the maintenance of records that, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the company; (2) provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and that receipts and expenditures of the company are being made only in accordance with authorizations of management and directors of the company; and (3) provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use, or disposition of the company’s assets that could have a material effect on the financial statements.

Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Also, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.

In our opinion, Waste Management, Inc. maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2014, based on the COSO criteria.

We also have audited, in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), the consolidated balance sheets of Waste Management, Inc. as of December 31, 2014 and 2013, and the related consolidated statements of operations, comprehensive income, cash flows, and changes in equity for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2014, and our report dated February 17, 2015 expressed an unqualified opinion thereon.

/s/ ERNST & YOUNG LLP

Houston, Texas

February 17, 2015

 

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REPORT OF INDEPENDENT REGISTERED PUBLIC ACCOUNTING FIRM

The Board of Directors and Stockholders of Waste Management, Inc.

We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheets of Waste Management, Inc. (the “Company”) as of December 31, 2014 and 2013, and the related consolidated statements of operations, comprehensive income, cash flows, and changes in equity for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2014. These financial statements are the responsibility of the Company’s management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements based on our audits.

We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement. An audit includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. An audit also includes assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall financial statement presentation. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.

In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of Waste Management, Inc. at December 31, 2014 and 2013, and the consolidated results of its operations and its cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2014, in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles.

We also have audited, in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), Waste Management, Inc.’s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2014, based on criteria established in Internal Control-Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (2013 framework) and our report dated February 17, 2015 expressed an unqualified opinion thereon.

/s/ ERNST & YOUNG LLP

Houston, Texas

February 17, 2015

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS

(In Millions, Except Share and Par Value Amounts)

 

     December 31,  
     2014     2013  

ASSETS

    

Current assets:

    

Cash and cash equivalents

   $ 1,307      $ 58   

Accounts receivable, net of allowance for doubtful accounts of $30 and $33, respectively

     1,587        1,699   

Other receivables

     350        111   

Investment in unconsolidated entity

     —          177   

Parts and supplies

     106        178   

Deferred income taxes

     115        113   

Other assets

     176        163   
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total current assets

  3,641      2,499   

Property and equipment, net of accumulated depreciation and amortization of $15,968 and $16,723, respectively

  10,657      12,344   

Goodwill

  5,740      6,070   

Other intangible assets, net

  440      529   

Investments in unconsolidated entities

  408      414   

Other assets

  526      747   
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total assets

$ 21,412    $ 22,603   
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

LIABILITIES AND EQUITY

Current liabilities:

Accounts payable

$ 740    $ 744   

Accrued liabilities

  1,180      1,069   

Deferred revenues

  475      475   

Current portion of long-term debt

  1,090      726   
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total current liabilities

  3,485      3,014   

Long-term debt, less current portion

  8,345      9,500   

Deferred income taxes

  1,453      1,842   

Landfill and environmental remediation liabilities

  1,531      1,518   

Other liabilities

  709      727   
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total liabilities

  15,523      16,601   
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Commitments and contingencies

Equity:

Waste Management, Inc. stockholders’ equity:

Common stock, $0.01 par value; 1,500,000,000 shares authorized; 630,282,461 shares issued

  6      6   

Additional paid-in capital

  4,585      4,596   

Retained earnings

  6,888      6,289   

Accumulated other comprehensive income

  23      154   

Treasury stock at cost, 171,745,077 and 165,961,646 shares, respectively

  (5,636   (5,338
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total Waste Management, Inc. stockholders’ equity

  5,866      5,707   

Noncontrolling interests

  23      295   
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total equity

  5,889      6,002   
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total liabilities and equity

$ 21,412    $ 22,603   
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

See notes to Consolidated Financial statements.

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF OPERATIONS

(In Millions, Except per Share Amounts)

 

  Years Ended December 31,  
  2014   2013   2012  

Operating revenues:

Service revenues

$ 12,646    $ 12,566    $ 12,327   

Tangible product revenues

  1,350      1,417      1,322   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total operating revenues

  13,996      13,983      13,649   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Costs and expenses:

Operating costs:

Cost of services

  7,856      7,880      7,765   

Cost of tangible products

  1,146      1,232      1,114   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total operating costs

  9,002      9,112      8,879   

Selling, general and administrative

  1,481      1,468      1,472   

Depreciation and amortization

  1,292      1,333      1,297   

Restructuring

  82      18      67   

Goodwill impairments

  10      509      4   

(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments (other than goodwill) and unusual items

  (170   464      79   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 
  11,697      12,904      11,798   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Income from operations

  2,299      1,079      1,851   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Other income (expense):

Interest expense, net

  (466   (477   (484

Equity in net losses of unconsolidated entities

  (53   (34   (46

Other, net

  (29   (74   (18
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 
  (548   (585   (548
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Income before income taxes

  1,751      494      1,303   

Provision for income taxes

  413      364      443   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Consolidated net income

  1,338      130      860   

Less: Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests

  40      32      43   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net income attributable to Waste Management, Inc.

$ 1,298    $ 98    $ 817   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Basic earnings per common share

$ 2.80    $ 0.21    $ 1.76   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Diluted earnings per common share

$ 2.79    $ 0.21    $ 1.76   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Cash dividends declared per common share

$ 1.50    $ 1.46    $ 1.42   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF COMPREHENSIVE INCOME

(In Millions)

  

  

  Years Ended December 31,  
      2014           2013           2012      

Consolidated net income

$ 1,338    $ 130    $ 860   

Other comprehensive income (loss), net of taxes:

Derivative instruments, net

  1      12      (12

Available-for-sale securities, net

  4      2      2   

Foreign currency translation adjustments

  (124   (68   33   

Post-retirement benefit obligation, net

  (12   15      (2
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Other comprehensive income (loss), net of taxes

  (131   (39   21   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Comprehensive income

  1,207      91      881   

Less: Comprehensive income attributable to noncontrolling interests

  40      32      43   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Comprehensive income attributable to Waste Management, Inc.

$ 1,167    $ 59    $ 838   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

See notes to Consolidated Financial statements.

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF CASH FLOWS

(In Millions)

 

  Years Ended December 31,  
  2014   2013   2012  

Cash flows from operating activities:

Consolidated net income

$ 1,338    $ 130    $ 860   

Adjustments to reconcile consolidated net income to net cash provided by operating activities:

Depreciation and amortization

  1,292      1,333      1,297   

Deferred income tax (benefit) provision

  (118   (149   67   

Interest accretion on landfill liabilities

  88      87      84   

Interest accretion on and discount rate adjustments to environmental remediation liabilities and recovery assets

  14      (10   6   

Provision for bad debts

  42      39      57   

Equity-based compensation expense

  65      58      29   

Excess tax benefits associated with equity-based transactions

  (5   (10   (11

Net gain on disposal of assets

  (35   (21   (21

Effect of goodwill impairments

  10      509      4   

Effect of (income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments (other than goodwill) and unusual items and other

  (137   535      95   

Equity in net losses of unconsolidated entities, net of dividends

  42      34      46   

Change in operating assets and liabilities, net of effects of acquisitions and divestitures:

Receivables

  (268   44      (131

Other current assets

  (19   (7   (50

Other assets

  22      4      105   

Accounts payable and accrued liabilities

  117      (27   (57

Deferred revenues and other liabilities

  (117   (94   (85
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net cash provided by operating activities

  2,331      2,455      2,295   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Cash flows from investing activities:

Acquisitions of businesses, net of cash acquired

  (35   (724   (250

Capital expenditures

  (1,151   (1,271   (1,510

Proceeds from divestitures of businesses and other assets (net of cash divested)

  2,253      138      44   

Net receipts from restricted trust and escrow accounts

  19      71      14   

Investments in unconsolidated entities

  (33   (33   (77

Other

  (58   (81   (51
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net cash provided by (used in) investing activities

  995      (1,900   (1,830
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Cash flows from financing activities:

New borrowings

  2,817      2,232      1,620   

Debt repayments

  (3,568   (2,077   (1,498

Common stock repurchases

  (600   (239   —     

Cash dividends

  (693   (683   (658

Exercise of common stock options

  93      132      43   

Excess tax benefits associated with equity-based transactions

  5      10      11   

Acquisitions of and distributions paid to noncontrolling interests

  (125   (59   (46

Other

  (1   (3   (2
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net cash used in financing activities

  (2,072   (687   (530
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Effect of exchange rate changes on cash and cash equivalents

  (5   (4   1   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Increase (decrease) in cash and cash equivalents

  1,249      (136   (64

Cash and cash equivalents at beginning of year

  58      194      258   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Cash and cash equivalents at end of year

$ 1,307    $ 58    $ 194   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

See notes to Consolidated Financial statements.

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF CHANGES IN EQUITY

(In Millions, Except Shares in Thousands)

 

      Waste Management, Inc. Stockholders’ Equity      
  Total   Common Stock   Additional
Paid-In
Capital
  Retained
Earnings
  Accumulated
Other
Comprehensive
Income (Loss)
  Treasury Stock   Noncontrolling
Interests
 
  Shares   Amounts   Shares   Amounts  

Balance, December 31, 2011

  $ 6,390        630,282      $ 6      $ 4,561      $ 6,721      $ 172        (169,750   $ (5,390   $ 320   

Consolidated net income

    860        —             —          —          817        —          —          —          43   

Other comprehensive income (loss), net of taxes

    21        —          —          —          —          21        —          —          —     

Cash dividends declared

    (658     —          —          —          (658     —          —          —          —     

Equity-based compensation transactions, including dividend equivalents, net of taxes

    101        —          —          (15     (1     —          3,680        117        —     

Distributions paid to noncontrolling interests

    (46     —          —          —          —          —          —          —          (46

Other

    7        —          —          3        —          —          8        —          4   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Balance, December 31, 2012

  $ 6,675        630,282      $ 6      $ 4,549      $ 6,879      $ 193        (166,062   $ (5,273   $ 321   

Consolidated net income

    130        —          —          —          98        —          —          —          32   

Other comprehensive income (loss), net of taxes

    (39     —          —          —          —          (39     —          —          —     

Cash dividends declared

    (683     —          —          —          (683     —          —          —          —     

Equity-based compensation transactions, including dividend equivalents, net of taxes

    216        —          —          47        (5     —          5,461        174        —     

Common stock repurchases

    (239     —          —          —          —          —          (5,368     (239     —     

Distributions paid to noncontrolling interests

    (59     —          —          —          —          —          —          —          (59

Other

    1        —          —          —          —          —          7        —          1   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Balance, December 31, 2013

  $ 6,002        630,282      $ 6      $ 4,596      $ 6,289      $ 154        (165,962   $ (5,338   $ 295   

Consolidated net income

    1,338        —          —          —          1,298        —          —          —          40   

Other comprehensive income (loss), net of taxes

    (131     —          —          —          —          (131     —          —          —     

Cash dividends declared

    (693     —          —          —          (693     —          —          —          —     

Equity-based compensation transactions, including dividend equivalents, net of taxes

    195        —          —          79        (6     —          3,779        122        —     

Common stock repurchases

    (600     —          —          (180     —          —          (9,569     (420     —     

Distributions paid to noncontrolling interests

    (34     —          —          —          —          —          —          —          (34

Acquisitions of noncontrolling interests and divestiture of Wheelabrator business

    (188     —          —          90        —          —          —          —          (278

Other

    —          —          —          —          —          —          7        —          —     
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Balance, December 31, 2014

  $ 5,889        630,282      $ 6      $ 4,585      $ 6,888      $ 23        (171,745   $ (5,636   $ 23   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

See notes to Consolidated Financial statements.

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

Years Ended December 31, 2014, 2013 and 2012

1. Business

The financial statements presented in this report represent the consolidation of Waste Management, Inc., a Delaware corporation; Waste Management’s wholly-owned and majority-owned subsidiaries; and certain variable interest entities for which Waste Management or its subsidiaries are the primary beneficiaries as described in Note 20. Waste Management is a holding company and all operations are conducted by its subsidiaries. When the terms “the Company,” “we,” “us” or “our” are used in this document, those terms refer to Waste Management, Inc., its consolidated subsidiaries and consolidated variable interest entities. When we use the term “WM,” we are referring only to Waste Management, Inc., the parent holding company.

We are North America’s leading provider of comprehensive waste management environmental services. We partner with our residential, commercial, industrial and municipal customers and the communities we serve to manage and reduce waste at each stage from collection to disposal, while recovering valuable resources and creating clean, renewable energy. Our “Solid Waste” business is operated and managed locally by our subsidiaries that focus on distinct geographic areas and provides collection, transfer, recycling and resource recovery, and disposal services. Through our subsidiaries, we are also a leading developer, operator and owner of landfill gas-to-energy facilities in the United States. In December 2014, we completed the previously announced sale of our Wheelabrator business, which provided waste-to-energy services and managed waste-to-energy facilities and independent power production plants. Refer to Note 19 for additional information related to our divestitures.

We evaluate, oversee and manage the financial performance of our Solid Waste business subsidiaries through our 17 geographic Areas. We also provide additional services that are not managed through our Solid Waste business, which are presented in this report as “Other.” Additional information related to our segments can be found in Note 21.

2. Accounting Changes and Reclassifications

Accounting Changes

Comprehensive Income — In February 2013, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) issued amended authoritative guidance associated with comprehensive income, which requires companies to provide information about the amounts that are reclassified out of accumulated other comprehensive income by component. Additionally, companies are required to present significant amounts reclassified out of accumulated other comprehensive income by the respective line items of net income. The amendment to authoritative guidance associated with comprehensive income was effective for the Company on January 1, 2013. The adoption of this guidance did not have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements. We have presented the information required by this amendment in Note 14.

Indefinite-Lived Intangible Assets Impairment Testing — In July 2012, the FASB amended authoritative guidance associated with indefinite-lived intangible assets impairment testing. The amended guidance provides companies the option to first assess qualitative factors to determine whether the existence of events or circumstances leads to a determination that it is more likely than not that the indefinite-lived intangible asset is impaired. If, after assessing the totality of events or circumstances, an entity determines it is not more likely than not that the indefinite-lived intangible asset is impaired, then the entity is not required to take further action. The amendments are effective for indefinite-lived intangible impairment tests performed for fiscal years beginning after September 15, 2012; however, early adoption was permitted. The Company’s early adoption of this guidance in 2012 did not have an impact on our consolidated financial statements. Additional information on impairment testing can be found in Note 3.

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS — (Continued)

 

Reclassifications

When necessary, reclassifications have been made to our prior period consolidated financial information in order to conform to the current year presentation.

3. Summary of Significant Accounting Policies

Principles of Consolidation

The accompanying Consolidated Financial Statements include the accounts of WM, its wholly-owned and majority-owned subsidiaries and certain variable interest entities for which we have determined that we are the primary beneficiary. All material intercompany balances and transactions have been eliminated. Investments in entities in which we do not have a controlling financial interest are accounted for under either the equity method or cost method of accounting, as appropriate.

Estimates and Assumptions

In preparing our financial statements, we make numerous estimates and assumptions that affect the accounting for and recognition and disclosure of assets, liabilities, equity, revenues and expenses. We must make these estimates and assumptions because certain information that we use is dependent on future events, cannot be calculated with precision from available data or simply cannot be calculated. In some cases, these estimates are difficult to determine, and we must exercise significant judgment. In preparing our financial statements, the most difficult, subjective and complex estimates and the assumptions that present the greatest amount of uncertainty relate to our accounting for landfills, environmental remediation liabilities, asset impairments, deferred income taxes and reserves associated with our insured and self-insured claims. Each of these items is discussed in additional detail below. Actual results could differ materially from the estimates and assumptions that we use in the preparation of our financial statements.

Cash and Cash Equivalents

Cash in excess of current operating requirements is invested in short-term interest-bearing instruments with maturities of three months or less at the date of purchase and is stated at cost, which approximates market value.

Concentrations of Credit Risk

Financial instruments that potentially subject us to concentrations of credit risk consist primarily of cash and cash equivalents, investments held within our trust funds and escrow accounts, accounts receivable and derivative instruments. We make efforts to control our exposure to credit risk associated with these instruments by (i) placing our assets and other financial interests with a diverse group of credit-worthy financial institutions; (ii) holding high-quality financial instruments while limiting investments in any one instrument and (iii) maintaining strict policies over credit extension that include credit evaluations, credit limits and monitoring procedures, although generally we do not have collateral requirements for credit extensions. We also control our exposure associated with trade receivables by discontinuing service, to the extent allowable, to non-paying customers. However, our overall credit risk associated with trade receivables is limited due to the large number of diverse customers we serve. At December 31, 2014 and 2013, no single customer represented greater than 5% of total accounts receivable.

Trade and Other Receivables

Our receivables, which are recorded when billed, when services are performed or when cash is advanced, are claims against third parties that will generally be settled in cash. The carrying value of our receivables, net of

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS — (Continued)

 

the allowance for doubtful accounts, represents the estimated net realizable value. We estimate our allowance for doubtful accounts based on historical collection trends; type of customer, such as municipal or commercial; the age of outstanding receivables; and existing economic conditions. If events or changes in circumstances indicate that specific receivable balances may be impaired, further consideration is given to the collectability of those balances and the allowance is adjusted accordingly. Past-due receivable balances are written off when our internal collection efforts have been unsuccessful. Also, we recognize interest income on long-term interest-bearing notes receivable as the interest accrues under the terms of the notes. We no longer accrue interest once the notes are deemed uncollectible.

Other receivables at December 31, 2014 and 2013 include receivables related to tax payments in excess of the provision of $255 million and $23 million, respectively.

Parts and Supplies

Parts and supplies consist primarily of spare parts, fuel, tires, lubricants and processed recycling materials. Our parts and supplies are stated at the lower of cost, using the average cost method, or market.

Landfill Accounting

Cost Basis of Landfill Assets — We capitalize various costs that we incur to make a landfill ready to accept waste. These costs generally include expenditures for land (including the landfill footprint and required landfill buffer property); permitting; excavation; liner material and installation; landfill leachate collection systems; landfill gas collection systems; environmental monitoring equipment for groundwater and landfill gas; and directly related engineering, capitalized interest, on-site road construction and other capital infrastructure costs. The cost basis of our landfill assets also includes asset retirement costs, which represent estimates of future costs associated with landfill final capping, closure and post-closure activities. These costs are discussed below.

Final Capping, Closure and Post-Closure Costs — Following is a description of our asset retirement activities and our related accounting:

 

    Final Capping — Involves the installation of flexible membrane liners and geosynthetic clay liners, drainage and compacted soil layers and topsoil over areas of a landfill where total airspace capacity has been consumed. Final capping asset retirement obligations are recorded on a units-of-consumption basis as airspace is consumed related to the specific final capping event with a corresponding increase in the landfill asset. Each final capping event is accounted for as a discrete obligation and recorded as an asset and a liability based on estimates of the discounted cash flows and capacity associated with each final capping event.

 

    Closure — Includes the construction of the final portion of methane gas collection systems (when required), demobilization and routine maintenance costs. These are costs incurred after the site ceases to accept waste, but before the landfill is certified as closed by the applicable state regulatory agency. These costs are recorded as an asset retirement obligation as airspace is consumed over the life of the landfill with a corresponding increase in the landfill asset. Closure obligations are recorded over the life of the landfill based on estimates of the discounted cash flows associated with performing closure activities.

 

    Post-Closure — Involves the maintenance and monitoring of a landfill site that has been certified closed by the applicable regulatory agency. Generally, we are required to maintain and monitor landfill sites for a 30-year period. These maintenance and monitoring costs are recorded as an asset retirement obligation as airspace is consumed over the life of the landfill with a corresponding increase in the landfill asset. Post-closure obligations are recorded over the life of the landfill based on estimates of the discounted cash flows associated with performing post-closure activities.

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS — (Continued)

 

We develop our estimates of these obligations using input from our operations personnel, engineers and accountants. Our estimates are based on our interpretation of current requirements and proposed regulatory changes and are intended to approximate fair value. Absent quoted market prices, the estimate of fair value is based on the best available information, including the results of present value techniques. In many cases, we contract with third parties to fulfill our obligations for final capping, closure and post-closure. We use historical experience, professional engineering judgment and quoted and actual prices paid for similar work to determine the fair value of these obligations. We are required to recognize these obligations at market prices whether we plan to contract with third parties or perform the work ourselves. In those instances where we perform the work with internal resources, the incremental profit margin realized is recognized as a component of operating income when the work is performed.

Once we have determined the final capping, closure and post-closure costs, we inflate those costs to the expected time of payment and discount those expected future costs back to present value. During the years ended December 31, 2014, 2013 and 2012, we inflated these costs in current dollars until the expected time of payment using an inflation rate of 2.5%. We discounted these costs to present value using the credit-adjusted, risk-free rate effective at the time an obligation is incurred, consistent with the expected cash flow approach. Any changes in expectations that result in an upward revision to the estimated cash flows are treated as a new liability and discounted at the current rate while downward revisions are discounted at the historical weighted-average rate of the recorded obligation. As a result, the credit-adjusted, risk-free discount rate used to calculate the present value of an obligation is specific to each individual asset retirement obligation. The weighted-average rate applicable to our asset retirement obligations at December 31, 2014 is between 4.00% and 7.75%. We expect to apply a credit-adjusted, risk-free discount rate of 4.00% to liabilities incurred in the first quarter of 2015.

We record the estimated fair value of final capping, closure and post-closure liabilities for our landfills based on the capacity consumed through the current period. The fair value of final capping obligations is developed based on our estimates of the airspace consumed to date for each final capping event and the expected timing of each final capping event. The fair value of closure and post-closure obligations is developed based on our estimates of the airspace consumed to date for the entire landfill and the expected timing of each closure and post-closure activity. Because these obligations are measured at estimated fair value using present value techniques, changes in the estimated cost or timing of future final capping, closure and post-closure activities could result in a material change in these liabilities, related assets and results of operations. We assess the appropriateness of the estimates used to develop our recorded balances annually, or more often if significant facts change.

Changes in inflation rates or the estimated costs, timing or extent of future final capping, closure and post-closure activities typically result in both (i) a current adjustment to the recorded liability and landfill asset and (ii) a change in liability and asset amounts to be recorded prospectively over either the remaining capacity of the related discrete final capping event or the remaining permitted and expansion airspace (as defined below) of the landfill. Any changes related to the capitalized and future cost of the landfill assets are then recognized in accordance with our amortization policy, which would generally result in amortization expense being recognized prospectively over the remaining capacity of the final capping event or the remaining permitted and expansion airspace of the landfill, as appropriate. Changes in such estimates associated with airspace that has been fully utilized result in an adjustment to the recorded liability and landfill assets with an immediate corresponding adjustment to landfill airspace amortization expense.

Interest accretion on final capping, closure and post-closure liabilities is recorded using the effective interest method and is recorded as final capping, closure and post-closure expense, which is included in “Operating” costs and expenses within our Consolidated Statements of Operations.

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS — (Continued)

 

Amortization of Landfill Assets — The amortizable basis of a landfill includes (i) amounts previously expended and capitalized; (ii) capitalized landfill final capping, closure and post-closure costs; (iii) projections of future purchase and development costs required to develop the landfill site to its remaining permitted and expansion capacity and (iv) projected asset retirement costs related to landfill final capping, closure and post-closure activities.

Amortization is recorded on a units-of-consumption basis, applying expense as a rate per ton. The rate per ton is calculated by dividing each component of the amortizable basis of a landfill by the number of tons needed to fill the corresponding asset’s airspace. For landfills that we do not own, but operate through operating or lease arrangements, the rate per ton is calculated based on expected capacity to be utilized over the lesser of the contractual term of the underlying agreement or the life of the landfill.

We apply the following guidelines in determining a landfill’s remaining permitted and expansion airspace:

 

    Remaining Permitted Airspace — Our engineers, in consultation with third-party engineering consultants and surveyors, are responsible for determining remaining permitted airspace at our landfills. The remaining permitted airspace is determined by an annual survey, which is used to compare the existing landfill topography to the expected final landfill topography.

 

    Expansion Airspace — We also include currently unpermitted expansion airspace in our estimate of remaining permitted and expansion airspace in certain circumstances. First, to include airspace associated with an expansion effort, we must generally expect the initial expansion permit application to be submitted within one year and the final expansion permit to be received within five years. Second, we must believe that obtaining the expansion permit is likely, considering the following criteria:

 

    Personnel are actively working on the expansion of an existing landfill, including efforts to obtain land use and local, state or provincial approvals;

 

    It is likely that the approvals will be received within the normal application and processing time periods for approvals in the jurisdiction in which the landfill is located;

 

    We have a legal right to use or obtain land to be included in the expansion plan;

 

    There are no significant known technical, legal, community, business, or political restrictions or similar issues that could negatively affect the success of such expansion; and

 

    Financial analysis has been completed based on conceptual design, and the results demonstrate that the expansion has a positive financial and operational impact.

For unpermitted airspace to be initially included in our estimate of remaining permitted and expansion airspace, the expansion effort must meet all of the criteria listed above. These criteria are evaluated by our field-based engineers, accountants, managers and others to identify potential obstacles to obtaining the permits. Once the unpermitted airspace is included, our policy provides that airspace may continue to be included in remaining permitted and expansion airspace even if certain of these criteria are no longer met as long as we continue to believe we will ultimately obtain the permit, based on the facts and circumstances of a specific landfill. In these circumstances, continued inclusion must be approved through a landfill-specific review process that includes approval by our Chief Financial Officer and a review by the Audit Committee of our Board of Directors on a quarterly basis. Of the 23 landfill sites with expansions included at December 31, 2014, five landfills required the Chief Financial Officer to approve the inclusion of the unpermitted airspace. Two of these landfills required approval by our Chief Financial Officer because of community or political opposition that could impede the

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS — (Continued)

 

expansion process. The remaining three landfills required approval due to local zoning restrictions or because the permit application processes do not meet the one- or five-year requirements.

When we include the expansion airspace in our calculations of remaining permitted and expansion airspace, we also include the projected costs for development, as well as the projected asset retirement costs related to final capping, closure and post-closure of the expansion in the amortization basis of the landfill.

Once the remaining permitted and expansion airspace is determined in cubic yards, an airspace utilization factor (“AUF”) is established to calculate the remaining permitted and expansion capacity in tons. The AUF is established using the measured density obtained from previous annual surveys and is then adjusted to account for future settlement. The amount of settlement that is forecasted will take into account several site-specific factors including current and projected mix of waste type, initial and projected waste density, estimated number of years of life remaining, depth of underlying waste, anticipated access to moisture through precipitation or recirculation of landfill leachate, and operating practices. In addition, the initial selection of the AUF is subject to a subsequent multi-level review by our engineering group, and the AUF used is reviewed on a periodic basis and revised as necessary. Our historical experience generally indicates that the impact of settlement at a landfill is greater later in the life of the landfill when the waste placed at the landfill approaches its highest point under the permit requirements.

After determining the costs and remaining permitted and expansion capacity at each of our landfills, we determine the per ton rates that will be expensed as waste is received and deposited at the landfill by dividing the costs by the corresponding number of tons. We calculate per ton amortization rates for each landfill for assets associated with each final capping event, for assets related to closure and post-closure activities and for all other costs capitalized or to be capitalized in the future. These rates per ton are updated annually, or more often, as significant facts change.

It is possible that actual results, including the amount of costs incurred, the timing of final capping, closure and post-closure activities, our airspace utilization or the success of our expansion efforts could ultimately turn out to be significantly different from our estimates and assumptions. To the extent that such estimates, or related assumptions, prove to be significantly different than actual results, lower profitability may be experienced due to higher amortization rates or higher expenses; or higher profitability may result if the opposite occurs. Most significantly, if it is determined that expansion capacity should no longer be considered in calculating the recoverability of a landfill asset, we may be required to recognize an asset impairment or incur significantly higher amortization expense. If at any time management makes the decision to abandon the expansion effort, the capitalized costs related to the expansion effort are expensed immediately.

Environmental Remediation Liabilities

We are subject to an array of laws and regulations relating to the protection of the environment. Under current laws and regulations, we may have liabilities for environmental damage caused by operations, or for damage caused by conditions that existed before we acquired a site. These liabilities include potentially responsible party (“PRP”) investigations, settlements, and certain legal and consultant fees, as well as costs directly associated with site investigation and clean up, such as materials, external contractor costs and incremental internal costs directly related to the remedy. We provide for expenses associated with environmental remediation obligations when such amounts are probable and can be reasonably estimated. We routinely review and evaluate sites that require remediation and determine our estimated cost for the likely remedy based on a number of estimates and assumptions.

 

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Where it is probable that a liability has been incurred, we estimate costs required to remediate sites based on site-specific facts and circumstances. We routinely review and evaluate sites that require remediation, considering whether we were an owner, operator, transporter, or generator at the site, the amount and type of waste hauled to the site and the number of years we were associated with the site. Next, we review the same type of information with respect to other named and unnamed PRPs. Estimates of the costs for the likely remedy are then either developed using our internal resources or by third-party environmental engineers or other service providers. Internally developed estimates are based on:

 

    Management’s judgment and experience in remediating our own and unrelated parties’ sites;

 

    Information available from regulatory agencies as to costs of remediation;

 

    The number, financial resources and relative degree of responsibility of other PRPs who may be liable for remediation of a specific site; and

 

    The typical allocation of costs among PRPs, unless the actual allocation has been determined.

Estimating our degree of responsibility for remediation is inherently difficult. We recognize and accrue for an estimated remediation liability when we determine that such liability is both probable and reasonably estimable. Determining the method and ultimate cost of remediation requires that a number of assumptions be made. There can sometimes be a range of reasonable estimates of the costs associated with the likely site remediation alternatives identified in the investigation of the extent of environmental impact. In these cases, we use the amount within the range that constitutes our best estimate. If no amount within a range appears to be a better estimate than any other, we use the amount that is the low end of such range. If we used the high ends of such ranges, our aggregate potential liability would be approximately $190 million higher than the $235 million recorded in the Consolidated Financial Statements as of December 31, 2014. Our ultimate responsibility may differ materially from current estimates. It is possible that technological, regulatory or enforcement developments, the results of environmental studies, the inability to identify other PRPs, the inability of other PRPs to contribute to the settlements of such liabilities, or other factors could require us to record additional liabilities. Our ongoing review of our remediation liabilities, in light of relevant internal and external facts and circumstances, could result in revisions to our accruals that could cause upward or downward adjustments to income from operations. These adjustments could be material in any given period.

Where we believe that both the amount of a particular environmental remediation liability and the timing of the payments are fixed or reliably determinable, we inflate the cost in current dollars (by 2.5% at December 31, 2014 and 2013) until the expected time of payment and discount the cost to present value using a risk-free discount rate, which is based on the rate for U.S. Treasury bonds with a term approximating the weighted average period until settlement of the underlying obligation. We determine the risk-free discount rate and the inflation rate on an annual basis unless interim changes would significantly impact our results of operations. For remedial liabilities that have been discounted, we include interest accretion, based on the effective interest method, in “Operating” costs and expenses in our Consolidated Statements of Operations. The following table summarizes the impacts of revisions in the risk-free discount rate applied to our environmental remediation liabilities and recovery assets during the reported periods (in millions) and the risk-free discount rate applied as of each reporting date:

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2014     2013     2012  

Charge (reduction) to Operating expenses

   $ 10      $ (13   $ 3   

Risk-free discount rate applied to environmental remediation liabilities and recovery assets

     2.00     3.00     1.75

 

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The portion of our recorded environmental remediation liabilities that has never been subject to inflation or discounting, as the amounts and timing of payments are not fixed or reliably determinable, was $41 million at December 31, 2014 and $36 million at December 31, 2013. Had we not inflated and discounted any portion of our environmental remediation liability, the amount recorded would have decreased by $6 million at December 31, 2014 and increased by $7 million at December 31, 2013.

Property and Equipment (exclusive of landfills, discussed above)

We record property and equipment at cost. Expenditures for major additions and improvements are capitalized and maintenance activities are expensed as incurred. We depreciate property and equipment over the estimated useful life of the asset using the straight-line method. We assume no salvage value for our depreciable property and equipment. When property and equipment are retired, sold or otherwise disposed of, the cost and accumulated depreciation are removed from our accounts and any resulting gain or loss is included in results of operations as an offset or increase to operating expense for the period.

The estimated useful lives for significant property and equipment categories are as follows (in years):

 

     Useful Lives  

Vehicles — excluding rail haul cars

     3 to 10   

Vehicles — rail haul cars

     10 to 20   

Machinery and equipment — including containers

     3 to 30   

Buildings and improvements — excluding waste-to-energy facilities

     5 to 40   

Waste-to-energy facilities and related equipment

     up to 50   

Furniture, fixtures and office equipment

     3 to 10   

We include capitalized costs associated with developing or obtaining internal-use software within furniture, fixtures and office equipment. These costs include direct external costs of materials and services used in developing or obtaining the software and internal costs for employees directly associated with the software development project. As of December 31, 2014 and 2013, capitalized costs for software placed in service, net of accumulated depreciation, were $114 million and $129 million, respectively. In addition, our furniture, fixtures and office equipment as of December 31, 2014 and 2013 included $5 million and $11 million, respectively, for costs incurred for software under development.

Leases

We lease property and equipment in the ordinary course of our business. Our most significant lease obligations are for property and equipment specific to our industry, including real property operated as a landfill or transfer station. Our leases have varying terms. Some may include renewal or purchase options, escalation clauses, restrictions, penalties or other obligations that we consider in determining minimum lease payments. The leases are classified as either operating leases or capital leases, as appropriate.

Operating Leases (excluding landfills discussed below) — The majority of our leases are operating leases. This classification generally can be attributed to either (i) relatively low fixed minimum lease payments as a result of real property lease obligations that vary based on the volume of waste we receive or process or (ii) minimum lease terms that are much shorter than the assets’ economic useful lives. Management expects that in the normal course of business our operating leases will be renewed, replaced by other leases, or replaced with fixed asset expenditures. Our rent expense during each of the last three years and our future minimum operating lease payments for each of the next five years for which we are contractually obligated as of December 31, 2014 are disclosed in Note 11.

 

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Capital Leases (excluding landfills discussed below) — Assets under capital leases are capitalized using interest rates determined at the inception of each lease and are amortized over either the useful life of the asset or the lease term, as appropriate, on a straight-line basis. The present value of the related lease payments is recorded as a debt obligation. Our future minimum annual capital lease payments are included in our total future debt obligations as disclosed in Note 7.

Landfill Leases — From an operating perspective, landfills that we lease are similar to landfills we own because generally we own the landfill’s operating permit and will operate the landfill for the entire lease term, which in many cases is the life of the landfill. As a result, our landfill leases are generally capital leases. The most significant portion of our rental obligations for landfill leases is contingent upon operating factors such as disposal volumes and often there are no contractual minimum rental obligations. Contingent rental obligations are expensed as incurred. For landfill capital leases that provide for minimum contractual rental obligations, we record the present value of the minimum obligation as part of the landfill asset, which is amortized on a units-of-consumption basis over the shorter of the lease term or the life of the landfill.

Acquisitions

We generally recognize assets acquired and liabilities assumed in business combinations, including contingent assets and liabilities, based on fair value estimates as of the date of acquisition.

Contingent Consideration — In certain acquisitions, we agree to pay additional amounts to sellers contingent upon achievement by the acquired businesses of certain negotiated goals, such as targeted revenue levels, targeted disposal volumes or the issuance of permits for expanded landfill airspace. We have recognized liabilities for these contingent obligations based on their estimated fair value at the date of acquisition with any differences between the acquisition-date fair value and the ultimate settlement of the obligations being recognized as an adjustment to income from operations.

Acquired Assets and Assumed Liabilities — Assets and liabilities arising from contingencies such as pre-acquisition environmental matters and litigation are recognized at their acquisition-date fair value when their respective fair values can be determined. If the fair values of such contingencies cannot be determined, they are recognized at the acquisition date if the contingencies are probable and an amount can be reasonably estimated.

Acquisition-date fair value estimates are revised as necessary and accounted for as an adjustment to income from operations if, and when, additional information regarding these contingencies becomes available to further define and quantify assets acquired and liabilities assumed. All acquisition-related transaction costs have been expensed as incurred.

Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets

Goodwill is the excess of our purchase cost over the fair value of the net assets of acquired businesses. We do not amortize goodwill, but as discussed in the Asset Impairments section below, we assess our goodwill for impairment at least annually.

Other intangible assets consist primarily of customer and supplier relationships, covenants not-to-compete, licenses, permits (other than landfill permits, as all landfill-related intangible assets are combined with landfill tangible assets and amortized using our landfill amortization policy), and other contracts. Other intangible assets are recorded at acquisition date fair value and are generally amortized using either a 150% declining balance approach or a straight-line basis as we determine appropriate. Customer and supplier relationships are typically

 

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amortized over a term ranging between 10 and 15 years. Covenants not-to-compete are amortized over the term of the non-compete covenant, which is generally two to five years. Licenses, permits and other contracts are amortized over the definitive terms of the related agreements. If the underlying agreement does not contain definitive terms and the useful life is determined to be indefinite, the asset is not amortized.

Asset Impairments

We monitor the carrying value of our long-lived assets for potential impairment on an ongoing basis and test the recoverability of such assets using significant unobservable (“Level 3”) inputs whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that their carrying amounts may not be recoverable. These events or changes in circumstances, including management decisions pertaining to such assets, are referred to as impairment indicators. If an impairment indicator occurs, we perform a test of recoverability by comparing the carrying value of the asset or asset group to its undiscounted expected future cash flows. If cash flows cannot be separately and independently identified for a single asset, we will determine whether an impairment has occurred for the group of assets for which we can identify the projected cash flows. If the carrying values are in excess of undiscounted expected future cash flows, we measure any impairment by comparing the fair value of the asset or asset group to its carrying value. Fair value is generally determined by considering (i) internally developed discounted projected cash flow analysis of the asset or asset group; (ii) actual third-party valuations and/or (iii) information available regarding the current market for similar assets. If the fair value of an asset or asset group is determined to be less than the carrying amount of the asset or asset group, an impairment in the amount of the difference is recorded in the period that the impairment indicator occurs and is included in the “(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments (other than goodwill) and unusual items” line item in our Consolidated Statement of Operations. Estimating future cash flows requires significant judgment and projections may vary from the cash flows eventually realized, which could impact our ability to accurately assess whether an asset has been impaired.

There are additional considerations for impairments of landfills, goodwill and other indefinite-lived intangible assets, as described below.

Landfills — The assessment of impairment indicators and the recoverability of our capitalized costs associated with landfills and related expansion projects require significant judgment due to the unique nature of the waste industry, the highly regulated permitting process and the sensitive estimates involved. During the review of a landfill expansion application, a regulator may initially deny the expansion application although the expansion permit is ultimately granted. In addition, management may periodically divert waste from one landfill to another to conserve remaining permitted landfill airspace, or a landfill may be required to cease accepting waste, prior to receipt of the expansion permit. However, such events occur in the ordinary course of business in the waste industry and do not necessarily result in impairment of our landfill assets because, after consideration of all facts, such events may not affect our belief that we will ultimately obtain the expansion permit. As a result, our tests of recoverability, which generally make use of a probability-weighted cash flow estimation approach, may indicate that no impairment loss should be recorded. At December 31, 2014, one of our landfill sites for which we believe receipt of the expansion permit is probable, is not currently accepting waste. The net recorded capitalized landfill asset cost for this site was $247 million at December 31, 2014. We performed a test of recoverability for this landfill and the undiscounted cash flows resulting from our probability-weighted estimation approach significantly exceeded the carrying value of this site. During the year ended December 31, 2013, we recognized $262 million of charges to impair certain of our landfills, primarily as a result of our consideration of management’s decision in the fourth quarter of 2013 not to actively pursue expansion and/or development of such landfills. These charges were primarily associated with two landfills in our Eastern Canada Area, which are no longer accepting waste. We had previously concluded that receipt of permits for these landfills was probable. However, in connection with our asset rationalization and capital allocation analysis,

 

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which was influenced, in part, by our acquisition of RCI Environnement, Inc. (“RCI”), we determined that the future costs to construct these landfills could be avoided as we are able to allocate disposal that would have gone to these landfills to other facilities and not materially impact operations. As a result of management’s decision, we determined that the carrying values of landfill assets were no longer able to be recovered by the undiscounted cash flows attributable to these assets. As such, we wrote their carrying values down to their estimated fair values using a market approach considering the highest and best use of the assets.

Refer to Note 13 for additional information related to landfill asset impairments recognized during the reported periods.

Goodwill — At least annually, and more frequently if warranted, we assess our goodwill for impairment using Level 3 inputs.

We assess whether a goodwill impairment exists using both qualitative and quantitative assessments. Our qualitative assessment involves determining whether events or circumstances exist that indicate it is more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount, including goodwill. If based on this qualitative assessment we determine it is not more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount, we will not perform a quantitative assessment.

If the qualitative assessment indicates that it is more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount or if we elect not to perform a qualitative assessment, we perform a quantitative assessment, or two-step impairment test, to determine whether a goodwill impairment exists at the reporting unit. The first step in our quantitative assessment identifies potential impairments by comparing the estimated fair value of the reporting unit to its carrying value, including goodwill. If the carrying value exceeds estimated fair value, there is an indication of potential impairment and the second step is performed to measure the amount of impairment. Fair value is typically estimated using a combination of the income approach and market approach or only an income approach when applicable. The income approach is based on the long-term projected future cash flows of the reporting units. We discount the estimated cash flows to present value using a weighted-average cost of capital that considers factors such as market assumptions, the timing of the cash flows and the risks inherent in those cash flows. We believe that this approach is appropriate because it provides a fair value estimate based upon the reporting units’ expected long-term performance considering the economic and market conditions that generally affect our business. The market approach estimates fair value by measuring the aggregate market value of publicly-traded companies with similar characteristics to our business as a multiple of their reported cash flows. We then apply that multiple to the reporting units’ cash flows to estimate their fair values. We believe that this approach is appropriate because it provides a fair value estimate using valuation inputs from entities with operations and economic characteristics comparable to our reporting units.

Fair value computed by these two methods is arrived at using a number of factors, including projected future operating results, economic projections, anticipated future cash flows, comparable marketplace data and the cost of capital. There are inherent uncertainties related to these factors and to our judgment in applying them to this analysis. However, we believe that these two methods provide a reasonable approach to estimating the fair value of our reporting units.

Refer to Notes 6 and 13 for additional information related to goodwill impairments recognized during the reported periods.

Indefinite-Lived Intangible Assets Other Than Goodwill — At least annually, and more frequently if warranted, we assess indefinite-lived intangible assets other than goodwill for impairment.

 

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When performing the impairment test for indefinite-lived intangible assets, we generally first conduct a qualitative analysis to determine whether we believe it is more likely than not that an asset has been impaired. If we believe an impairment has occurred, we then evaluate for impairment by comparing the estimated fair value of assets to the carrying value. An impairment charge is recognized if the asset’s estimated fair value is less than its carrying value.

Fair value is typically estimated using an income approach. The income approach is based on the long-term projected future cash flows. We discount the estimated cash flows to present value using a weighted-average cost of capital that considers factors such as market assumptions, the timing of the cash flows and the risks inherent in those cash flows. We believe that this approach is appropriate because it provides a fair value estimate based upon the expected long-term performance considering the economic and market conditions that generally affect our business.

Fair value computed by this method is arrived at using a number of factors, including projected future operating results, economic projections, anticipated future cash flows, comparable marketplace data and the cost of capital. There are inherent uncertainties related to these factors and to our judgment in applying them to this analysis. However, we believe that this method provides a reasonable approach to estimating the fair value of the reporting units.

Restricted Trust and Escrow Accounts

As of both December 31, 2014 and December 31, 2013, our restricted trust and escrow accounts consist principally of funds deposited for purposes of settling landfill final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation obligations. We often also have restricted trust and escrow account balances related to funds received from the issuance of tax-exempt bonds held in trust for the construction of various projects or facilities. As of December 31, 2014 and 2013, we had $171 million and $167 million, respectively, of restricted trust and escrow accounts, which are primarily included in “Other assets” in our Consolidated Balance Sheets.

Final Capping, Closure, Post-Closure and Environmental Remediation Funds — At several of our landfills, we provide financial assurance by depositing cash into restricted trust funds or escrow accounts for purposes of settling final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation obligations. Balances maintained in these trust funds and escrow accounts will fluctuate based on (i) changes in statutory requirements; (ii) future deposits made to comply with contractual arrangements; (iii) the ongoing use of funds for qualifying final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation activities; (iv) acquisitions or divestitures of landfills and (v) changes in the fair value of the financial instruments held in the trust fund or escrow accounts.

Tax-Exempt Bond Funds — We obtain funds from the issuance of industrial revenue bonds for the construction of disposal facilities and for equipment necessary to provide waste management services. Proceeds from these arrangements are directly deposited into trust accounts, and we do not have the ability to use the funds in regular operating activities. Accordingly, these borrowings are treated as non-cash financing activities and are excluded from our Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows. As our construction and equipment expenditures are documented and approved by the applicable bond trustee, the funds are released and we receive a cash reimbursement. These cash reimbursements are reported in the Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows as an investing activity when the cash is released from the trust funds. Generally, the funds are fully expended within one year of the debt issuance. When the debt matures, we generally repay our obligation with cash on hand and the debt repayments are included as a financing activity in the Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows.

 

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Investments in Unconsolidated Entities

Investments in unconsolidated entities over which the Company has significant influence are accounted for under the equity method of accounting. Investments in entities in which the Company does not have the ability to exert significant influence over the investees’ operating and financing activities are accounted for under the cost method of accounting. In addition to equity investments in unconsolidated subsidiaries, we support these ventures through loans and advances. These loans and advances are included as a component of “Other” within the “Net cash provided by investing activities” in our Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows. The following table summarizes our equity and cost method investments as of December 31 (in millions):

 

     2014      2013  

Equity investments(a)

   $ 228       $ 437   

Cost investments

     180         154   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Investments in unconsolidated entities

$ 408    $ 591   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(a) The amount reported in 2013 included $177 million attributable to our 2010 investment in Shanghai Environment Group (“SEG”), which was part of our Wheelabrator business. This investment was classified as a current asset and reflected in “Investment in unconsolidated entity” in our Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2013, based on our intent to sell our investment in SEG within the next 12 months. We sold our investment in SEG in the first quarter of 2014.

We monitor and assess the carrying value of our investments throughout the year for potential impairment and write them down to their fair value when other-than-temporary declines exist. Fair value is generally based on (i) other third-party investors’ recent transactions in the securities; (ii) other information available regarding the current market for similar assets and/or (iii) a market or income approach as deemed appropriate.

Foreign Currency

We have operations in Canada as well as a cost center in India. Local currencies generally are considered the functional currencies of our operations and investments outside the United States. The assets and liabilities of our foreign operations are translated to U.S. dollars using the exchange rate at the balance sheet date. Revenues and expenses are translated to U.S. dollars using the average exchange rate during the period. The resulting translation difference is reflected as a component of comprehensive income.

Derivative Financial Instruments

We primarily use derivative financial instruments to manage our risk associated with fluctuations in interest rates and foreign currency exchange rates. In prior years, we used interest rate swaps to maintain a strategic portion of our long-term debt obligations at variable, market-driven interest rates or in anticipation of planned senior note issuances to effectively lock in a fixed interest rate for those anticipated issuances. Foreign currency exchange rate derivatives are used to hedge our exposure to changes in exchange rates for anticipated intercompany debt transactions, and related interest payments, between Waste Management Holdings, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary (“WM Holdings”), and its Canadian subsidiaries. Prior to the sale of our Wheelabrator business, we used electricity commodity derivatives to mitigate the variability in our revenues and cash flows caused by fluctuations in the market prices for electricity. The financial statement impacts of our derivatives are discussed in Notes 8 and 14.

We obtain current valuations of our interest rate and foreign currency hedging instruments from third-party pricing models. The estimated fair values of derivatives used to hedge risks fluctuate over time and should be

 

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viewed in relation to the underlying hedged transaction and the overall management of our exposure to fluctuations in the underlying risks. The fair value of derivatives is included in other current assets, other long-term assets, current accrued liabilities or other long-term liabilities, as appropriate. Any ineffectiveness present in either fair value or cash flow hedges is recognized immediately in earnings without offset. There was no significant ineffectiveness in 2014, 2013 or 2012.

 

    Foreign Currency Derivatives — Our foreign currency derivatives have been designated as cash flow hedges for accounting purposes, which results in the unrealized changes in the fair value of the derivative instruments being recorded in “Accumulated other comprehensive income” within the equity section of our Consolidated Balance Sheets. The associated balance in other comprehensive income is reclassified to earnings as the hedged cash flows affect earnings. In each of the periods presented, these derivatives have effectively mitigated the impacts of the hedged transactions, resulting in immaterial impacts to our results of operations for the periods presented.

 

    Interest Rate Derivatives — Our previously outstanding “receive fixed, pay variable” interest rate swaps associated with outstanding fixed-rate senior notes had been designated as fair value hedges for accounting purposes. Accordingly, derivative assets were accounted for as an increase in the carrying value of our underlying debt obligations and derivative liabilities were accounted for as a decrease in the carrying value of our underlying debt instruments. These fair value adjustments are deferred and recognized as an adjustment to interest expense over the remaining term of the hedged instruments. Treasury locks and forward-starting swaps executed in prior years were designated as cash flow hedges for accounting purposes. The fair value of these derivative instruments were recorded in “Accumulated other comprehensive income” within the equity section of our Consolidated Balance Sheets. The associated balance in other comprehensive income is reclassified to earnings as the hedged cash flows occur.

Insured and Self-Insured Claims

We have retained a significant portion of the risks related to our health and welfare, automobile, general liability and workers’ compensation claims programs. The exposure for unpaid claims and associated expenses, including incurred but not reported losses, generally is estimated with the assistance of external actuaries and by factoring in pending claims and historical trends and data. The gross estimated liability associated with settling unpaid claims is included in “Accrued liabilities” in our Consolidated Balance Sheets if expected to be settled within one year, or otherwise is included in long-term “Other liabilities.” Estimated insurance recoveries related to recorded liabilities are reflected as current “Other receivables” or long-term “Other assets” in our Consolidated Balance Sheets when we believe that the receipt of such amounts is probable.

Revenue Recognition

Our revenues are generated from the fees we charge for waste collection, transfer, disposal and recycling and resource recovery services; from the sale of electricity and landfill gas, which are byproducts of our landfill operations; and from the sale of recyclable commodities, oil and gas and organic lawn and garden products. The fees charged for our services are generally defined in our service agreements and vary based on contract-specific terms such as frequency of service, weight, volume and the general market factors influencing a region’s rates. The fees we charge for our services generally include fuel surcharges, which are intended to pass through to customers increased direct and indirect costs incurred because of changes in market prices for fuel. We generally recognize revenue as services are performed or products are delivered. For example, revenue typically is recognized as waste is collected, tons are received at our landfills or transfer stations, recycling commodities are delivered or as kilowatts are delivered to a customer by a waste-to-energy facility or independent power production plant.

 

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Tangible product revenues primarily include the sale of recyclable commodities at our material recovery facilities and through our recycling brokerage services and, to a lesser extent, sales of oil and gas, metals and organic lawn and garden products.

We bill for certain services prior to performance. Such services include, among others, certain residential contracts that are billed on a quarterly basis and equipment rentals. These advance billings are included in deferred revenues and recognized as revenue in the period service is provided.

Capitalized Interest

We capitalize interest on certain projects under development, including internal-use software and landfill expansion projects, and on certain assets under construction, including operating landfills and landfill gas-to-energy projects. During 2014, 2013 and 2012, total interest costs were $487 million, $500 million and $509 million, respectively, of which $16 million was capitalized in 2014, $19 million was capitalized in 2013 and $21 million was capitalized in 2012. In 2014, 2013 and 2012, interest was capitalized primarily for landfill construction costs.

Income Taxes

The Company is subject to income tax in the United States and Canada. Current tax obligations associated with our provision for income taxes are reflected in the accompanying Consolidated Balance Sheets as a component of “Accrued liabilities” and the deferred tax obligations are reflected in “Deferred income taxes.”

Deferred income taxes are based on the difference between the financial reporting and tax basis of assets and liabilities. The deferred income tax provision represents the change during the reporting period in the deferred tax assets and deferred tax liabilities, net of the effect of acquisitions and dispositions. Deferred tax assets include tax loss and credit carry-forwards and are reduced by a valuation allowance if, based on available evidence, it is more likely than not that some portion or all of the deferred tax assets will not be realized. Significant judgment is required in assessing the timing and amounts of deductible and taxable items. We establish reserves for uncertain tax positions when, despite our belief that our tax return positions are fully supportable, we believe that certain positions may be challenged and potentially disallowed. When facts and circumstances change, we adjust these reserves through our provision for income taxes.

To the extent interest and penalties may be assessed by taxing authorities on any underpayment of income tax, such amounts have been accrued and are classified as a component of income tax expense in our Consolidated Statements of Operations.

Contingent Liabilities

We estimate the amount of potential exposure we may have with respect to claims, assessments and litigation in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“GAAP”). We are party to pending or threatened legal proceedings covering a wide range of matters in various jurisdictions. It is difficult to predict the outcome of litigation, as it is subject to many uncertainties. Additionally, it is not always possible for management to make a meaningful estimate of the potential loss or range of loss associated with such contingencies.

 

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Supplemental Cash Flow Information

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
Cash paid during the year (in millions):        2014              2013              2012      

Interest, net of capitalized interest and periodic settlements from interest rate swap agreements

   $ 461       $ 478       $ 485   

Income taxes

     758         511         366   

For the year ended December 31, 2013, non-cash investing and financing activities included proceeds from tax-exempt borrowings, net of principal payments made directly from trust funds, of $99 million. During 2014 and 2012, we did not have any significant non-cash investing and financing activities. Non-cash investing and financing activities are excluded from the Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows.

4. Landfill and Environmental Remediation Liabilities

Liabilities for landfill and environmental remediation costs are presented in the table below (in millions):

 

     December 31, 2014      December 31, 2013  
     Landfill      Environmental
Remediation
     Total      Landfill      Environmental
Remediation
     Total  

Current (in accrued liabilities)

   $ 104       $ 43       $ 147       $ 95       $ 35       $ 130   

Long-term

     1,339         192         1,531         1,326         192         1,518   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
$ 1,443    $ 235    $ 1,678    $ 1,421    $ 227    $ 1,648   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

The changes to landfill and environmental remediation liabilities for the years ended December 31, 2013 and 2014 are reflected in the table below (in millions):

 

     Landfill      Environmental
Remediation
 

December 31, 2012

   $ 1,338       $ 253   

Obligations incurred and capitalized

     59         —     

Obligations settled

     (71      (20

Interest accretion

     87         4   

Revisions in estimates and interest rate
assumptions(a)(b)

     6         (6

Acquisitions, divestitures and other adjustments

     2         (4
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

December 31, 2013

$ 1,421    $ 227   

Obligations incurred and capitalized

  54        

Obligations settled

  (69   (21

Interest accretion

  88      5   

Revisions in estimates and interest rate
assumptions(a)(b)

  (9   25   

Acquisitions, divestitures and other adjustments(c)

  (42   (1
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

December 31, 2014

$ 1,443    $ 235   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(a)

The amounts reported for our landfill liabilities include a reduction of approximately $20 million for 2013 and an increase of approximately $2 million for 2014, related to our year-end annual review of landfill final capping, closure and post-closure obligations. The amount reported in 2013 also includes an increase of

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS — (Continued)

 

  approximately $23 million due to the acceleration of the timing of closure and post-closure activities at two of our landfills related to landfill asset impairments, discussed further in Note 13.
(b) The amount reported in 2013 for our environmental remediation liabilities includes the impact of an increase in the risk-free discount rate used to measure our liabilities from 1.75% at December 31, 2012 to 3.0% at December 31, 2013, resulting in a decrease of $18 million to our environmental remediation liabilities and a corresponding decrease to “Operating” expenses.

 

  The amount reported in 2014 for environmental remediation liabilities includes the impact of a decrease in the risk-free discount rate used to measure our liabilities from 3.0% at December 31, 2013 to 2.0% at December 31, 2014, resulting in an increase of $13 million to our environmental remediation liabilities and a corresponding increase to “Operating” expenses.

 

(c) The amounts reported for our 2014 landfill liabilities include reductions of approximately $25 million for divestitures, including the divestiture of our Wheelabrator business.

Our recorded liabilities as of December 31, 2014 include the impacts of inflating certain of these costs based on our expectations for the timing of cash settlement and of discounting certain of these costs to present value. Anticipated payments of currently identified environmental remediation liabilities as measured in current dollars are $43 million in 2015, $26 million in 2016, $26 million in 2017, $24 million in 2018, $12 million in 2019 and $98 million thereafter.

At several of our landfills, we provide financial assurance by depositing cash into restricted trust funds or escrow accounts for purposes of settling final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation obligations. Generally, these trust funds are established to comply with statutory requirements and operating agreements. See Note 20 for additional information related to these trusts.

5. Property and Equipment

Property and equipment at December 31 consisted of the following (in millions):