10-K 1 d252547d10k.htm 10-K 10-K
Table of Contents
Index to Financial Statements

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

Form 10-K

(Mark One)

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

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016

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

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  ☒    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  ☒

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  ☒    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  ☒    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      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  ☒

The aggregate market value of the voting stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant at June 30, 2016 was approximately $29.2 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 2, 2017 was 439,703,007 (excluding treasury shares of 190,579,454).

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

 

Document

 

Incorporated as to

Proxy Statement for the

2017 Annual Meeting of Stockholders

  Part III

 

 

 


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Index to Financial Statements

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      32   

Item 7.

   Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations      33   

Item 7A.

   Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk      68   

Item 8.

   Financial Statements and Supplementary Data      69   

Item 9.

   Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure      142   

Item 9A.

   Controls and Procedures      142   

Item 9B.

   Other Information      142   
   PART III   

Item 10.

   Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance      142   

Item 11.

   Executive Compensation      143   

Item 12.

   Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters      143   

Item 13.

   Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence      143   

Item 14.

   Principal Accounting Fees and Services      143   
   PART IV   

Item 15.

   Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules      143   

 

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PART I

Item 1. Business.

General

Waste Management, Inc. 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 details 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, Houston, Texas 77002. Our telephone number 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, disposal, and recycling and resource recovery services. Our “Traditional Solid Waste” business excludes our recycling and resource recovery 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 sold our Wheelabrator business, which provides waste-to-energy services and manages waste-to-energy facilities and independent power production plants. During 2016, our largest customer represented 1% of annual revenues. We employed approximately 41,200 people as of December 31, 2016.

We own or operate 248 landfill sites, which is the largest network of landfills in North America. In order to make disposal more practical for larger urban markets, where the distance to landfills is typically farther, we manage 310 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 and metal. We provide cost-efficient, environmentally sound recycling programs for municipalities, businesses and households across the United States 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. Increasingly, customers want more of their waste materials recovered, while waste streams are becoming more complex, and our aim is to address the current needs, while anticipating the expanding and evolving needs, of our customers. 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

 

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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.

Our fundamental strategy has not changed; we remain dedicated to providing long-term value to our stockholders by successfully executing our core strategy of focused differentiation and continuous improvement, with the current state of our strategy taking into account economic conditions, the regulatory environment, asset and resource availability and current technology. We believe that focused differentiation in our industry, driven by capitalizing on our extensive, well-placed network of assets, will deliver profitable growth and competitive advantages. Simultaneously, we believe the combination of cost control, process improvement and operational efficiency will deliver on the Company’s strategy of continuous improvement and yield an attractive total cost structure and enhanced service quality. While we will continue to monitor emerging diversion technologies that may generate additional value and related market dynamics, our current attention will be on improving existing diversion technologies, such as our recycling operations.

We believe that execution of our strategy will deliver shareholder value 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 December 2016, we announced that our Board of Directors expects to increase the quarterly dividend from $0.41 to $0.425 per share for dividends declared in 2017, which is a 3.7% increase from the quarterly dividends we declared in 2016. This is an indication of our ability to generate strong and consistent cash flows and marks the 14th consecutive year of dividend increases. 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 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. Refer to Note 19 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information related to this 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 2016, Waste Management Inc. of Florida, a wholly-owned subsidiary of WM, acquired certain operations and business assets of Southern Waste Systems/Sun Recycling (“SWS”) in Southern Florida. The acquired business assets include residential, commercial, and industrial solid waste collection, processing/recycling and transfer operations, equipment, vehicles, real estate and customer agreements. In March 2015, we acquired Deffenbaugh Disposal, Inc., (“Deffenbaugh”), one of the largest privately owned collection and disposal firms in the Midwest with assets including collection operations, transfer stations, recycling facilities and landfills.

 

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The services we currently provide include collection, landfill (solid and hazardous waste landfills), transfer, recycling and resource recovery and other services, as described below. The following table shows revenues (in millions) contributed by these services for the years ended December 31:

 

     2016      2015      2014  

Collection

   $ 8,802       $ 8,439       $ 8,507   

Landfill

     3,110         2,919         2,849   

Transfer

     1,512         1,377         1,353   

Recycling

     1,221         1,163         1,370   

Other

     1,601         1,452         1,561   

Wheelabrator

     —           —           817   

Intercompany

     (2,637      (2,389      (2,461
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

   $ 13,609       $ 12,961       $ 13,996   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

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 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 seven 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, 2016, we owned or operated 243 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

 

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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, 2016, we owned or operated 310 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 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.

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. We were 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 volumes. 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. At December 31, 2016, we operated 95 MRFs where paper, cardboard, metals, plastics, glass, construction and demolition materials and other recyclable commodities are recovered for resale.

 

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Commodities recycling — We market and resell recyclable commodities globally. 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.

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.

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.” In some cases, rebates are based on fixed contractual rates or on defined minimum per-ton rates but are generally based upon the price we receive for sales of processed goods, market conditions and transportation costs. 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 organization, 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 organization. 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 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) endorses landfill gas as a renewable energy resource, in the same category as wind, solar and geothermal resources. At December 31, 2016, we had 131 landfill gas beneficial use projects producing commercial quantities of methane gas at owned or operated landfills. For 103 of these projects, the processed gas is used to fuel electricity generators. The electricity is then sold to public utilities, municipal utilities or power cooperatives. For 16 of these projects, the gas is used at the landfill or delivered by pipeline to industrial customers as a direct substitute for fossil fuels in industrial processes. For 11 of these projects, the landfill gas is processed to pipeline-quality natural gas and then sold to natural gas suppliers. For one of these projects, the gas is processed into liquefied natural gas and used as vehicle fuel.

 

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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 and long distance moving 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.

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 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. See Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further discussion of these agreements.

Wheelabrator provides waste-to-energy services and manages waste-to-energy facilities and independent power production plants. Our Wheelabrator business was a separate reportable segment until the sale of the business in 2014 as discussed in Note 21 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

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 three 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. In recent years, the industry has seen some additional consolidation, though the industry remains intensely competitive. The industry’s national and regional competitors are often significant competitors in local markets. We compete with these companies as well as with counties and municipalities that maintain their own waste collection and disposal operations and waste brokers that rely upon haulers in local markets to address customer needs.

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.

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

 

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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 United States, can increase our revenues in the areas affected. While weather-related and other unusual event occurrences can boost revenues through additional work for a limited time, as a result of significant start-up costs and other factors, such revenue can generate earnings at comparatively lower margins.

Employees

At December 31, 2016, we had approximately 41,200 full-time employees, of which approximately 7,800 were employed in administrative and sales positions and the balance in operations. Approximately 8,000 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) a 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 long-term U.S. revolving credit facility (“$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 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, 2016, 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, 2016, our automobile liability insurance program included a per-incident base deductible of $5 million, subject to an additional deductible 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, 2016 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.

 

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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 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 violations.

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 waste 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.

In recent years, we 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. However, the new United States presidential administration has called for substantial changes to areas of federal tax and foreign trade policy and has generally appeared to be in favor of reducing regulation, including environmental regulation. We cannot predict what impact the new administration will have on the political and regulatory environment in the United States, the timing of any such changes, or the impact of any such changes on our business. While reduction of regulation may have a favorable impact on our operating costs, the extensive environmental regulation applicable to landfills is a substantial barrier to entry that benefits our Company. It is likely that some policies adopted by the new administration will benefit us and others will negatively affect us.

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

 

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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 (“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 run-off that require landfills and other waste-handling facilities to obtain 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 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 entered into a consent decree to finalize the NSPS rule in July 2016. On August 29, 2016, the EPA published two rules with new requirements for landfill gas control at both new municipal solid waste landfills (constructed or modified after July 17, 2014) as well as existing landfills (operating after November 8, 1987 and not modified after July 17, 2014). The stated intent of the rules was to reduce methane emissions from landfills as part of the federal regulatory efforts to curtail emission of greenhouse gases (“GHGs”) to ameliorate the effects of climate change. Working with our trade associations and other landfill owners and operators, we have identified significant legal, technical and implementation concerns with the rules. Together we have filed administrative petitions asking that the EPA stay the rules and initiate a rulemaking process to address our concerns, while also filing a petition for judicial review.

Should the EPA or the court not address our legal and technical concerns in the final rules, we will reassess the capital and operating cost impact to our operations. However, we do not believe that the ultimate 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 heavy-duty waste collection vehicles). The EPA and the Department of Transportation finalized Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles — Phase 2 on August 16, 2016. The rule will increase fuel economy standards and reduce vehicle emissions standards for our collection fleet between model years 2021

 

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and 2027; however, we expect to be able to purchase fully compliant vehicles that will meet our operational needs. The 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 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.

In June 2014, 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 in July 2014 advising that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively narrows the scope of biogenic CO2 permitting issues that remain for the EPA to address. Further, on October 3, 2016, the EPA proposed revisions to the PSD and Title V GHG permitting regulations and proposed establishing a significant emissions rate (“SER”) of 75,000 tons of CO2 equivalent, below which, sources would not be required to implement additional control technologies for their GHG emissions. This SER threshold should prevent most of our operational changes, such as landfill expansions and beneficial gas recovery projects, from being subject to PSD or Title V permit requirements due to our GHG emissions – assuming the EPA classifies biogenic CO2 emissions as carbon neutral. The EPA has not yet finalized the rulemaking, nor has it addressed how it will exempt biogenic carbon dioxide emissions from waste-derived feedstocks (municipal solid waste and landfill gas) from PSD and Title V air permitting. The EPA nonetheless anticipates basing this proposal on the rationale that those emissions are likely to have minimal or no net atmospheric contributions, or may even reduce such impacts, when compared to an alternate method of disposal. These conclusions have been recommended to the EPA by its independent Science Advisory Board. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and the EPA policy and proposed regulatory action, we continue to believe 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 finalized in October 2015, 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

 

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energy recovery system or combustion device. As of December 31, 2016, we had 131 projects at owned or operated 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 clarified in its November 19, 2014 policy memorandum that states may rely on waste-derived biogenic feedstocks in their future proposed compliance plans required by the final Clean Power Plan rules and the proposed federal plan, both published in October 2015, which may create new or expanded opportunities for renewable energy projects. According to the EPA, the federal plan would fill any gaps pending implementation of State or Tribal plans to achieve required emissions reductions, but would no longer apply when a State or Tribal plan is approved.

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 United States 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 (“CISWI”) and Maximum Achievable Control Technology Standards for commercial and industrial boilers (“Boiler MACT”). The EPA published clarifications and amendments to the three rules in 2013 and legal challenges to the rules were subsequently filed by both industry and environmental groups. In May 2015, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the NHSM Rule together with the amendments to the rule that support some of our projects in which we are seeking to convert biomass or other secondary materials into products, fuels or energy. Through rulings in July and December of 2016 related to the CISWI and Boiler MACT challenges, the Court vacated certain elements of those rules while remanding other aspects of the rules to the EPA for reconsideration. Because the EPA reconsideration process is ongoing it is not possible to quantify the financial impact of all these rulemakings 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.

 

    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 under the 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, may receive approval to run permitting programs for CCR in their states. This codification of the CCR rule provides utilities with a stable regulatory regime.

 

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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. Many state and local governments mandate recycling and waste reduction at the source and prohibit the disposal of certain types of waste, such as yard waste, food waste, and electronics at landfills. The number of state and local governments with recycling requirements and disposal bans continues to grow, while the logistics and economics of recycling the items 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 U.S. 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 the United States and Canada. 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 United States or Canada; however, state, provincial and local governments could take, 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 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 and Export Regulations

Enforcement or implementation of foreign and domestic regulations can affect our ability to export products. A significant portion of the fiber that we market is shipped to export markets across the globe,

 

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particularly China. 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,” as well as increased container weight tracking and port fees, have driven up operating costs in the recycling industry. Additionally, the new presidential administration has called for substantial changes to foreign trade policy and has raised the possibility of imposing significant increases in tariffs on international trade. Restrictions and tariffs on exporting would have a significant impact on our recycling operations.

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 increased costs associated with export requirements, we believe we are well positioned among our potential competitors to respond to and comply with such regulations. In recent years, we have been 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. There remains heightened 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 federal regulatory focus on emissions of methane that occur during drilling and transportation of natural gas with regulations promulgated in 2012 and 2015, as well as state attention to 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 operate a large fleet of natural gas vehicles, and we plan to continue to invest in these assets for our collection fleet. As of December 31, 2016, we were operating 95 natural gas fueling facilities, 28 of which also serve the public or pre-approved third parties, in 31 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 help inform regulations that will affect equipment manufacturers and will define operating procedures across the industry. Additional regulation of, or restrictions on, natural gas 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 future investment in natural gas vehicles.

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.

 

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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 2017 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 three 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. In recent years, the industry has seen some additional consolidation, though the industry remains intensely competitive. The industry’s national and regional competitors are often significant competitors in local markets. We compete with these companies as well as with counties and municipalities that maintain their own waste collection and disposal operations and waste brokers that rely upon haulers in local markets to address customer

 

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needs. 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.

 

    A key element of our strategy is yield management through focus on price leadership, which has presented challenges to keep existing business and win new business at reasonable returns. We have also continued our environmental fee, fuel surcharge and regulatory recovery fee to offset costs. The loss of volumes as a result of price increases and our unwillingness to pursue lower margin volumes may negatively affect our cash flows or results of operations. Additionally, we have in the past and continue to face purported class action lawsuits related to our customer service agreements, prices and fees.

 

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

 

    We may not be able to maintain cost savings achieved through restructuring efforts.

 

    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 our earnings due to 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.

 

    Liabilities associated with acquisitions, including ones that may exist only because of past operations of an acquired business, may prove to be more difficult or costly to address than anticipated.

 

    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 increased 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, and a decrease in regulation may lower barriers to entry for our competitors.

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. 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 because of the types of waste collected and manner in which it is transported and disposed of, including actions taken in the past by companies we have acquired or third-party landfill operators, among other reasons. Environmental regulatory changes could accelerate or increase capping, closure, post-closure and remediation costs, requiring our expenditures to materially exceed our current accruals.

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

 

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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 (“EPR”) are being considered or implemented in many places around the world, including in the United States and Canada. 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 United States 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.

In recent years, we 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. However, the new United States presidential administration has called for substantial changes to areas of federal tax and foreign trade policy and has generally appeared to be in favor of reducing regulation, including environmental regulation. We cannot predict what impact the new administration will have on the political and regulatory environment in the United States, the timing of any such changes, or the impact of any such changes on our business. While reduction of regulation may have a favorable impact on our operating costs, the extensive environmental regulation applicable to landfills is a substantial barrier to entry that benefits our Company. It is likely that some policies adopted by the new administration will benefit us and others will negatively affect us.

Enforcement or implementation of foreign regulations can affect our ability to export products. A significant portion of the fiber that we market is shipped to export markets across the globe, particularly China. 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” have driven 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. Additionally, the new presidential administration has called for substantial changes to foreign trade policy and has raised the possibility of imposing significant increases in tariffs on international trade. If Operation Green Fence or other similar initiatives, such as increased container weight tracking and port fees, new regulations, or restrictions and tariffs on exporting increase our operating costs in the future, and we are not able to recapture those costs from our customers, such initiatives regulations, restrictions and tariffs 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 plastics, 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, and the price fluctuations for these commodities could be impacted by significant changes in United States foreign trade policy and increased tariffs on international trade, as Chinese paper mills are the primary consumer of the fiber we market. The fluctuations in the market prices or demand for these commodities can affect our operating income and cash

 

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flows positively, as we experienced in 2016, or negatively, as we experienced in 2015 and 2014. As we have increased the size of our recycling operations, we have also increased our exposure to commodity price fluctuations. The increase in market prices in 2016 for commodities resulted in a year-over-year increase in revenue of $51 million. The decline in market prices in 2015 and 2014 for commodities resulted in year-over-year decreases in revenue of $138 million and $53 million, respectively. Additionally, under some agreements, our recycling operations are required to pay rebates to suppliers. In some cases, if we experience higher revenues based on increased market prices for recycling 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. As we work to revise service agreements to mitigate the impact of commodity price fluctuations, the potential increase in the cost for recycling services may make it more difficult for us to win bids and may slow the growth of recycling overall.

Fluctuation in energy prices also affects our business, including recycling of plastics manufactured from petroleum products. 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 decreases when drilling activity slows due to depressed oil and gas prices, such as the pronounced price decreases beginning in late 2014 and continuing low prices throughout 2015 and 2016. Any of the commodity prices to which we are subject may fluctuate substantially and without notice in the future.

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. There remains heightened 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 federal regulatory focus on emissions of methane that occur during drilling and transportation of natural gas with regulations promulgated in 2012 and 2015 as well as state attention to 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, many state and local governments mandate diversion, recycling and waste reduction at the source and prohibit the disposal of certain types of waste, such as yard waste, food waste, and electronics at landfills. Where such organic waste is not banned from the landfill, 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.

 

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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 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 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.

 

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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.

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. Additionally, a prolonged economic downturn in China could significantly impact prices for post-consumer fiber and metals processed by our recycling operations.

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.

 

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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, 2016, we had $491 million of variable-rate tax-exempt bonds with interest rates reset on either a daily or a weekly basis through a remarketing process and $473 million of tax-exempt bonds with term interest rate periods that are subject to repricing within the next 12 months, which is prior to their scheduled maturities. 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, 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 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. 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 have recently settled cases that pertained to our fuel and environmental charges included on our invoices, and we continue to face similar claims. See Note 11 to 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 have an extensive natural gas truck fleet, which makes us partially dependent on the availability of natural gas and fueling infrastructure and vulnerable to natural gas prices.

We operate a large fleet of natural gas vehicles, and we plan to continue to invest in these assets for our collection fleet. However, natural gas fueling infrastructure 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. It will remain necessary for us to invest capital in fueling infrastructure in order to power our natural gas 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, natural gas fueling infrastructure or reductions in associated tax incentives could increase our operating costs. Additionally, fluctuations in the price

 

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and supply of natural gas could substantially increase our operating expenses, and a reduction in the existing cost differential between natural gas and diesel fuel could materially reduce the benefits we anticipate from our investment in natural gas vehicles. Further, our fuel surcharge program is currently indexed to diesel fuel prices, and price fluctuations for natural gas 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.

A cybersecurity incident could negatively impact our business and our relationships with customers and expose us to litigation risk.

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 litigation and 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 (“Multiemployer Pension Plans”) for employees who are covered by collective bargaining agreements. In

 

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the event of our withdrawal from a Multiemployer Pension Plan, we may incur expenses associated with our obligations for unfunded vested benefits at the time of the withdrawal. Depending on various factors, future withdrawals could have a material adverse effect on results of operations or cash flows for a particular reporting period. We have previously withdrawn several employee bargaining units from underfunded Multiemployer Pension Plans, and we recognized related expenses of $51 million in 2015 and $4 million in 2014. See Notes 10 and 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information related to our participation in Multiemployer Pension Plans.

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. Additionally, we closely monitor and manage landfills to minimize the risk of waste mass instability, releases of hazardous materials, and odors that could be triggered by weather or natural disasters. There may also be risks presented by the potential for subsurface heat reactions causing elevated landfill temperatures and increased production of leachate, landfill gas and odors. We also build and operate natural gas fueling stations, 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. Any of these risks could potentially result in injury or death of employees and others, a need to shut down or reduce operation of facilities, increased operating expense and exposure to liability for pollution and other environmental damage, and property damage or destruction.

While we seek to minimize our exposure to such risks through comprehensive training, compliance and response and recovery 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. Additionally, a major operational failure, even if suffered by a competitor, may bring enhanced scrutiny and regulation of our industry, with a corresponding increase in operating expense.

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

 

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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 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 impairments to our assets.

In accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, 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 result in an inability 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 credit 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 $1.6 billion of debt as of December 31, 2016 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 $2.25 billion revolving credit facility and 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$50 million Canadian revolving credit facility to meet our cash needs, to the extent available, until maturity in July 2020 and March 2019, respectively. At December 31, 2016, we had $426 million of outstanding borrowings and $789 million of letters of credit issued and supported by the $2.25 billion revolving credit facility, leaving unused and available credit capacity of $1,035 million, and we had no outstanding 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.

 

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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.

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 event driven 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.

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 United States, can increase our revenues in the areas affected. While weather-related and other unusual event occurrences can boost revenues through additional work for a limited time, as a result of significant start-up costs and other factors, such revenue can generate 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.

From time to time we are involved in governmental proceedings relating to the conduct of our business. We are also party to civil litigation. As a large company with operations across the United States and Canada, we are subject to various proceedings, lawsuits, disputes and claims arising in the ordinary course of our business. Actions that have been filed against us, and that may be filed against us in the future, include personal injury, property damage, commercial, customer, and employment-related claims, including purported state and national class action lawsuits related to:

 

    alleged environmental contamination, including releases of hazardous materials and odors;

 

    sales and marketing practices, customer service agreements, prices and fees; and

 

    federal and state wage and hour and other laws.

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 occupy approximately 366,000 square feet under leases expiring through 2020. We also have administrative offices in Arizona, Illinois, 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, 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 operating properties, vehicles and equipment are adequately maintained and sufficient for our current operations. However, we expect to continue to make investments in additional property and equipment 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:

 

     2016      2015  

Landfills owned or operated(a)

     248         249   

Transfer stations

     310         297   

Material recovery facilities

     95         104   

 

(a)

At December 31, 2016 and 2015, our landfills owned or operated consisted of total acreage of 158,054 and 157,790, permitted acreage of 42,182 and 41,983 and expansion acreage of 905 and 1,395, respectively.

 

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  Total acreage includes permitted acreage, expansion acreage, other acreage available for future disposal that has not been permitted, buffer land and other land. Permitted acreage consists of all acreage at the landfill encompassed by an active permit to dispose of waste. 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 to 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  

2015

     

First Quarter

   $ 55.30       $ 50.67   

Second Quarter

     55.93         46.31   

Third Quarter

     53.05         45.88   

Fourth Quarter

     55.25         49.49   

2016

     

First Quarter

   $ 59.99       $ 50.36   

Second Quarter

     66.27         56.06   

Third Quarter

     70.49         62.42   

Fourth Quarter

     71.71         61.09   

2017

     

First Quarter (through February 2, 2017)

   $ 71.28       $ 69.00   

On February 2, 2017, the closing sales price as reported on the NYSE was $69.64 per share. The number of holders of record of our common stock on February 2, 2017 was 9,661.

 

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The graph below shows the relative investment performance of Waste Management, Inc. common stock, the S&P 500 Index and the Dow Jones Waste & Disposal Services 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

 

     12/31/11      12/31/12      12/31/13      12/31/14      12/31/15      12/31/16  

Waste Management, Inc.

   $ 100       $ 108       $ 148       $ 175       $ 188       $ 256   

S&P 500 Index

   $ 100       $ 116       $ 154       $ 175       $ 177       $ 198   

Dow Jones Waste & Disposal Services Index

   $ 100       $ 109       $ 136       $ 154       $ 161       $ 195   

Our quarterly dividends have been declared by our Board of Directors. Cash dividends declared and paid were $726 million in 2016, or $1.64 per common share, $695 million in 2015, or $1.54 per common share, and $693 million in 2014, or $1.50 per common share.

In December 2016, we announced that our Board of Directors expects to increase the quarterly dividend from $0.41 to $0.425 per share for dividends declared in 2017. 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.

Our share repurchases have also been made in accordance with plans approved by our Board of Directors. We announced in December 2015 that the Board of Directors authorized up to $1 billion in future share repurchases. During 2016, we repurchased an aggregate of $725 million of our common stock under accelerated share repurchase (“ASR”) agreements, of which $150 million was repurchased pursuant to the Board of Directors authorization granted in February 2015. We received a total of 11.2 million shares pursuant to these ASR agreements with a weighted average per share purchase price of $60.49. See Note 15 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.

 

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The following table summarizes common stock repurchases made during the fourth quarter of 2016 (shares in millions):

Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

Period

   Total
Number of
Shares
Purchased
    Average
Price Paid
per Share
    Total Number of
Shares Purchased as
Part of Publicly
Announced Plans or
Programs
    Approximate Maximum
Dollar Value of Shares
that May Yet be
Purchased Under the
Plans or Programs
 

October 1 — 31

     —        $ —          —        $ 650 million   

November 1 — 30

     2.8 (a)    $ 63.41 (a)      2.8 (a)    $ 425 million (a) 

December 1 — 31

     —        $ —          —        $ 750 million (b) 
  

 

 

     

 

 

   

Total

     2.8      $ 63.41        2.8     
  

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

(a) In November 2016, the Company entered into an ASR agreement to repurchase $225 million of our common stock. At the beginning of the repurchase period, we delivered $225 million in cash and received 2.8 million shares based on a stock price of $63.41 per share. The ASR agreement completed in February 2017, at which time we received 0.4 million additional shares based on a final weighted average per share purchase price during the repurchase period of $69.43.
(b) We announced in December 2016 that the Board of Directors has authorized up to $750 million in future share repurchases, which supersedes and replaces remaining authority under any prior Board of Directors authorization for 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 of Directors 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. These historical results are not necessarily indicative of the results to be expected in the future.

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
     2016(a)     2015(a)     2014(a)     2013     2012  
     (In Millions, Except per Share Amounts)  

Statement of Operations Data:

          

Operating revenues

   $ 13,609      $ 12,961      $ 13,996      $ 13,983      $ 13,649   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Costs and expenses:

          

Operating

     8,486        8,231        9,002        9,112        8,879   

Selling, general and administrative

     1,410        1,343        1,481        1,468        1,472   

Depreciation and amortization

     1,301        1,245        1,292        1,333        1,297   

Restructuring

     4        15        82        18        67   

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

     112        82        (160     973        83   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 
     11,313        10,916        11,697        12,904        11,798   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Income from operations

     2,296        2,045        2,299        1,079        1,851   

Other expense, net

     (474     (985     (548     (585     (548
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Income before income taxes

     1,822        1,060        1,751        494        1,303   

Provision for income taxes

     642        308        413        364        443   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Consolidated net income

     1,180        752        1,338        130        860   

Less: Net income (loss) attributable to noncontrolling interests

     (2     (1     40        32        43   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net income attributable to Waste Management, Inc.

   $ 1,182      $ 753      $ 1,298      $ 98      $ 817   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Basic earnings per common share

   $ 2.66      $ 1.66      $ 2.80      $ 0.21      $ 1.76   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Diluted earnings per common share

   $ 2.65      $ 1.65      $ 2.79      $ 0.21      $ 1.76   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Cash dividends declared per common share

   $ 1.64      $ 1.54      $ 1.50      $ 1.46      $ 1.42   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Balance Sheet Data (at end of period):

          

Working capital (deficit)

   $ (418   $ (165   $ 41      $ (628   $ (689

Goodwill and other intangible assets, net

     6,806        6,461        6,180        6,599        6,688   

Total assets(b)

     20,859        20,367        21,252        22,441        22,966   

Debt, including current portion(b)

     9,310        8,929        9,390        10,177        9,861   

Total Waste Management, Inc. stockholders’ equity

     5,297        5,345        5,866        5,707        6,354   

Total equity

     5,320        5,367        5,889        6,002        6,675   

 

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

 

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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, 2016. 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 considering those disclosures and together with the Consolidated Financial Statements and the notes thereto.

Overview

Our Company’s goals are targeted at serving our customers, our employees, the environment, the communities in which we work and our stockholders. Increasingly, customers want more of their waste materials recovered, while waste streams are becoming more complex, and our aim is to address the current needs, while anticipating the expanding and evolving needs, of our customers. 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.

Our fundamental strategy has not changed; we remain dedicated to providing long-term value to our stockholders by successfully executing our core strategy of focused differentiation and continuous improvement, with the current state of our strategy taking into account economic conditions, the regulatory environment, asset and resource availability and current technology. We believe that focused differentiation in our industry, driven by capitalizing on our extensive, well-placed network of assets, will deliver profitable growth and competitive advantages. Simultaneously, we believe the combination of cost control, process improvement and operational efficiency will deliver on the Company’s strategy of continuous improvement and yield an attractive total cost structure and enhanced service quality. While we will continue to monitor emerging diversion technologies that may generate additional value and related market dynamics, our current attention will be on improving existing diversion technologies, such as our recycling operations.

We believe that execution of our strategy will deliver shareholder value and leadership in a dynamic industry.

Notable items of our 2016 financial results include:

 

    Revenues of $13,609 million in 2016 compared with $12,961 million in 2015, an increase of $648 million. This increase in revenues is primarily attributable to (i) the combined impact of yield and volume growth, which contributed $437 million of additional revenues, primarily in our collection and disposal and recycling operations and (ii) acquisitions, net of divestitures, which contributed $238 million of revenue growth, primarily due to the acquisition of certain operations and business assets of SWS in January 2016. These increases were partially offset by foreign currency translation related to our Canadian operations;

 

    Operating expenses of $8,486 million in 2016, or 62.4% of revenues, compared with $8,231 million, or 63.5% of revenues, in 2015. This increase of $255 million is primarily attributable to (i) incremental costs attributable to acquired businesses, net of divestitures, of approximately $143 million; (ii) increased landfill operating costs of $97 million, primarily landfill leachate management costs; (iii) increased cost of goods sold of $60 million, primarily related to higher recycling commodity prices and (iv) costs associated with higher volumes, estimated at $60 million. These increases were partially offset by lower fuel costs of $66 million, primarily due to lower year-over-year average fuel prices;

 

   

Selling, general and administrative expenses of $1,410 million in 2016, compared with $1,343 million in 2015, or 10.4% of revenues for both periods. This increase of $67 million is primarily attributable to higher labor and related benefits of $94 million, primarily due to increased incentive compensation

 

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costs, merit increases and higher severance costs. These increases were partially offset by reduced legal fees, lower bank charges and favorable litigation settlements;

 

    Income from operations of $2,296 million, or 16.9% of revenues, in 2016 compared with $2,045 million, or 15.8% of revenues, in 2015, an increase of $251 million. In addition to the items discussed above, the comparability was also affected by asset impairments and unusual items in both periods, as discussed below;

 

    Net income attributable to Waste Management, Inc. of $1,182 million, or $2.65 per diluted share, for 2016, as compared with $753 million, or $1.65 per diluted share, for 2015. The increase was primarily driven by the earnings growth of our core operations discussed above as well as the 2015 loss on early extinguishment of debt discussed below; and

 

    In 2016, we returned $1,451 million to our shareholders through dividends and share repurchases compared with $1,295 million in 2015.

The Company had a very successful 2016, exceeding expectations and carrying forward our momentum from 2015 by generating strong earnings and cash flow. Our commitment to executing on our strategies of disciplined profitable volume growth and controlling costs, through focused differentiation and continuous improvement, drove these impressive results in 2016 and have built a strong foundation to produce solid earnings and generate further growth in 2017. This growth, combined with our commitment to maintain a strong balance sheet, supports the Company’s continued focus on investing in our business, paying dividends, pursuing attractive opportunities for strategic growth through acquisitions and considering the market for share repurchases.

The following explanations of certain items that affected the comparability of the years presented has been provided to support investors’ understanding of our performance. Our 2016 results were affected by the following:

 

    The recognition of pre-tax charges aggregating to $151 million, primarily related to (i) a $43 million impairment charge due to a loss of expected volumes for a landfill; (ii) a $42 million charge to adjust our subsidiary’s estimated environmental remediation liability related to a closed site in Harris County, Texas; (iii) $41 million of impairment charges related to minority-owned, cost method investments in waste diversion technology companies; (iv) a $10 million goodwill impairment charge related to our LampTracker® reporting unit and (v) an $8 million loss on the sale of a majority-owned organics company. These charges had a negative impact of $0.26 on our diluted earnings per share.

Our 2015 results were affected by the following:

 

    The recognition of a pre-tax loss of $555 million, primarily related to the early extinguishment of almost $2 billion of our high-coupon senior notes through make-whole redemption and cash tender offers. These charges had a negative impact of $0.75 on our diluted earnings per share;

 

    Pre-tax charges of $51 million associated with the withdrawal from certain underfunded Multiemployer Pension Plans had a negative impact of $0.07 on our diluted earnings per share; and

 

    Net pre-tax charges of $102 million resulting from impairments, restructuring and divestitures, of which $66 million related to the impairment of our oil and gas producing properties. These items had a negative impact of $0.14 on our diluted earnings per share.

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 and other assets (net of cash divested). 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

 

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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. Nonetheless, 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.

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,  
     2016      2015      2014  

Net cash provided by operating activities

   $ 2,960       $ 2,498       $ 2,331   

Capital expenditures

     (1,339      (1,233      (1,151

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

     43         145         2,253   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Free cash flow

   $ 1,664       $ 1,410       $ 3,433   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

When comparing our cash flows from operating activities for the year ended December 31, 2016 to the comparable period in 2015, the increase of $462 million is primarily related to (i) higher earnings from our Traditional Solid Waste business; (ii) cash proceeds of $67 million from the termination of our cross-currency swaps in the first quarter of 2016; (iii) trustee-managed multiemployer defined benefit pension plan (“Multiemployer Pension Plan”) settlement payments of approximately $60 million in 2015 and (iv) lower annual incentive plan cash payments of $46 million in the current year; partially offset, by higher income tax payments, net of excess tax benefits associated with equity-based transactions, of $36 million in the current year. Additionally, we experienced net favorable changes in our assets and liabilities, net of effects of acquisitions and divestitures, particularly non-trade related items including payroll and incentive accruals.

When comparing our cash flows from operating activities for the year ended December 31, 2015 to 2014, the increase of $167 million is primarily related to (i) lower income tax payments, net of excess tax benefits associated with equity-based transactions, of $329 million in 2015; (ii) lower interest paid of $77 million in 2015 and (iii) the settlement of forward-starting swap liabilities of $36 million in 2014. These increases were partially offset by (i) a decrease in cash earnings due to the sale of our Wheelabrator business in 2014; (ii) Multiemployer Pension Plan settlement payments of approximately $60 million in 2015 and (iii) higher year-over-year annual incentive plan payments of approximately $65 million in 2015. Finally, we experienced net unfavorable changes in our assets and liabilities, net of effects of acquisitions and divestitures, particularly non-trade related items including payroll and incentive accruals.

Capital expenditures increased by $106 million in 2016 compared to 2015 and by $82 million in 2015 compared to 2014. The increase in our capital expenditures in both years is generally the result of additional spending on new business opportunities and acquisitions, growth in our existing business and asset replacement timing. In addition, the construction of a waste-water treatment facility at one of our landfills also contributed to the increase in 2016. Although we experienced capital expenditure increases in both 2016 and 2015, the Company continues to maintain a disciplined focus on capital management.

The significantly higher proceeds from divestitures of businesses and other assets (net of cash divested) for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015 is largely driven by the 2014 sales of (i) our Wheelabrator business for $1.95 billion; (ii) our investment in Shanghai Environment Group, which was part of our Wheelabrator business, for $155 million and (iii) our Puerto Rico operations for consideration of $80 million, including $65 million in cash.

 

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Acquisitions

Southern Waste Systems/Sun Recycling (“SWS”) — On January 8, 2016, Waste Management Inc. of Florida, a wholly-owned subsidiary of WM, acquired certain operations and business assets of SWS in Southern Florida for total consideration of $525 million. The acquired business assets include residential, commercial, and industrial solid waste collection, processing/recycling and transfer operations, equipment, vehicles, real estate and customer agreements.

Deffenbaugh Disposal, Inc. (“Deffenbaugh”) — On March 26, 2015, we acquired Deffenbaugh, one of the largest privately owned collection and disposal firms in the Midwest, for total consideration, net of cash acquired, of $400 million. Deffenbaugh’s assets include collection operations, transfer stations, recycling facilities and landfills.

Divestitures

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 and unusual items” in the Consolidated Statement of Operations. For the year ended December 31, 2015, net adjustments to this gain were immaterial on a pre-tax basis. 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. See Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further discussion of these agreements.

Other — In addition to the divestiture of our Wheelabrator business, we also divested our Puerto Rico operations, as well as certain landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area in 2014.

In total, these divested businesses and assets provided $0.18 of diluted earnings per diluted share for the year ended December 31, 2014.

Adoption of New Accounting Standards

Debt Issuance Costs — In April 2015, and as subsequently amended, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) issued amended authoritative guidance associated with debt issuance costs which were previously presented as assets related to recognized debt liabilities. The amended guidance requires that debt issuance costs, other than those costs related to line of credit arrangements, be presented on the balance sheet as a direct deduction from the related debt liability, which is similar to the presentation for debt discounts and premiums. This guidance was effective for the Company on January 1, 2016. The Company’s adoption of this guidance was applied retrospectively and resulted in a reclassification of $52 million of such costs in our Consolidated Balance Sheet at December 31, 2015.

Consolidation — In February 2015, the FASB issued amended authoritative guidance associated with consolidation. The amended guidance makes changes to existing consolidation requirements associated with the analysis a reporting entity must perform to determine whether it should consolidate certain types of legal entities, including limited partnerships and variable interest entities. The guidance was effective for the Company on January 1, 2016. The Company’s adoption of this guidance did not impact our 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

 

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relate to our accounting for landfills, environmental remediation liabilities, long-lived 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 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 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

 

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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;

 

    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 meets Company criteria for investment.

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 16 landfill sites with expansions included at December 31, 2016, three landfills required the Chief Financial Officer to approve the inclusion of the unpermitted airspace because the permit application process did 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

 

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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, 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.

Long-Lived Asset Impairments

We assess our long-lived assets for impairment as required under the applicable accounting standards. If necessary, impairments are recorded in the “(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments and unusual items” line item in our Consolidated Statement of Operations.

Property and Equipment, including Landfills and Definite-Lived Intangible Assets — We monitor the carrying value of our long-lived assets for potential impairment on an ongoing basis and test the recoverability of such assets generally 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

 

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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. 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.

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.

Goodwill — At least annually, and more frequently if warranted, we assess the goodwill of our reporting units 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 a 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 an income approach. However, when appropriate, we may also use a market approach. 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 earnings. We then apply that multiple to the reporting units’ earnings to estimate their fair values. We believe that this approach may also be appropriate in certain circumstances because it provides a fair value estimate using valuation inputs from entities with operations and economic characteristics comparable to our reporting units.

Fair value is computed using several 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 in our analysis. However, we believe our methodology for estimating the fair value of our reporting units is reasonable.

 

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See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations (Income) Expense from Divestitures, Asset Impairments and Unusual Items and Note 13 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for 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 it is more likely than not that an asset has been impaired, we then evaluate for impairment by comparing the estimated fair value of the asset to its 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 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 is computed using several 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 in our analysis. However, we believe our methodology for estimating the fair value of these assets is reasonable.

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 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. Should interest and penalties be assessed by taxing authorities on any underpayment of income tax, such amounts would be accrued and classified as a component of provision for income taxes 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 claims programs. The exposure for unpaid claims and associated expenses, including incurred but not reported losses, are based on an actuarial valuations and internal estimates. The accruals for these liabilities could be revised if future occurrences or loss developments 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 are primarily generated from fees charged for our collection, transfer, disposal, and recycling and resource recovery services, and from sales of commodities by our recycling

 

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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 revenues generally consist 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. We also provide additional services that are not managed through our Solid Waste business, including both our Strategic Business Solutions (“WMSBS”) and Energy and Environmental Services organizations, recycling brokerage services, landfill gas-to-energy services and expanded service offerings and solutions. We also offer portable self-storage and long distance moving services; 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. Our Wheelabrator business, divested in December 2014, provides waste-to-energy services and manages waste-to-energy facilities and independent power production plants. The following table summarizes revenues during the years ended December 31 (in millions):

 

     2016      2015      2014  

Solid Waste

   $ 13,968       $ 13,285       $ 13,449   

Other

     2,278         2,065         2,191   

Wheelabrator

     —           —           817   

Intercompany

     (2,637      (2,389      (2,461
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

   $ 13,609       $ 12,961       $ 13,996   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

The mix of operating revenues from our major lines of business is reflected in the table below for the years ended December 31 (in millions):

 

     2016      2015      2014  

Commercial

   $ 3,480       $ 3,332       $ 3,393   

Residential

     2,487         2,499         2,543   

Industrial

     2,412         2,252         2,231   

Other

     423         356         340   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total collection

     8,802         8,439         8,507   

Landfill

     3,110         2,919         2,849   

Transfer

     1,512         1,377         1,353   

Recycling

     1,221         1,163         1,370   

Other

     1,601         1,452         1,561   

Wheelabrator

     —           —           817   

Intercompany

     (2,637      (2,389      (2,461
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

   $ 13,609       $ 12,961       $ 13,996   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

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The following table provides details associated with the period-to-period change in revenues (dollars in millions):

 

     Period-to-Period Change
2016 vs. 2015
    Period-to-Period Change
2015 vs. 2014
 
     Amount      As a % of
Total
Company(a)
    Amount      As a % of
Total
Company(a)
 

Average yield(b)

   $ 251         1.9   $ (106      (0.8 )% 

Volume

     186         1.4        (215      (1.6
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

Internal revenue growth

     437         3.3        (321      (2.4

Acquisitions

     268         2.1        174         1.3   

Foreign currency translation

     (27      (0.2     (126      (1.0
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

 

Subtotal (before Divestitures)

     678         5.2     (273      (2.1 )% 

Divestitures

     (30        (762   
  

 

 

      

 

 

    

Total

   $ 648         $ (1,035   
  

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

(a) Calculated by dividing the amount of the current year increase or decrease by the prior year’s total Company revenue adjusted to exclude the impacts of divestitures for the current year ($12,931 million and $13,234 million for 2016 and 2015, 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 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

2016 vs. 2015
    Period-to-Period
Change

2015 vs. 2014
 
     Amount      As a % of
Related
Business(i)
    Amount      As a % of
Related
Business(i)
 

Average yield:

     

Collection and disposal

   $ 267         2.4   $ 203         1.8

Recycling commodities

     51         4.6        (138      (10.4

Fuel surcharges and mandated fees

     (67      (13.1     (171      (24.8
  

 

 

      

 

 

    

Total

   $ 251         1.9   $ (106      (0.8 )% 
  

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

  (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.

Our revenues increased $648 million, or 5.0%, for the year ended December 31, 2016 as compared to the prior year, driven by (i) acquisitions, primarily the acquired operations of SWS in January 2016; (ii) revenue growth from yield on our collection and disposal operations; (iii) higher volumes and (iv) higher market prices for the recycling commodities we sell. Partially offsetting these revenue increases were (i) lower revenues from our fuel surcharges program due to lower year-over-year diesel fuel prices; (ii) divestitures and (iii) foreign currency translation which affects revenues from our Canadian operations.

Our revenues decreased $1,035 million, or 7.4%, for the year ended December 31, 2015 as compared to the prior year, driven by (i) divestitures in 2014, principally our Wheelabrator business, our Puerto Rico operations, and certain landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area; (ii) lower volumes; (iii) lower revenues from our fuel surcharge program due to declining diesel fuel prices; (iv) lower market prices for the recycling commodities we sell and (v) foreign currency translation. Partially offsetting these revenue declines were

 

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(i) revenue growth from yield on our collection and disposal operations and (ii) revenue from acquired operations, primarily the acquired operations of Deffenbaugh in March 2015.

The following provides further details about 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 and landfill 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 the types of services 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 $267 million, or 2.4%, and $203 million, or 1.8%, for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively. We experienced growth in yield for all of our collection and disposal lines of business in both 2016 and 2015. The details are as follows (dollars in millions):

 

     Period-to-Period
Change

2016 vs. 2015
    Period-to-Period
Change

2015 vs. 2014
 
     Amount      As a % of
Related
Business
    Amount      As a % of
Related
Business
 

Commercial

   $ 130         4.2   $ 92         3.0

Industrial

     59         2.8        55         2.7   

Residential

     46         1.9        39         1.6   
  

 

 

      

 

 

    

Total collection

     235         3.0        186         2.4   

Landfill

     15         0.8        9         0.6   

Transfer

     17         2.5        8         1.2   
  

 

 

      

 

 

    

Total collection and disposal

   $ 267         2.4   $ 203         1.8
  

 

 

      

 

 

    

Revenues from our environmental fee contributed $72 million and $17 million for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively, to our collection and disposal average yield.

Recycling commodities — Our revenues increased $51 million for the year ended December 31, 2016 as compared with the prior year period due to a 7% year-over-year increase in the market prices for the recycling commodities we sell at our recycling facilities and through our recycling brokerage services. During 2015, revenues declined by $138 million as compared with the prior year due to a 12% year-over-year decline in recycling commodities prices.

Fuel surcharges and mandated fees — These revenues, which are predominantly generated by our fuel surcharge program, decreased $67 million and $171 million for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively. These revenues fluctuate in response to changes in the national average prices for diesel fuel on which our surcharge is based. Market prices for diesel fuel decreased approximately 14% in 2016 and 30% in 2015, which caused the decline in fuel surcharge revenues in 2016 and 2015. 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. These fees did not have a significant impact on the comparability of the periods presented.

 

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Volume

Our revenues increased $186 million, or 1.4%, for the year ended December 31, 2016 as compared with the prior year due to higher volumes. The year-over-year comparison does not include volumes from acquisitions, as discussed below. We experienced higher volumes in all of our collection and disposal lines of business, with the exception of our residential line of business, as a result of (i) improving market conditions; (ii) reduced customer churn and improved sales performance supported by our focus on disciplined growth and (iii) an additional workday in 2016.

Additional drivers affecting the comparability of volumes for 2016 to 2015 are as follows:

 

    Due to our focus on renegotiating existing contracts and winning new contracts with reasonable returns, we continue to see revenue declines in our residential line of business; and

 

    In our ancillary service businesses, we experienced higher volumes in 2016 as compared with the prior year resulting from our Energy and Environmental Services organization, particularly our remediation and construction services, WM Renewable Energy and our portable self-storage businesses. These volume increases were partially offset by lower volumes resulting from lower oil prices, which negatively affected both our oil and gas producing properties and our oilfield services business.

Declines in our volumes caused our revenue to decrease $215 million, or 1.6%, for the year ended December 31, 2015, as compared with the prior year. We experienced lower volumes in (i) our collection line of business, primarily due to competition and our pricing strategies; (ii) our MRFs, primarily driven by the rationalization of our underperforming assets and our strategy to not renew municipal contracts that did not reflect current market conditions and (iii) our ancillary services businesses, primarily due to the loss of certain large accounts in our WMSBS organization and lower oil prices, which negatively affected both our oil and gas producing properties and our oilfield services business. These decreases in volumes were partially offset by increases in the municipal solid waste business driven by new business and improving market conditions that favorably affected our landfill and transfer lines of business.

Acquisitions and divestitures

Revenues increased $268 million and $174 million for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively, as compared with the prior year periods, due to acquisitions. The increase in revenues in 2016 was principally due to the acquired operations of SWS in January 2016. The revenue increase in 2015 was principally due to the acquired operations of Deffenbaugh in March 2015.

These revenues were offset by revenue decreases of $30 million and $762 million for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively, as compared with the prior year periods, due to divestitures. The decrease in revenues in 2015 was primarily driven by the divestitures in 2014 of our Wheelabrator business, our Puerto Rico operations and certain landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area.

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 includes the cost to purchase recycling materials for our recycling business, including rebates paid to suppliers; (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

 

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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 general liability, automobile liability, workers’ compensation 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 increased $255 million, or 3.1%, when comparing 2016 with 2015 and decreased $771 million, or 8.6%, when comparing 2015 with 2014. Operating expenses as a percentage of revenues were 62.4% in 2016, 63.5% in 2015, and 64.3% in 2014.

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

 

     2016      Period-to-Period
Change
     2015      Period-to-Period
Change
    2014  

Labor and related benefits

   $ 2,410       $ 29        1.2    $ 2,381       $ (71     (2.9 )%    $ 2,452   

Transfer and disposal costs

     974         35        3.7         939         4        0.4        935   

Maintenance and repairs

     1,076         54        5.3         1,022         (159     (13.5     1,181   

Subcontractor costs

     1,193         56        4.9         1,137         (86     (7.0     1,223   

Cost of goods sold

     858         67        8.5         791         (183     (18.8     974   

Fuel

     300         (61     (16.9      361         (192     (34.7     553   

Disposal and franchise fees and taxes

     702         40        6.0         662         (7     (1.0     669   

Landfill operating costs

     352         97        38.0         255         (11     (4.1     266   

Risk management

     192         (29     (13.1      221         2        0.9        219   

Other

     429         (33     (7.1      462         (68     (12.8     530   
  

 

 

    

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 
   $ 8,486       $ 255        3.1    $ 8,231       $ (771     (8.6 )%    $ 9,002   
  

 

 

    

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 

Significant items affecting the comparison of operating expenses between periods reported include:

Labor and related benefits — The increase in labor and related benefits in 2016 as compared with 2015 was due to (i) higher wages due to merit increases; (ii) additional costs associated with the acquired operations of SWS in January 2016; (iii) health and welfare cost increases; (iv) an additional workday in 2016 and (v) higher incentive compensation costs. These cost increases were partially offset by (i) $51 million of charges in 2015 associated with the withdrawal from certain underfunded Multiemployer Pension Plans and (ii) lower headcount and contract labor costs in 2016 due to operating efficiencies in our recycling line of business.

The decrease in labor and related benefits in 2015 as compared with 2014 was due to (i) reduced costs of $88 million due to the divestitures in 2014 of our Wheelabrator business, our Puerto Rico operations, and certain landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area; (ii) lower headcount and contract labor costs due to operating efficiencies in our recycling line of business and lower volumes in our collection line of business and (iii) lower health and welfare costs. These cost decreases were partially offset by (i) $51 million of charges in 2015 associated with the withdrawal from certain underfunded Multiemployer Pension Plans; (ii) higher wages due to merit increases and (iii) additional costs associated with the acquired operations of Deffenbaugh in March 2015.

Transfer and disposal costs — The increase in transfer and disposal costs in 2016 compared to 2015 was driven by acquisitions, primarily SWS, and our overall increase in volumes. The increase in costs in 2015 compared to 2014 was primarily due to incurring third-party costs for services previously provided on an intercompany basis prior to the divestiture of our Wheelabrator business in December 2014. These cost increases were partially offset by $53 million in reduced costs due to the divestitures in 2014.

 

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Maintenance and repairs — The increase in maintenance and repairs in 2016 compared to 2015 was primarily driven by (i) higher labor and parts and supplies costs and (ii) acquisitions, primarily the acquired operations of SWS. The decrease in costs in 2015 compared to 2014 was largely driven by a $177 million decrease due to the divestitures in 2014, which was partially offset by increased costs related to the acquired operations of Deffenbaugh.

Subcontractor costs — The increase in subcontractor cost in 2016 compared to 2015 was driven by (i) acquisitions and (ii) higher volumes in our WMSBS organization. These increases were partially offset by a decrease in subcontracted remediation services to industrial customers. The decrease in costs in 2015 compared to 2014 was primarily driven by (i) volume decreases in our WMSBS organization and (ii) lower landfill and recycling costs. These decreases were partially offset by an increase in subcontracted remediation services to industrial customers.

Cost of goods sold — The increase in cost of goods sold in 2016 compared to 2015 was due to (i) higher market prices for recycling commodities and (ii) increased costs in our remediation services business, partially offset by lower costs due to continued efforts to restructure recycling rebates paid to customers. The decrease in costs in 2015 compared to 2014 was due to (i) lower market prices for recycling commodities; (ii) lower costs of $81 million due to the 2014 divestitures; (iii) increased efforts to restructure recycling rebates paid to customers and (iv) ongoing recycling business improvement efforts around inbound quality control.

Fuel — The decrease in fuel costs in 2016 and 2015 when compared to the prior year periods was driven by (i) lower fuel prices; (ii) lower costs resulting from the continued conversion of our fleet to natural gas vehicles; (iii) year-over-year increases in natural gas fuel excise credits and (iv) reduced fuel consumption due to efficiency gains in the routing of our fleet. The increase in collection volumes in 2016 partially offset these decreases.

Disposal and franchise fees and taxes — The increase in disposal and franchise fees and taxes in 2016 compared to 2015 is primarily due to (i) higher landfill volumes and (ii) increased municipal franchise fees and subcontracted remediation services to industrial customers. The decrease when comparing 2015 to 2014 is primarily driven by the divestitures in 2014.

Landfill operating costs — The increase in landfill operating costs when comparing 2016 to 2015 is primarily due to higher leachate management costs. Leachate management costs have increased because, in certain parts of the country, we are transporting leachate further in order to reach treatment facilities, the third-party fees charged for treatment of waste water have increased and the volume of leachate being disposed has increased.

Higher leachate transportation and disposal costs also affected the comparison of our landfill operating costs for 2015 and 2014, though the increased costs were more than offset by the impact of 2014 divestitures and discount rate adjustments. As discussed in Note 3 to the Consolidated Financial Statements, we record adjustments to our landfill operating costs for changes in U.S. Treasury rates used to discount the present value of our environmental remediation liabilities and recovery assets.

Risk management — The decrease in costs in 2016 compared to 2015 was primarily due to a reduction in certain uninsured losses and, to a lesser extent, decreased workers’ compensation claims.

Other — The decrease in costs in 2016 compared to 2015 was primarily related to lower rental costs and favorable adjustments to our contingent consideration liabilities associated with certain acquisitions. The decrease in costs in 2015 compared to 2014 was principally driven by a decrease of $63 million due to the divestitures in 2014.

Selling, General and Administrative Expenses

Our selling, general and administrative expenses consist of (i) labor and related benefits which include salaries, bonuses, related insurance and benefits, contract labor, payroll taxes and equity-based compensation;

 

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(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, bank charges, computer costs, 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 $67 million, or 5.0%, when comparing 2016 with 2015 and decreased $138 million, or 9.3%, when comparing 2015 with 2014. Our selling, general and administrative expenses as a percentage of revenues were 10.4% in 2016, 10.4% in 2015 and 10.6% in 2014.

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

 

     2016      Period-to-
Period
Change
    2015      Period-to-
Period
Change
    2014  
              
            

Labor and related benefits

   $ 968       $ 94        10.8   $ 874       $ (59     (6.3 )%    $ 933   

Professional fees

     97         (15     (13.4     112         (14     (11.1     126   

Provision for bad debts

     40         4        11.1        36         (5     (12.2     41   

Other

     305         (16     (5.0     321         (60     (15.7     381   
  

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 
   $ 1,410       $ 67        5.0   $ 1,343       $ (138     (9.3 )%    $ 1,481   
  

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 

Significant factors affecting our expense in 2016 as compared to 2015 include:

Labor and related benefits — The increase in labor and related benefits was primarily due to (i) higher incentive compensation costs; (ii) merit increases; (iii) higher severance costs and (iv) acquisitions.

Professional fees — The decrease in professional fees was primarily due to lower legal fees.

Other — The decrease in other expenses was principally driven by favorable litigation settlements and lower bank charges.

The divestitures in 2014, primarily the sale of our Wheelabrator business in December 2014, favorably affected all cost categories when comparing expenses in 2015 to 2014. In addition to the impact of divestitures, other significant factors affecting our expense in 2015 as compared to 2014 include:

Labor and related benefits — The decrease in labor and related benefits was due to (i) cost savings from our August 2014 reorganization and (ii) lower incentive compensation costs, which were partially offset by merit increases.

Other — The decrease in other expenses was principally driven by lower litigation settlement costs and our continued focus on controlling costs.

Depreciation and Amortization Expenses

Depreciation and amortization expenses include (i) depreciation of property and equipment, including assets recorded for capital leases, on a straight-line basis from three to 40 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

 

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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):

 

     2016      Period-to-
Period
Change
    2015      Period-to-
Period
Change
    2014  
            
            

Depreciation of tangible property and equipment

   $ 773       $ 13         1.7   $ 760       $ (74     (8.9 )%    $ 834   

Amortization of landfill airspace

     428         19         4.6        409         29        7.6        380   

Amortization of intangible assets

     100         24         31.6        76         (2     (2.6     78   
  

 

 

    

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 
   $ 1,301       $ 56         4.5   $ 1,245       $ (47     (3.6 )%    $ 1,292   
  

 

 

    

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

 

     

 

 

 

The increase in depreciation of tangible property and equipment and amortization of intangible assets during 2016 as compared to the prior year is primarily due to the acquired operations of SWS in January 2016. The increase in amortization of landfill airspace during 2016 as compared to the prior year is due to increased volumes at our landfills, partially offset by changes in our landfill estimates.

The decrease in depreciation of tangible property and equipment during 2015 as compared to the prior year is primarily due to the December 2014 sale of our Wheelabrator business as discussed further in Note 19 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. The increase in amortization of landfill airspace during 2015 as compared to the prior year is primarily due to increased volumes, a portion of which relates to the acquisition of Deffenbaugh in March 2015. This increase was partially offset by favorable adjustments resulting from changes in landfill estimates.

Restructuring Costs

During the year ended December 31, 2016, we recognized $4 million of pre-tax restructuring charges, of which $2 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.

During the year ended December 31, 2015, we recognized $15 million of pre-tax restructuring charges, of which $10 million was related to employee severance and benefit costs, including costs associated with the loss of a municipal contract in our Eastern Canada Area and our acquisition of Deffenbaugh. The remaining charges were primarily related to operating lease obligations for property that will no longer be utilized.

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 separated from our Corporate and recycling organizations in connection with this restructuring. 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.

 

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

The following table summarizes the major components of (income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments and unusual items for the years ended December 31 (in millions):

 

       2016          2015          2014    

(Income) expense from divestitures

   $ 9       $ (7    $ (515

Asset impairments

     59         89         355   

Other

     44         —           —     
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
   $ 112       $ 82       $ (160
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

During the year ended December 31, 2016, we recognized net charges of $112 million, primarily related to (i) $44 million of charges to adjust our subsidiary’s estimated environmental remediation liability related to a closed site in Harris County, Texas, as further discussed in Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements; (ii) a $43 million charge to impair a landfill in Western Pennsylvania due to a loss of expected volumes; (iii) $12 million of goodwill impairment charges primarily related to our LampTracker® reporting unit and (iv) an $8 million loss on the sale of a majority-owned organics company.

During the year ended December 31, 2015, we recognized net charges of $82 million, primarily related to (i) $66 million of charges to impair certain of our oil and gas producing properties as a result of the continued decline in oil and gas prices; (ii) $18 million of charges to write down or divest certain assets in our recycling operations and (iii) a $5 million impairment of a landfill in our Western Canada Area due to revised post-closure cost estimates. Partially offsetting these charges was $7 million in net gains from divestitures, including a $6 million gain on the sale of an oil and gas producing property in 2015.

During the year ended December 31, 2014, we recognized net gains of $160 million, primarily related to the following:

 

    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. Refer to Note 19 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information related to our divestitures.

 

    Oil and gas producing 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 in the fourth quarter of 2014.

 

    Goodwill impairments — We recognized $10 million of goodwill impairment charges related to our recycling reporting unit.

 

    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.

See Note 3 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information related to the accounting policy and analysis involved in identifying and calculating impairments.

 

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Income from Operations

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

 

     2016     Period-to-
Period
Change
    2015     Period-to-
Period
Change
    2014  

Solid Waste:

              

Tier 1

   $ 1,430      $ 140        10.9   $ 1,290      $ (11     (0.8 )%    $ 1,301   

Tier 2

     604        (25     (4.0     629        (82     (11.5     711   

Tier 3

     912        104        12.9        808        21        2.7        787   
  

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

 

Solid Waste

     2,946        219        8.0        2,727        (72     (2.6     2,799   

Other

     (100     60        (37.5     (160     240        (60.0     (400

Corporate and other

     (550     (28     5.4        (522     247        (32.1     (769

Wheelabrator

     —          —          —          —          (669     *        669   
  

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

 

Total

   $ 2,296      $ 251        12.3   $ 2,045      $ (254     (11.0 )%    $ 2,299   
  

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

* Percentage change does not provide a meaningful comparison.

Our segments are discussed further in Note 21 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Solid Waste — The most significant items affecting the results of operations of our Solid Waste business during the three years ended December 31, 2016 are summarized below:

 

    Our Traditional Solid Waste business benefited from internal revenue growth; and

 

    We recognized $51 million of charges associated with the withdrawal from certain underfunded Multiemployer Pension Plans in 2015 impacting all three tiers.

In addition, the following items affected the comparability of 2016 to 2015:

 

    Our recycling business was favorable in 2016 compared to 2015 principally due to (i) continued cost reductions; (ii) higher market prices for recycling commodities and (iii) the impairment of various recycling assets in 2015;

 

    Increased leachate management costs in Tier 2 in 2016;

 

    Higher labor and related benefit costs in 2016 due to merit increases, higher incentive compensation costs and increases in health and welfare costs; and

 

    The impairment of a landfill in Tier 2 in 2016 due to a loss of expected volumes.

In addition, the following items affected the comparability of 2015 to 2014:

 

    The unfavorable impact of foreign currency translation on the results of our Canadian operations in Tiers 1 and 2 in 2015;

 

    The unfavorable impact on our oilfield services business, primarily in Tier 2, of reduced drilling and auxiliary activities as a result of declining oil and gas prices in 2015;

 

    The transfer of certain sales employees from our Corporate and Other segment to this segment in 2015; and

 

    Our recycling business was unfavorable in 2015 compared to 2014 principally due to (i) lower market prices for recycling commodities and (ii) the impairment of various recycling assets in 2015. These unfavorable amounts were partially offset by continued cost reductions.

 

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Other — Our “Other” income from operations includes (i) our WMSBS organization; (ii) those elements of our landfill gas-to-energy operations and third-party subcontract and administration revenues managed by our Energy and Environmental Services and WM Renewable Energy organizations that are not included with the operations of our reportable segments; (iii) our recycling brokerage services and (iv) our expanded service offerings and solutions, such as portable self-storage and long distance moving services, fluorescent lamp recycling, and interests we hold 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 business.

The following items affected comparability of 2016 to 2015:

 

    A $66 million charge related to impairments of oil and gas producing properties recognized in 2015;

 

    Our energy related businesses’ results were higher in 2016 principally driven by an increase in remediation services costs to industrial customers in 2015;

 

    Increased WMSBS costs, driven in part by the transfer of certain sales employees from our Corporate and Other segment to this segment in 2016; and

 

    Increased expenses in 2016 from divestitures, asset impairments and unusual items related to a loss on the sale of a majority-owned organics company and goodwill impairments, primarily related to our LampTracker® reporting unit.

The following items affected comparability of 2015 to 2014:

 

    Net charges of $66 million and $339 million primarily related to impairments of oil and gas producing properties recognized in 2015 and 2014, respectively;

 

    Our energy related businesses’ results were lower in 2015 principally driven by an increase in remediation services costs to industrial customers in 2015; and

 

    The transfer of certain sales employees from our Corporate and Other segment to this segment in 2015.

Corporate and Other

The following items affected comparability of 2016 to 2015:

 

    Higher labor and related benefit costs in 2016 due to higher incentive compensation costs, severance costs, health and welfare costs and merit increases;

 

    An increase in a subsidiary’s estimated environmental remediation liability related to a closed site in Harris County, Texas in 2016;

 

    Decreased risk management costs in 2016; and

 

    The transfer of certain sales employees to our Other segment from this segment in 2016.

The following items affected comparability of 2015 to 2014:

 

    Restructuring costs related to our August 2014 reorganization and subsequent benefits resulting from our restructuring efforts;

 

    Lower health and welfare costs in 2015 primarily driven by lower claims and reduced headcount;

 

    The transfer of certain sales employees to our Solid Waste and Other segments from this segment in 2015;

 

    Continued focus on controlling costs resulting in lower professional fees, telecommunications, contract labor, and travel and entertainment in 2015;

 

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

 

    Unfavorable adjustments in 2014 related to changes in U.S. Treasury rates used to discount our environmental remediation liabilities and recovery assets to present value; and

 

    Increased risk management costs in 2015 primarily related to certain higher than anticipated general liability claim settlements and a favorable risk management allocation in 2014.

Wheelabrator — The most significant item affecting the results of operations of our Wheelabrator business in 2014 was a $519 million gain on sale of this business in December 2014.

Interest Expense, net

Our interest expense, net was $376 million in 2016, $385 million in 2015 and $466 million in 2014. During 2016, the decrease in interest expense was primarily attributable to the impacts of lower market interest rates on certain of our tax-exempt bonds, partially offset by increased borrowings under our $2.25 billion revolving credit facility. During 2015, the decrease in interest expense was primarily attributable to the refinancing of a significant portion of our high-coupon senior notes. As a result of the combination of make-whole redemptions of certain senior notes, cash tender offers to purchase certain senior notes and the issuance of $1.8 billion of new senior notes, we reduced the weighted average interest rate of our senior note portfolio by 1%.

Loss on Early Extinguishment of Debt

Loss on early extinguishment of debt was $4 million and $555 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively. The amount for 2015 was primarily associated with the early extinguishment of almost $2 billion of our high-coupon senior notes through make-whole redemption and cash tender offers. We replaced substantially all of the debt extinguished with new senior notes at significantly lower coupon interest rates and extended the weighted average duration of these debt obligations. The “Loss on early extinguishment of debt” reflected in our Consolidated Statement of Operations for 2015 includes $122 million of charges related to make-whole redemptions and $430 million of charges related to cash tender offers.

Equity in Net Losses of Unconsolidated Entities

We recognized equity in net losses of unconsolidated entities of $44 million, $38 million and $53 million in 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. These losses are primarily related to our noncontrolling interests in entities established to invest in and manage low-income housing properties and a refined coal facility. 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 amount in 2014 includes charges of $11 million primarily to write down equity method investments in waste diversion technology companies to their fair value.

Other, net

We recognized other, net expense of $50 million, $7 million and $29 million in 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. The expenses for 2016, 2015 and 2014 were impacted by impairment charges of $42 million, $5 million and $22 million, respectively, related to other-than-temporary declines in the value of minority-owned, cost method investments in waste diversion technology companies. In addition, we recognized $8 million of expense during the first quarter of 2016 associated with the termination of our cross-currency swaps, which is discussed further in Note 8 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Provision for Income Taxes

We recorded provisions for income taxes of $642 million, $308 million and $413 million in 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. These tax provisions resulted in effective income tax rates of 35.2%, 29.1% and 23.6% for the

 

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years ended 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. The comparability of our reported income taxes for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014 is primarily affected by (i) variations in our income before income taxes, as discussed above; (ii) federal tax credits; (iii) tax audit settlements; (iv) the realization of state net operating losses and credits; (v) adjustments to our accruals and related deferred taxes and (vi) the tax implications of impairments and divestitures. The impacts of these items are summarized below:

 

    Investments Qualifying for Federal Tax Credits — Our low-income housing properties and refined coal facility investments reduced our provision for income taxes by $55 million, $57 million and $58 million, primarily as a result of the tax credits realized from these investments for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. Refer to Note 9 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information related to these investments.

 

    Other Federal Tax Credits — During 2016, 2015 and 2014, we recognized federal tax credits in addition to the tax credits realized from our investments in low-income housing properties and the refined coal facility, resulting in a reduction to our provision for income taxes of $14 million, $15 million and $13 million, respectively.

 

    Tax Audit Settlements — The settlement of various tax audits resulted in a reduction to our provision for income taxes of $11 million, $10 million and $12 million for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively.

 

    State Net Operating Losses and Credits — During 2016, 2015 and 2014, we recognized state net operating losses and credits resulting in a reduction to our provision for income taxes of $10 million, $17 million and $16 million, respectively.

 

    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 laws resulted in a reduction of $10 million, $18 million and $24 million to our provision for income taxes for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively.

 

    Tax Implications of Impairments — A portion of the impairment charges recognized in 2016, 2015 and 2014 are not deductible for tax purposes. Had the charges been fully deductible, our provision for income taxes would have been reduced by $15 million, $2 million and $8 million for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. See Note 13 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information related to our impairment charges.

 

    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. During 2015, the Company recorded an additional $10 million net gain primarily related to post-closing adjustments on the Wheelabrator divestiture and had this gain been fully taxable, our provision for income taxes would have increased by $4 million. During 2016, the Company recorded a loss of $9 million related to the divestiture of certain assets and had the associated tax loss been fully deductible, our provision for income taxes would have decreased by $5 million. Refer to Note 19 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for more information related to our divestitures.

Based on current tax laws and regulations, we expect our 2017 recurring effective tax rate will be approximately 36.5% based on projected income before income taxes, federal tax credits and other permanent items.

Noncontrolling Interests

Net loss attributable to noncontrolling interests was $2 million in 2016 and $1 million in 2015 and net income attributable to noncontrolling interests was $40 million in 2014. The income for 2014 was principally related to third-parties’ equity interests in two limited liability companies (“LLCs”) that owned three waste-to-

 

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energy facilities operated by our Wheelabrator business. In December 2014, we purchased the noncontrolling interests in the LLCs from the third parties. The LLCs were then subsequently sold as part of the divestiture 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.

Landfill and Environmental Remediation Discussion and Analysis

We owned or operated 243 solid waste and five secure hazardous waste landfills at December 31, 2016 and 244 solid waste and five secure hazardous waste landfills at December 31, 2015. For these landfills, the following table reflects changes in capacity, as measured in tons of waste, for the years ended December 31 and remaining capacity, measured in cubic yards of waste, at December 31 (in millions):

 

     2016     2015  
     Remaining
Permitted
Capacity
    Expansion
Capacity
    Total
Capacity
    Remaining
Permitted
Capacity
    Expansion
Capacity
    Total
Capacity
 
            
            

Balance at beginning of year (in tons)

     4,728        304        5,032        4,660        275        4,935   

Acquisitions, divestitures, newly permitted landfills and closures

     —          —          —          32        4        36   

Changes in expansions pursued(a)

     —          77        77        —          105        105   

Expansion permits granted(b)

     166        (166     —          82        (82     —     

Airspace consumed

     (104     —          (104     (97     —          (97

Changes in engineering estimates and other(c)

     (36     4        (32     51        2        53   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Balance at end of year (in tons)

     4,754        219        4,973        4,728        304        5,032   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Balance at end of year (in cubic yards)

     4,787        200        4,987        4,740        298        5,038   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

(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, if any.
(b) We received expansion permits at 13 of our landfills during 2016 and six of our landfills during 2015, 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 2016 and 2015 are shown below (tons in thousands):

 

     2016      2015  
     # of
Sites
    Total
Tons
    Tons per
Day
     # of
Sites
     Total
Tons
    Tons per
Day
 

Solid waste landfills

     243 (a)      104,913        384         244         96,777        355   

Hazardous waste landfills.

     5        646        2         5         567        2   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

 
     248        105,559        386         249         97,344        357   
      

 

 

         

 

 

 

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

     2        —             5         960     
    

 

 

         

 

 

   
       105,559 (b)            98,304 (b)   
    

 

 

         

 

 

   

 

(a) In 2016, we developed one landfill, our contract expired at one landfill and we closed one landfill.
(b) These amounts include 1.2 million tons at both December 31, 2016 and 2015, 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, 2016, our closed sites management group managed 213 closed landfills.

Based on remaining permitted airspace as of December 31, 2016 and projected annual disposal volumes, the weighted average remaining landfill life for all of our owned or operated landfills is approximately 45 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, disposal prices, construction and operating costs, remaining capacity and likelihood of obtaining an expansion permit. We are seeking expansion permits at 16 of our landfills that meet the expansion criteria outlined in the Critical Accounting Estimates and Assumptions — Landfills 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 47 years when considering remaining permitted airspace, expansion airspace and projected annual disposal volume.

The number of landfills owned or operated as of December 31, 2016, segregated by their estimated operating lives based on remaining permitted and expansion capacity and projected annual disposal volume, was as follows:

 

     # of Landfills  

0 to 5 years

     22   

6 to 10 years

     27   

11 to 20 years

     23   

21 to 40 years

     76   

41+ years

     100   
  

 

 

 

Total

     248 (a) 
  

 

 

 

 

(a) Of the 248 landfills, 200 are owned, 35 are operated under lease agreements and the remaining 13 are operated under other contractual agreements. We are usually responsible for the final capping, closure and post-closure obligations of these landfills.

 

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As of December 31, 2016, we have 15 landfills which are not currently accepting waste. We performed tests of recoverability for eight of these landfills and during the year ended December 31, 2016, we recognized a $43 million charge to impair one of these landfills in Western Pennsylvania due to a loss of expected volumes. For the other seven landfills, with an aggregate net recorded capitalized landfill asset cost of $281 million, the undiscounted expected future cash flows resulting from our probability-weighted estimation approach exceeded the carrying values. We did not perform recoverability tests for the remaining seven landfills as the net recorded capitalized landfill asset cost was immaterial.

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 changes to the cost basis of our landfill assets and accumulated landfill airspace amortization for the year ended December 31, 2016 are reflected in the table below:

 

     Cost Basis of
Landfill Assets
     Accumulated
Landfill Airspace
Amortization
     Landfill Assets  

December 31, 2015

   $ 13,772       $ (7,925    $ 5,847   

Capital additions

     488         —           488   

Asset retirement obligations incurred and capitalized

     55         —           55   

Amortization of landfill airspace

     —           (428      (428

Foreign currency translation

     28         (9      19   

Asset retirements and other adjustments

     (67      22         (45
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

December 31, 2016

   $ 14,276       $ (8,340    $ 5,936   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

As of December 31, 2016, we estimate that we will spend approximately $400 million in 2017, and approximately $900 million in 2018 and 2019 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.

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 on accounting for asset retirement obligations and are discussed in Note 3 to the 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.

 

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Index to Financial Statements

The changes to landfill and environmental remediation liabilities for the year ended December 31, 2016 are reflected in the table below (in millions):

 

     Landfill      Environmental
Remediation
 

December 31, 2015

   $ 1,518       $ 209   

Obligations incurred and capitalized

     59         —     

Obligations settled

     (91      (24

Interest accretion

     91         3   

Revisions in estimates and interest rate assumptions

     (1      58   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

December 31, 2016

   $ 1,576       $ 246   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Landfill Operating Costs — The following table summarizes our landfill operating costs for the years ended December 31 (in millions):

 

     2016      2015      2014  

Interest accretion on landfill liabilities

   $ 91       $ 89       $ 88   

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

     —           1         14   

Leachate and methane collection and treatment(a)

     176         96         84   

Landfill remediation costs

     15         5         9   

Other landfill site costs

     70         64         71   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total landfill operating costs

   $ 352       $ 255       $ 266   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

  (a) Leachate management costs have increased because, in certain parts of the country, we are transporting leachate further in order to reach treatment facilities, the third-party fees charged for treatment of waste water have increased and the volume of leachate being disposed has increased.

Amortization of Landfill Airspace — 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

 

    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 for the years ended December 31:

 

     2016      2015      2014  

Amortization of landfill airspace (in millions)

   $ 428       $ 409       $ 380   

Tons received, net of redirected waste (in millions)

     104         97         96   

Average landfill airspace amortization expense per ton

   $ 4.10       $ 4.21       $ 3.96   

 

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Different per-ton amortization rates are applied at each of our 248 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, payment of interest 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 our common stock repurchase program.

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 (in millions):

 

     2016      2015  

Cash and cash equivalents

   $ 32       $ 39   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Restricted trust and escrow accounts:

     

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

   $ 95       $ 94   

Other

     10         11   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total restricted trust and escrow accounts

   $ 105       $ 105   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Debt:

     

Current portion

   $ 417       $ 253   

Long-term portion

     8,893         8,676   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total debt

   $ 9,310       $ 8,929   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

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 borrowings as of December 31, 2016 are described in Note 7 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

Changes in our outstanding debt balances from December 31, 2015 to December 31, 2016 were primarily attributable to (i) net debt borrowings of $375 million and (ii) the impacts of other non-cash changes in our debt balances due to hedge accounting for interest rate swaps, foreign currency translation, discounts, premiums and deferred loan costs.

As of December 31, 2016, the current portion of our long-term debt balance of $417 million includes (i) $230 million of short-term borrowings under our long-term $2.25 billion revolving credit facility and (ii)

 

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$187 million of other debt with scheduled maturities within the next 12 months, including $126 million of tax-exempt bonds.

As of December 31, 2016, we have classified $196 million of borrowings outstanding under our $2.25 billion revolving credit facility as long-term because we intend and have the ability to refinance or maintain these borrowings on a long-term basis. We generally use available cash to repay borrowings outstanding under our $2.25 billion revolving credit facility and any remaining balances are maintained by extending the maturities of the borrowings. Our current projections indicate that we will maintain $196 million of the $426 million of borrowings outstanding for the next 12 months. The remaining $230 million of borrowings outstanding under our $2.25 billion revolving credit facility is classified as current in our Consolidated Balance Sheet at December 31, 2016.

As of December 31, 2016, we also have $473 million of tax-exempt bonds with term interest rate periods that expire within the next 12 months and an additional $491 million of variable-rate tax-exempt bonds that are supported by letters of credit. The interest rates on our variable-rate tax-exempt bonds are generally reset on either a daily or weekly basis through a remarketing process. All recent tax-exempt bond remarketings have successfully placed Company bonds with investors at market-driven rates and we currently expect future remarketings to be successful. However, if the remarketing agent is unable to remarket our bonds, the remarketing agent can put the bonds to us. In the event of a failed remarketing, we have the intent and ability to use availability under our $2.25 billion revolving credit facility to fund the debt obligations until they can be remarketed successfully. Accordingly, we classified these borrowings as long-term in our Consolidated Balance Sheet at December 31, 2016.

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

 

     2016      2015  

$2.25 billion revolving credit facility(a)

   $ 789       $ 831   

Other letter of credit facilities(b)

     492         466   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 
   $ 1,281       $ 1,297   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(a) In July 2015, we amended and restated our $2.25 billion revolving credit facility extending the term through July 2020. At December 31, 2016, we had $426 million of outstanding borrowings and $789 million of letters of credit issued and supported by the facility, leaving an unused and available credit capacity of $1,035 million.
(b) As of December 31, 2016, we had utilized $492 million of other letter of credit facilities, which are both committed and uncommitted, with terms extending through December 2018.

Summary of Cash Flow Activity

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

 

     2016      2015      2014  

Net cash provided by operating activities

   $ 2,960       $ 2,498       $ 2,331   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net cash provided by (used in) investing activities

   $ (1,932    $ (1,608    $ 995   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net cash used in financing activities

   $ (1,035    $ (2,155    $ (2,072
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net Cash Provided by Operating Activities — The most significant items affecting the comparison of our operating cash flows in 2016 as compared to 2015 are summarized below:

 

   

Increase in earnings — Our income from operations, excluding depreciation and amortization and asset impairments and unusual items, increased by $337 million on a year-over-year basis, principally driven

 

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by earnings from our Traditional Solid Waste business. Our 2015 results included $51 million of charges associated with the withdrawal from certain underfunded Multiemployer Pension Plans, of which payments of approximately $60 million were made in 2015.

 

    Cross-currency swaps — During the first quarter of 2016, we terminated our cross-currency swaps associated with the anticipated cash flows of intercompany loans between WM Holdings and its wholly-owned Canadian subsidiaries, as discussed further in Note 8 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. In connection with the termination, we received cash proceeds of $67 million, which were classified as a change in “Other current assets” and “Other assets.”

 

    Decrease in annual incentive plan cash payments — Payments for our annual incentive plans are typically made in the first quarter of the year based on prior year performance. Our cash flow from operating activities was favorably impacted by $46 million on a year-over-year basis, as the annual incentive cash payments made in 2016 were lower than the cash payments made in 2015.

 

    Increase in income tax payments — Cash paid for income taxes, net of excess tax benefits associated with equity-based transactions, was $36 million higher on a year-over-year basis largely driven by higher pre-tax earnings in the current year.

 

    Changes in assets and liabilities, net of effects from business acquisitions and divestitures — Our cash flows from operating activities were favorably impacted on a year-over-year basis due to net changes in our assets and liabilities, exclusive of the items noted above, particularly non-trade related items including payroll and incentive accruals.

The most significant items affecting the comparison of our operating cash flows in 2015 as compared with 2014 are summarized below:

 

    Increased earnings from our Traditional Solid Waste business — In 2015, we saw an increase in earnings from our Traditional Solid Waste business, which was enhanced by acquisitions and corporate overhead cost reductions. These cash flow improvements were slightly offset by a decrease in earnings from our recycling operations.

 

    Cash flow of divested businesses — The divestiture of Wheelabrator in December 2014 coupled with the sale of other Solid Waste businesses throughout 2014 negatively affected the year-over-year comparison by approximately $140 million.

 

    Decrease in income tax payments — Cash paid for income taxes, net of excess tax benefits associated with equity-based transactions, was approximately $329 million lower on a year-over-year basis, largely driven by (i) lower year-over-year pre-tax earnings primarily due to the loss on early extinguishment of debt in 2015 and (ii) the income tax implications and related impacts of divestitures and impairment charges.

 

    Decrease in interest payments — Cash paid for interest decreased $77 million primarily due to the refinancing of a significant portion of our high-coupon senior notes during 2015, which is discussed further in Note 7 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

    Increase in annual incentive plan cash payments — Payments for our annual incentive plans are typically made in the first quarter of the year based on prior year performance. Our cash flow from operations was unfavorably impacted by approximately $65 million on a year-over-year basis, as the annual incentive plan payments made in 2015 were significantly higher than payments made in 2014.

 

    Multiemployer Pension Plan settlements — In 2015, we paid approximately $60 million for the withdrawal from certain underfunded Multiemployer Pension Plans. See Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.

 

   

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

 

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$36 million to settle the liabilities related to these swaps, as discussed further in Note 8 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. This cash payment was classified as a change in “Accounts payable and accrued liabilities.”

 

    Changes in assets and liabilities, net of effects from business acquisitions and divestitures — Our cash flow from operating activities was unfavorably impacted on a year-over-year basis by net changes in our assets and liabilities, exclusive of the items noted above, particularly non-trade related items including payroll and incentive accruals.

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 $1,339 million during 2016 for capital expenditures, compared with $1,233 million in 2015 and $1,151 million in 2014. The increase in our capital expenditures in both years is generally the result of additional spending on new business opportunities and acquisitions, growth in our existing business and asset replacement timing. In addition, the construction of a waste-water treatment facility at one of our landfills also contributed to the increase in 2016. Although, we experienced capital expenditure increases in both 2016 and 2015, the Company continues to maintain a disciplined focus on capital management.

 

    Proceeds from divestitures — Proceeds from divestitures of businesses and other assets (net of cash divested) were $43 million in 2016, $145 million in 2015 and $2,253 million in 2014. In 2016 and 2015, $2 million and $79 million of these divestitures, respectively, were made as part of our continuous focus on improving or divesting certain non-strategic or underperforming operations, with the remaining amounts generally related to the sale of fixed assets. 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 landfill and collection operations in our Eastern Canada Area.

 

    Acquisitions — Our spending on acquisitions was $611 million, $554 million and $35 million in 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. In 2016, $525 million of our spending on acquisitions was for certain operations and business assets of SWS. The remainder of our 2016 acquisition spending primarily related to our Solid Waste business. In 2015, $400 million of our spending on acquisitions was for the collection and disposal operations of Deffenbaugh. The remainder of our 2015 acquisition spending primarily related to our Solid Waste business. All of our 2014 acquisitions related to our Solid Waste business. 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 $21 million, $20 million and $33 million of cash investments in unconsolidated entities during 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. In 2016 and 2015, our investments primarily consisted of additional capital contributions associated with our investment in a refined coal facility, which generates federal tax credits. In 2014, our investments primarily related to additional capital contributions associated with our investment in a refined coal facility and waste diversion technology companies.

 

    Net receipts from restricted funds — Net cash received from our restricted trust and escrow accounts contributed $51 million and $19 million to our investing activities in 2015 and 2014, respectively. In 2015, these activities were largely related to our replacement of funded trust and escrow accounts with alternative forms of financial assurance.

 

    Other — Net cash used by our other investing activities was $4 million and $58 million in 2016 and 2014, respectively, and net cash provided by our other investing activities was $3 million during 2015. Net cash used by our other investing activities of $58 million during 2014 was primarily associated with the funding of notes receivable associated with Wheelabrator’s investments in the United Kingdom, prior to the sale of our Wheelabrator business in December 2014.

 

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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:

 

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

We paid $725 million, $600 million and $600 million for share repurchases during 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. See Note 15 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.

We announced in December 2016 that the Board of Directors has authorized up to $750 million 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 of Directors in making dividend declarations.

 

    Cash dividends — For the periods presented, all dividends have been declared by our Board of Directors.

We paid aggregate cash dividends of $726 million, $695 million and $693 million during 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. The increase in dividend payments is due to our quarterly per share dividend increasing from $0.375 in 2014 to $0.385 in 2015 and to $0.41 in 2016 and has been offset, in part, by a reduction in our common stock outstanding as a result of our common stock repurchase program.

In December 2016, we announced that our Board of Directors expects to increase the quarterly dividend from $0.41 to $0.425 per share for dividends declared in 2017. 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 generated financing cash inflows of $63 million, $77 million and $93 million during 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. The year-over-year changes are generally due to the number of stock options exercised and the exercise price of those options.

 

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    Debt borrowings (repayments) — The following summarizes our cash borrowings and debt repayments made for the years ended December 31 (in millions):

 

     2016      2015      2014  

Borrowings:

        

$2.25 billion revolving credit facility

   $ 1,889       $ 100       $ 2,225   

Canadian credit facility and term loan

     347         11         88   

Senior notes

     496         1,781         347   

Tax-exempt bonds

     143         262         —     

Capital leases and other debt

     182         183         157   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
   $ 3,057       $ 2,337       $ 2,817   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Repayments:

        

$2.25 billion revolving credit facility

   $ (1,483    $ (80    $ (2,645

Canadian credit facility and term loan

     (193      (130      (243

Senior notes

     (510      (1,970      (350

Tax-exempt bonds

     (289      (341      (123

Capital leases and other debt

     (207      (243      (207
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
   $ (2,682    $ (2,764    $ (3,568
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net borrowings (repayments)

   $ 375       $ (427    $ (751
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Refer to Note 7 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information related to our debt borrowings and repayments.

 

    Premiums paid on early extinguishment of debt — Premiums paid on early extinguishment of debt were $2 million and $555 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively. The amount for 2015 was primarily related to (i) make-whole premiums paid on certain senior notes that the Company decided to redeem in advance of their scheduled maturities and (ii) premiums paid to tender certain high-coupon senior notes. See Note 7 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further discussion of these transactions.

 

    Acquisitions of and distributions paid to noncontrolling interests — The acquisitions of and distributions paid to our noncontrolling interests were $1 million, $1 million and $125 million in 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. The amount for 2014 is primarily attributable to the purchase of the noncontrolling interests in the LLCs related to our waste-to-energy facilities in December 2014 for $91 million. The LLCs were then subsequently sold as part of the Wheelabrator divestiture, also in December 2014. See Note 20 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further discussion of these LLCs.

 

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Summary of Contractual Obligations

The following table summarizes our contractual obligations as of December 31, 2016 and the anticipated effect of these obligations on our liquidity in future years (in millions):

 

    2017     2018     2019     2020     2021     Thereafter     Total  

Recorded Obligations:

             

Expected environmental liabilities:(a)

             

Final capping, closure and post-closure

  $ 119      $ 144      $ 110      $ 147      $ 109      $ 2,169      $ 2,798   

Environmental remediation

    28        21        29        63        17        88        246   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 
    147        165        139        210        126        2,257        3,044   

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

    610        783        432        746        540        6,304        9,415   

Unrecorded Obligations:(e)

             

Interest on debt(f)

    336        315        289        271        245        2,228        3,684   

Non-cancelable operating lease obligations

    109        90        73        62        44        306        684   

Estimated unconditional purchase obligations(g)

    179        149        112        92        88        336        956   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Anticipated liquidity impact as of December 31, 2016

  $ 1,381      $ 1,502      $ 1,045      $ 1,381      $ 1,043      $ 11,431      $ 17,783   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

(a) Environmental liabilities include final capping, closure, post-closure and environmental remediation costs recorded in our Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2016, 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) These amounts represent the scheduled principal payments related to our long-term debt, excluding interest.
(c) Our debt obligations as of December 31, 2016 include $473 million of tax-exempt bonds with term interest rate periods scheduled to expire within the next 12 months. 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 borrowings for purposes of this disclosure. For additional information regarding the classification of these borrowings in our Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2016, refer to Note 7 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
(d) Our recorded debt obligations include non-cash adjustments associated with discounts, premiums, deferred loan costs and fair value adjustments for interest rate hedging activities. These amounts have been excluded as they will not impact 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 and interest payable on our debt. 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) Interest on our fixed-rate debt was calculated based on contractual rates and interest on our variable-rate debt was calculated based on interest rates at December 31, 2016. For debt balances outstanding under our $2.25 billion revolving credit facility, we have reflected limited interest amounts due to the short-term nature of the borrowings. For debt balances outstanding under our Canadian term loan, we have reflected interest based on the current outstanding principal assuming the amount remains unchanged through maturity. As of December 31, 2016, we had $88 million of accrued interest related to our debt obligations.
(g) 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 subject to change and actual cash flow obligations in the near future may be different. See Note 11 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for discussion of the nature and terms of our unconditional purchase obligations.

 

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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, 2016, nor are they expected to have a material impact on our future financial position, results of operations or liquidity.

New Accounting Standards Pending Adoption

Income Taxes — In October 2016, the FASB issued amended authoritative guidance associated with the timing of recognition of income taxes for intra-entity transfers of assets other than inventory. The amended guidance requires the recognition of income taxes when the transfer of the asset occurs, which replaces current U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“GAAP”) that defers the recognition of income taxes until the transferred asset is sold to a third party or otherwise recovered through use. The amended guidance is effective for the Company on January 1, 2018, with early adoption permitted. We are in the process of assessing the provisions of this amended guidance; however, we currently do not expect that the adoption of this amended guidance will have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements.

Statement of Cash Flows — In August 2016, the FASB issued amended authoritative guidance associated with the classification of certain cash receipts and cash payments in the statement of cash flows. In November 2016, the FASB issued additional guidance on the presentation of restricted cash and cash equivalents in the statement of cash flows. The objective of both amendments was to reduce existing diversity in practice. The amended guidance is effective for the Company on January 1, 2018, with early adoption permitted. We are in the process of assessing the provisions of this amended guidance; however, we currently do not expect that the adoption of this amended guidance will have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements.

Financial Instrument Credit Losses — In June 2016, the FASB issued amended authoritative guidance associated with the measurement of credit losses on financial instruments. The amended guidance replaces the current incurred loss impairment methodology of recognizing credit losses when a loss is probable, with a methodology that reflects expected credit losses and requires consideration of a broader range of reasonable and supportable information to assess credit loss estimates. The amended guidance is effective for the Company on January 1, 2020, with early adoption permitted beginning January 1, 2019. We are assessing the provisions of the amended guidance and evaluating the timing and impact on our consolidated financial statements.

Stock Compensation — In March 2016, the FASB issued amended authoritative guidance associated with stock-based compensation as part of its simplification initiative to reduce the cost and complexity of compliance with GAAP, while maintaining or improving the usefulness of the information provided. The amended guidance changes both the accounting and financial reporting for certain income tax impacts of stock-based compensation. All excess tax benefits and tax deficiencies will be required to be recognized as an income tax benefit or provision rather than as a component of equity. The guidance also provides for changes in the calculation of forfeitures related to the expense of stock-based compensation. The amended guidance is effective for the Company on January 1, 2017. The adoption of this amended guidance will not have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements.

Leases — In February 2016, the FASB issued amended authoritative guidance associated with lease accounting. The amended guidance requires the recognition of lease assets and lease liabilities on the balance sheet for those leases with terms in excess of 12 months and currently classified as operating leases. The disclosure of key information about leasing arrangements will also be required. The amended guidance is effective for the Company on January 1, 2019, with early adoption permitted. We are assessing the provisions of the amended guidance and evaluating the timing and impact on our consolidated financial statements and disclosures.

 

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Financial Instruments — In January 2016, the FASB issued amended authoritative guidance associated with the recognition and measurement of financial assets and liabilities. The amended guidance will require certain equity investments that are not consolidated to be measured at fair value with changes in fair value recognized in net income rather than as a component of accumulated other comprehensive income. The amended guidance is effective for the Company on January 1, 2018, with early adoption permitted. We are assessing the provisions of the amended guidance and evaluating the timing and impact on our consolidated financial statements.

Revenue Recognition — In May 2014, the FASB issued 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 guidance associated with revenue recognition is effective for the Company on January 1, 2018. The amended guidance may be applied retrospectively for all periods presented (“full retrospective method”) or retrospectively with the cumulative effect of initially applying the amended guidance recognized at the date of initial adoption (“modified retrospective method”).

To assess the impact of the standard, we utilized internal resources to lead the implementation effort and supplemented them with external resources. Our internal resources read the amended guidance, attended trainings and consulted with non-authoritative groups to assist with interpretation of the amended guidance. Surveys were sent to and returned by all operating segments to assess the potential impact of the amended guidance and to tailor specific procedures to evaluate the potential impact. Based on the results of these surveys, we judgmentally selected a sample of contracts based on size and specifically identified contract traits that could be accounted for differently under the amended guidance. We also selected a representative sample of contracts to corroborate the survey results. We have completed our preliminary review of all contracts and are in the process of compiling and summarizing the results to determine whether additional review and analysis is necessary.

Based on our work to date, we believe we have identified all material contract types and costs that may be impacted by this amended guidance. We expect to quantify and disclose the expected impact, if any, of adopting this amended guidance in the third quarter Form 10-Q. While we are still evaluating the impact of the amended guidance, we currently do not expect it to have a material impact on operating revenues.

Upon adoption of the amended guidance, we anticipate recognizing an asset from the capitalization of sales incentives as contract acquisitions costs. Under the amended guidance, sales incentives will be capitalized and amortized over the expected life of the customer relationship. Currently, the Company expenses approximately $65 million in sales incentives annually. As noted above, we are still evaluating other possible impacts on our consolidated financial statements, including potential changes in the classification of certain revenue streams currently reported on a gross basis and on our disclosures. The Company is also currently planning to adopt the amended guidance using the modified retrospective method as of January 1, 2018.

Inflation

While inflationary increases in costs can affect our income from operations margins, we believe that inflation generally has not had, and in the near future is not expected to have, any material adverse effect on our results of operations. However, as of December 31, 2016, 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.

 

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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. The Company had no derivatives outstanding at December 31, 2016.

Interest Rate Exposure — Our exposure to market risk for changes in interest rates relates primarily to our financing activities. As of December 31, 2016, we had $9.4 billion of long-term debt, excluding the impacts of accounting for fair value adjustments attributable to terminated interest rate derivatives, discounts, premiums and debt issuance costs. We have $1.6 billion of debt that is exposed to changes in market interest rates within the next 12 months. Our variable-rate debt obligations include (i) $491 million of tax-exempt bonds that are subject to repricing on either a daily or weekly basis through a remarketing process; (ii) $473 million of tax- exempt bonds with term interest rate periods scheduled to expire within the next 12 months; (iii) $426 million of borrowings outstanding under our $2.25 billion revolving credit facility and (iv) $239 million of borrowings outstanding under our Canadian term loan. We currently estimate that a 100-basis point increase in the interest rates of our outstanding variable-rate debt obligations would increase our 2017 interest expense by approximately $15 million.

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 12 months. The fair value of our fixed-rate debt obligations can increase or decrease significantly if market interest rates change.

We performed a sensitivity analysis to determine how market rate changes might affect the fair value of our market risk-sensitive debt instruments. This analysis is inherently limited because it reflects a singular, hypothetical set of assumptions. Actual market movements may vary significantly from our assumptions. An instantaneous, 100-basis point increase in interest rates across all maturities attributable to these instruments would have decreased the fair value of our debt by approximately $595 million at December 31, 2016.

We are also exposed to interest rate market risk because we have 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-term 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 correlates with natural gas prices in many of the markets in which we operate. 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 may also increase or decrease.

Currency Rate Exposure — We have operations in Canada as well as certain support functions in India and investments in Hong Kong. Where significant, we have quantified and described the impact of foreign currency translation on components of income, including operating revenue and operating costs. However, the impact of foreign currency has not materially affected our results of operations. Historically, we hedged a portion of our foreign currency risk using currency derivatives to mitigate the impact of currency translation on cash flows of intercompany Canadian-currency denominated debt transactions. In March 2016, we terminated our cross-currency swaps. At termination, we received $67 million in cash for the fair value of the hedged position and reported this amount as a component of “Net cash provided by operating activities” in the Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows. The realized loss from the termination did not materially affect our results of operations. Refer to Notes 8 and 14 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding our foreign currency derivatives and translation.

 

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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

     70   

Reports of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

     71   

Consolidated Balance Sheets as of December 31, 2016 and 2015

     73   

Consolidated Statements of Operations for the Years Ended December  31, 2016, 2015 and 2014

     74   

Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Income for the Years Ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014

     74   

Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows for the Years Ended December  31, 2016, 2015 and 2014

     75   

Consolidated Statements of Changes in Equity for the Years Ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014

     76   

Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements

     77   

 

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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, 2016 based on the Internal Control — Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (2013 framework). Based on this assessment, management has concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2016.

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, 2016, 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, 2016, 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, 2016 and 2015, 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, 2016, and our report dated February 16, 2017 expressed an unqualified opinion thereon.

/s/ ERNST & YOUNG LLP

Houston, Texas

February 16, 2017

 

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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, 2016 and 2015, 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, 2016. 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, 2016 and 2015, and the consolidated results of its operations and its cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2016, 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, 2016, 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 16, 2017 expressed an unqualified opinion thereon.

/s/ ERNST & YOUNG LLP

Houston, Texas

February 16, 2017

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS

(In Millions, Except Share and Par Value Amounts)

 

    December 31,  
    2016     2015  
ASSETS   

Current assets:

   

Cash and cash equivalents

  $ 32      $ 39   

Accounts receivable, net of allowance for doubtful accounts of $24 and $25, respectively

    1,700        1,549   

Other receivables

    432        545   

Parts and supplies

    90        92   

Other assets

    122        120   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total current assets

    2,376        2,345   

Property and equipment, net of accumulated depreciation and amortization of $17,152 and $16,420, respectively

    10,950        10,665   

Goodwill

    6,215        5,984   

Other intangible assets, net

    591        477   

Investments in unconsolidated entities

    320        360   

Other assets

    407        536   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total assets

  $ 20,859      $ 20,367   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 
LIABILITIES AND EQUITY   

Current liabilities:

   

Accounts payable

  $ 799      $ 721   

Accrued liabilities

    1,085        1,064   

Deferred revenues

    493        472   

Current portion of long-term debt

    417        253   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total current liabilities

    2,794        2,510   

Long-term debt, less current portion

    8,893        8,676   

Deferred income taxes

    1,482        1,391   

Landfill and environmental remediation liabilities

    1,675        1,584   

Other liabilities

    695        839   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total liabilities

    15,539        15,000   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

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

    4,850        4,827   

Retained earnings

    7,388        6,939   

Accumulated other comprehensive income (loss)

    (80     (127

Treasury stock at cost, 190,966,584 and 183,105,326 shares, respectively

    (6,867     (6,300
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total Waste Management, Inc. stockholders’ equity

    5,297        5,345   

Noncontrolling interests

    23        22   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total equity

    5,320        5,367   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total liabilities and equity

  $ 20,859      $ 20,367   
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

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,  
     2016     2015     2014  

Operating revenues

   $ 13,609      $ 12,961      $ 13,996   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Costs and expenses:

      

Operating

     8,486        8,231        9,002   

Selling, general and administrative

     1,410        1,343        1,481   

Depreciation and amortization

     1,301        1,245        1,292   

Restructuring

     4        15        82   

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

     112        82        (160
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 
     11,313        10,916        11,697   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Income from operations

     2,296        2,045        2,299   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Other income (expense):

      

Interest expense, net

     (376     (385     (466

Loss on early extinguishment of debt

     (4     (555     —     

Equity in net losses of unconsolidated entities

     (44     (38     (53

Other, net

     (50     (7     (29
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 
     (474     (985     (548
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Income before income taxes

     1,822        1,060        1,751   

Provision for income taxes

     642        308        413   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Consolidated net income

     1,180        752        1,338   

Less: Net income (loss) attributable to noncontrolling interests

     (2     (1     40   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net income attributable to Waste Management, Inc.

   $ 1,182      $ 753      $ 1,298   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Basic earnings per common share

   $ 2.66      $ 1.66      $ 2.80   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Diluted earnings per common share

   $ 2.65      $ 1.65      $ 2.79   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Cash dividends declared per common share

   $ 1.64      $ 1.54      $ 1.50   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF COMPREHENSIVE INCOME

(In Millions)

 

     Years Ended December 31,  
         2016             2015             2014      

Consolidated net income

   $ 1,180      $ 752      $ 1,338   

Other comprehensive income (loss), net of tax provision (benefit):

      

Derivative instruments, net

     12        9        1   

Available-for-sale securities, net

     5        (2     4   

Foreign currency translation adjustments

     28        (159     (124

Post-retirement benefit obligation, net

     2        2        (12
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Other comprehensive income (loss), net of tax provision (benefit)

     47        (150     (131
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Comprehensive income

     1,227        602        1,207   

Less: Comprehensive income (loss) attributable to noncontrolling interests

     (2     (1     40   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Comprehensive income attributable to Waste Management, Inc.

   $ 1,229      $ 603      $ 1,167   
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

See notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

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WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF CASH FLOWS

(In Millions)

 

    Years Ended December 31,  
    2016     2015     2014  

Cash flows from operating activities:

     

Consolidated net income

  $ 1,180      $ 752      $ 1,338   

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

     

Depreciation and amortization

    1,301        1,245        1,292   

Deferred income tax (benefit) provision

    73        30        (118

Interest accretion on landfill liabilities

    91        89        88   

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

    —          1        14   

Provision for bad debts

    42        36        42   

Equity-based compensation expense

    90        72        65   

Excess tax benefits associated with equity-based transactions

    (28     (15     (5

Net gain on disposal of assets

    (24     (18     (35

(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments and other, net

    110        87        (127

Equity in net losses of unconsolidated entities, net of dividends

    44        42        42   

Loss on early extinguishment of debt

    4        555        —     

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

     

Receivables

    (78     (178     (268

Other current assets

    (12     16        (19

Other assets

    78        (7     22   

Accounts payable and accrued liabilities

    174        (112     117   

Deferred revenues and other liabilities

    (85     (97     (117
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net cash provided by operating activities

    2,960        2,498        2,331   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Cash flows from investing activities:

     

Acquisitions of businesses, net of cash acquired

    (611     (554     (35

Capital expenditures

    (1,339     (1,233     (1,151

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

    43        145        2,253   

Net receipts from restricted trust and escrow accounts

    —          51        19   

Investments in unconsolidated entities

    (21     (20     (33

Other, net

    (4     3        (58
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net cash provided by (used in) investing activities

    (1,932     (1,608     995   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Cash flows from financing activities:

     

New borrowings

    3,057        2,337        2,817   

Debt repayments

    (2,682     (2,764     (3,568

Premiums paid on early extinguishment of debt

    (2     (555     —     

Common stock repurchase program

    (725     (600     (600

Cash dividends

    (726     (695     (693

Exercise of common stock options

    63        77        93   

Excess tax benefits associated with equity-based transactions

    28        15        5   

Acquisitions of and distributions paid to noncontrolling interests

    (1     (1     (125

Other, net

    (47     31        (1
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net cash used in financing activities

    (1,035     (2,155     (2,072
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Effect of exchange rate changes on cash and cash equivalents

    —          (3     (5
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Increase (decrease) in cash and cash equivalents

    (7     (1,268     1,249   

Cash and cash equivalents at beginning of year

    39        1,307        58   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Cash and cash equivalents at end of year

  $ 32      $ 39      $ 1,307   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

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        
         

 

 

Common Stock

    Additional
Paid-In

Capital
    Retained
Earnings
    Accumulated
Other
Comprehensive

Income (Loss)
   

 

 

Treasury Stock

    Noncontrolling
Interests
 
    Total     Shares     Amounts           Shares     Amounts    

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 tax provision (benefit)

    (131     —          —          —          —          (131     —          —          —     

Cash dividends

    (693     —          —          —          (693     —          —          —          —     

Equity-based compensation transactions, including dividend equivalents, net of tax provision (benefit)

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

Common stock repurchase program

    (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, net

    —          —          —          —          —          —          7        —          —     
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Balance, December 31, 2014

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

Consolidated net income

    752        —          —          —          753        —          —          —          (1

Other comprehensive income (loss), net of tax provision (benefit)

    (150     —          —          —          —          (150     —          —          —     

Cash dividends

    (695     —          —          —          (695     —          —          —          —     

Equity-based compensation transactions, including dividend equivalents, net of tax provision (benefit)

    171        —          —          62        (7     —          3,457        116        —     

Common stock repurchase program

    (600     —          —          180        —          —          (14,823     (780     —     

Other, net

    —          —          —          —          —          —          6        —          —     
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Balance, December 31, 2015

  $ 5,367        630,282      $ 6      $ 4,827      $ 6,939      $ (127     (183,105   $ (6,300   $ 22   

Consolidated net income

    1,180        —          —          —          1,182        —          —          —          (2

Other comprehensive income (loss), net of tax provision (benefit)

    47        —          —          —          —          47        —          —          —     

Cash dividends

    (726     —          —          —          (726     —          —          —          —     

Equity-based compensation transactions, including dividend equivalents, net of tax provision (benefit)

    186        —          —          69        (7     —          3,556        124        —     

Common stock repurchase program

    (725     —          —          (45     —          —          (11,241     (680     —     

Other, net

    (9     —          —          (1     —          —          (177     (11     3   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Balance, December 31, 2016

  $ 5,320        630,282      $ 6      $ 4,850      $ 7,388      $ (80     (190,967   $ (6,867   $ 23   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

See notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

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Index to Financial Statements

WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.

NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

Years Ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014

1. Business

The financial statements presented in this report represent the consolidation of Waste Management, Inc., a Delaware corporation; its wholly-owned and majority-owned subsidiaries; and certain variable interest entities for which Waste Management, Inc. or its subsidiaries are the primary beneficiaries as described in Note 20. Waste Management Inc. 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, disposal, and recycling and resource recovery services. Through our subsidiaries, we are also a leading developer, operator and owner of landfill gas-to-energy facilities in the United States.

We evaluate, oversee and manage the financial performance of our Solid Waste business subsidiaries through our 17 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 is included in Note 21.

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. Refer to Note 19 for additional information related to our divestitures.

2. Adoption of New Accounting Standards and Reclassifications

Adoption of New Accounting Standards

Debt Issuance Costs — In April 2015, and as subsequently amended, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) issued amended authoritative guidance associated with debt issuance costs which were previously presented as assets related to recognized debt liabilities. The amended guidance requires that debt issuance costs, other than those costs related to line of credit arrangements, be presented on the balance sheet as a direct deduction from the related debt liability, which is similar to the presentation for debt discounts and premiums. This guidance was effective for the Company on January 1, 2016. The Company’s adoption of this guidance was applied retrospectively and resulted in a reclassification of $52 million of such costs in our Consolidated Balance Sheet at December 31, 2015.

Consolidation — In February 2015, the FASB issued amended authoritative guidance associated with consolidation. The amended guidance makes changes to existing consolidation requirements associated with the analysis a reporting entity must perform to determine whether it should consolidate certain types of legal entities, including limited partnerships and variable interest entities. The guidance was effective for the Company on January 1, 2016. The Company’s adoption of this guidance did not impact our consolidated financial statements.

Reclassifications

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

 

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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 unconsolidated entities 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, long-lived 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, and accounts receivable. 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 and diversity of customers we serve. At December 31, 2016 and 2015, no single customer represented greater than 5% of total accounts receivable.

Accounts 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 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

 

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NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS — (Continued)

 

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, 2016 and 2015, include receivables related to income tax payments in excess of our current provision for income taxes of $352 million and $439 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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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 completed.

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, 2016, 2015 and 2014, 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 long-term asset retirement obligations at December 31, 2016 is approximately 6.0%. We expect to apply a credit-adjusted, risk-free discount rate of 4.0% to liabilities incurred in the first quarter of 2017.

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” expenses within our Consolidated Statements of Operations.

 

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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 lease or other contractual agreements, 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;

 

    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 meets Company criteria for investment.

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 16 landfill sites with expansions included at December 31, 2016, three landfills required the Chief Financial Officer to approve the inclusion of the unpermitted airspace because the permit application process did 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.

 

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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, 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;

 

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    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 $120 million higher than the $246 million recorded in the Consolidated Financial Statements as of December 31, 2016. 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, 2016 and 2015) 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” 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,  
       2016         2015         2014    

Charge (reduction) to operating expenses

   $ (2   $ (2   $ 10   

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

     2.5     2.25     2.00

The portion of our recorded environmental remediation liabilities that were not subject to inflation or discounting, as the amounts and timing of payments are not fixed or reliably determinable, was $90 million and $52 million at December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively. Had we not inflated and discounted any portion of our environmental remediation liability, the amount recorded would have remained the same at December 31, 2016 and decreased $3 million at December 31, 2015.

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

 

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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

     5 to 40   

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.

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, 2016 are disclosed in Note 11.

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 will operate the landfill for the life of the operating permit. 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.

 

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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 if, and when, additional information regarding these contingencies becomes available to further define and quantify assets acquired and liabilities assumed. Subsequent to finalization of purchase accounting, these revisions are accounted for as adjustments to income from operations. All acquisition-related transaction costs are 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 Long-Lived 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 fair value on the acquisition date 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 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.

Long-Lived Asset Impairments

We assess our long-lived assets for impairment as required under the applicable accounting standards. If necessary, impairments are recorded in the “(Income) expense from divestitures, asset impairments and unusual items” line item in our Consolidated Statement of Operations.

Property and Equipment, including Landfills and Definite-Lived Intangible Assets — We monitor the carrying value of our long-lived assets for potential impairment on an ongoing basis and test the recoverability of such assets generally 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

 

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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. 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.

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.

Goodwill — At least annually, and more frequently if warranted, we assess the goodwill of our reporting units 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 a reporting unit. The first step in our quantitative assessment identifies potential impairments by comparing the estimated fair value of a 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 an income approach. However, when appropriate, we may also use a market approach. 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 earnings.

 

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We then apply that multiple to the reporting units’ earnings to estimate their fair values. We believe that this approach may also be appropriate in certain circumstances because it provides a fair value estimate using valuation inputs from entities with operations and economic characteristics comparable to our reporting units.

Fair value is computed using several 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 in our analysis. However, we believe our methodology for estimating the fair value of our reporting units is reasonable.

Refer to Note 13 for information related to 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 it is more likely than not that an asset has been impaired, we then evaluate for impairment by comparing the estimated fair value of the asset to its 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 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 is computed using several 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 in our analysis. However, we believe our methodology for estimating the fair value of these assets is reasonable.

Restricted Trust and Escrow Accounts

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. 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. As of December 31, 2016 and 2015, we had $105 million of restricted trust and escrow accounts, which are primarily included in “Other assets” in our Consolidated Balance Sheets. See Note 20 for additional discussion related to restricted trust and escrow accounts for final capping, closure, post-closure or environmental remediation obligations.

 

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NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS — (Continued)

 

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. The following table summarizes our equity and cost method investments as of December 31 (in millions):

 

     2016      2015  

Equity method investments

   $ 173       $ 186   

Cost method investments

     147         174   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Investments in unconsolidated entities

   $ 320       $ 360   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

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. Impairments of equity and cost method investments are recorded in “Equity in net losses of unconsolidated entities” and “Other, net” in the Consolidated Statements of Operations, respectively.

Foreign Currency

We have operations in Canada, as well as certain support functions in India and investments in Hong Kong. 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

From time to time, we will 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. Through March 2016, we used foreign currency exchange rate derivatives to hedge our exposure to fluctuations in exchange rates for anticipated intercompany cash transactions between Waste Management Holdings, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary (“WM Holdings”), and its Canadian subsidiaries. Prior to the sale of our Wheelabrator business in December 2014, 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 valuations of our hedging instruments from third-party pricing models. The estimated fair values of derivatives used to hedge risks fluctuate over time and should be 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 hedge ineffectiveness in 2016, 2015 or 2014.

 

   

Foreign Currency Derivatives — Our cross-currency swaps had been designated as cash flow hedges for accounting purposes, which resulted in the unrealized changes in the fair value of the derivative instruments being recorded in “Accumulated other comprehensive income (loss)” within the equity

 

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NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS — (Continued)

 

 

section of our Consolidated Balance Sheets. The associated balance in accumulated other comprehensive income (loss) was reclassified to earnings as the hedged cash flows affected earnings. In each of the periods presented, these derivatives 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 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 was recorded in “Accumulated other comprehensive income (loss)” within the equity section of our Consolidated Balance Sheets. The associated balance in accumulated other comprehensive income (loss) 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; otherwise, it 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 recyclable commodities; from the sale of electricity and landfill gas, which are byproducts of our landfill operations and from the sale of 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 our environmental fee, fuel surcharge and regulatory recovery fee, which are intended to pass through to customers increased direct and indirect costs incurred. 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, or recycling commodities are delivered.

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.

 

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Capitalized Interest

We capitalize interest on certain projects under development, including landfill expansion projects, certain assets under construction, including operating landfills and landfill gas-to-energy projects and internal-use software. During 2016, 2015 and 2014, total interest costs were $394 million, $407 million and $487 million, respectively, of which $9 million was capitalized in 2016, $16 million was capitalized in 2015 and $16 million was capitalized in 2014. In 2016, 2015 and 2014, interest was capitalized primarily for landfills under construction.

Income Taxes

The Company is subject to income tax in the U.S. 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 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.

Should interest and penalties be assessed by taxing authorities on any underpayment of income tax, such amounts would be accrued and classified as a component of provision for income taxes 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 authoritative guidance on accounting for contingencies. 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. See Note 11 for discussion of our commitments and contingencies.

Supplemental Cash Flow Information

 

Cash paid during the years ended December 31 (in millions):    2016      2015      2014  

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

   $ 375       $ 384       $ 461   

Income taxes

     442         419         758   

During 2016, 2015 and 2014, we did not have any significant non-cash investing and financing activities. Non-cash investing and financing activities are generally excluded from the Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows.

 

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NOTES TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS — (Continued)

 

4. Landfill and Environmental Remediation Liabilities

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

 

     December 31, 2016      December 31, 2015  
     Landfill      Environmental
Remediation
     Total      Landfill      Environmental
Remediation
     Total  

Current (in accrued liabilities)

   $ 119       $ 28       $ 147       $ 112       $ 31       $ 143   

Long-term

     1,457         218         1,675         1,406         178         1,584   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
   $ 1,576       $ 246       $ 1,822       $ 1,518       $ 209       $ 1,727   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

The changes to landfill and environmental remediation liabilities for the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2016 are reflected in the table below (in millions):

 

     Landfill      Environmental
Remediation
 

December 31, 2014

   $ 1,443       $ 235   

Obligations incurred and capitalized

     61         —     

Obligations settled

     (71      (30

Interest accretion

     89         3   

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

     (11      5   

Acquisitions, divestitures and other adjustments(d)

     7         (4
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

December 31, 2015

   $ 1,518       $ 209   

Obligations incurred and capitalized

     59         —     

Obligations settled

     (91      (24

Interest accretion

     91         3   

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

     (1      58   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

December 31, 2016

   $ 1,576       $ 246   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(a) The amount reported for our landfill liabilities includes a decrease of approximately $18 million for 2015 and $11 million for 2016, related to our year-end annual review of landfill final capping, closure and post-closure obligations.

 

(b) The amount reported in 2015 for our environmental remediation liabilities includes the impact of an increase in the risk-free discount rate used to measure our liabilities from 2.0% at December 31, 2014 to 2.25% at December 31, 2015, resulting in a decrease of $3 million to our environmental remediation liabilities and a corresponding decrease to “Operating” expenses.

The amount reported in 2016 for environmental remediation liabilities includes the impact of an increase in the risk-free discount rate used to measure our liabilities from 2.25% at December 31, 2015 to 2.5% at December 31, 2016, resulting in a decrease of $2 million to our environmental remediation liabilities and a corresponding decrease to “Operating” expenses.

 

(c) The amount reported in 2016 for our landfill liabilities includes an increase of $13 million due to acceleration of the expected timing of closure and post-closure activities for a landfill. See Note 13 for further discussion of the impairment charge related to this landfill.

 

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The amount reported in 2016 for our environmental remediation liabilities includes the impact of an increase of $44 million in our cost estimates associated with a subsidiary’s closed site in Harris County, Texas. See Notes 11 and 13 for further discussion of this environmental remediation adjustment.

 

(d) The amount reported for our 2015 landfill liabilities include an increase of approximately $18 million as a result of our acquisition of Deffenbaugh Disposal, Inc. (“Deffenbaugh”).

Our recorded liabilities as of December 31, 2016 include the impacts of inflating certain of these costs based on our expectations of 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 $28 million in 2017, $21 million in 2018, $29 million in 2019, $63 million in 2020, $17 million in 2021 and $88 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 Notes 18 and 20 for additional information related to these trusts.

5. Property and Equipment

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

 

     2016      2015  

Land

   $ 608       $ 592   

Landfills

     14,276         13,772