|Commitments And Contingencies
||COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES|
We have entered into contracts that contain guarantees to unaffiliated parties that could require performance or payment under certain conditions. As of March 31, 2020, there are no material outstanding claims related to our guarantee obligations, and we do not anticipate we will be required to make any material payments under these guarantees in the near term.
Letters of Credit
At March 31, 2020, we had outstanding letters of credit totaling $1.415 billion as follows:
•$1.058 billion to support commodity risk management collateral requirements in the normal course of business, including over-the-counter and exchange-traded transactions and collateral postings with ISOs or RTOs;
•$170 million to support battery and solar development projects;
•$45 million to support executory contracts and insurance agreements;
•$81 million to support our REP financial requirements with the PUCT, and
•$61 million for other credit support requirements.
At March 31, 2020, we had outstanding surety bonds totaling $64 million to support performance under various contracts and legal obligations in the normal course of business.
Litigation and Regulatory Proceedings
Our material legal proceedings and regulatory proceedings affecting our business are described below. We believe that we have valid defenses to the legal proceedings described below and intend to defend them vigorously. We also intend to participate in the regulatory processes described below. We record reserves for estimated losses related to these matters when information available indicates that a loss is probable and the amount of the loss, or range of loss, can be reasonably estimated. As applicable, we have established an adequate reserve for the matters discussed below. In addition, legal costs are expensed as incurred. Management has assessed each of the following legal matters based on current information and made a judgment concerning its potential outcome, considering the nature of the claim, the amount and nature of damages sought, and the probability of success. Unless specified below, we are unable to predict the outcome of these matters or reasonably estimate the scope or amount of any associated costs and potential liabilities, but they could have a material impact on our results of operations, liquidity, or financial condition. As additional information becomes available, we adjust our assessment and estimates of such contingencies accordingly. Because litigation and rulemaking proceedings are subject to inherent uncertainties and unfavorable rulings or developments, it is possible that the ultimate resolution of these matters could be at amounts that are different from our currently recorded reserves and that such differences could be material.
Gas Index Pricing Litigation — We, through our subsidiaries, and other energy companies are named as defendants in several lawsuits claiming damages resulting from alleged price manipulation through false reporting of natural gas prices to various index publications, wash trading and churn trading from 2000-2002. The plaintiffs in these cases allege that the defendants engaged in an antitrust conspiracy to inflate natural gas prices during the relevant time period and seek damages under the respective state antitrust statutes. We remain as defendants in two consolidated putative class actions (Wisconsin) and one individual action (Kansas) both pending in federal court in those states.
Wood River Rail Dispute — In November 2017, Dynegy Midwest Generation, LLC (DMG) received notification that BNSF Railway Company and Norfolk Southern Railway Company were initiating dispute resolution related to DMG's suspension of its Wood River Rail Transportation Agreement with the railroads. Settlement discussions required under the dispute resolution process have been unsuccessful. In March 2018, BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) and Norfolk Southern Railway Company (NS) filed a demand for arbitration and an arbitration hearing is currently scheduled for November 2020.
Coffeen and Duck Creek Rail Disputes — In April 2020, IPH, LLC (IPH) received notification that BNSF and NS were initiating dispute resolution related to IPH's suspension of its Coffeen Rail Transportation Agreement with the railroads, and Illinois Power Resources Generating, LLC (IPRG), received notification that BNSF was initiating dispute resolution related to IPRG's suspension of its Duck Creek Rail Transportation Agreement with BNSF. In November 2019, IPH and IPRG sent suspension notices to the railroads asserting that the MPS rule requirement to retire at least 2,000 megawatts of generation (see discussion below) was a change-in-law under the agreement that rendered continued operation of the plants no longer economically feasible. In addition, IPH and IPRG asserted that the MPS rule's retirement requirement also qualified as a force majeure event under the agreements excusing performance.
ME2C Patent Dispute — In July 2019, Midwest Energy Emissions Corporation and MES Inc. (collectively, the plaintiffs) filed a patent infringement complaint in federal court in Delaware against numerous parties, including Vistra Energy and some of its subsidiaries (collectively, the Vistra defendants). The complaint alleges that the Vistra defendants infringed two patents owned by the plaintiffs by using specific processes for mercury control at certain coal-fueled plants. The complaint seeks injunctive relief and unspecified damages. In September 2019, the Vistra defendants filed a motion to dismiss that lawsuit and that remains pending. In addition, in April 2020, the Vistra defendants along with certain other defendants began implementing its defense strategy by filing an inter partes review before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office challenging the validity of one of the patents at issue.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
In August 2015, the EPA finalized rules to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electricity generation units, referred to as the Clean Power Plan, including rules for existing facilities that would establish state-specific emissions rate goals to reduce nationwide CO2 emissions. Various parties filed petitions for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit Court). In July 2019, petitioners filed a joint motion to dismiss in light of the EPA's new rule that replaces the Clean Power Plan, the Affordable Clean Energy rule, discussed below. In September 2019, the D.C. Circuit Court granted petitioners' motion to dismiss and dismissed all of the petitions challenging the Clean Power Plan as moot.
In July 2019, the EPA finalized a rule to repeal the Clean Power Plan, with new regulations addressing GHG emissions from existing coal-fueled electric generation units, referred to as the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. The ACE rule develops emission guidelines that states must use when developing plans to regulate GHG emissions from existing coal-fueled electric generating units. States must submit their plans for regulating GHG emissions from existing facilities by July 2022. States where we operate coal plants (Texas, Illinois and Ohio) have begun the development of their state plans to comply with the rule. Environmental groups and certain states filed petitions for review of the ACE rule and the repeal of the Clean Power Plan in the D.C. Circuit Court. Additionally, in December 2018, the EPA issued proposed revisions to the emission standards for new, modified and reconstructed units. Vistra Energy submitted comments on that proposed rulemaking.
Regional Haze — Reasonable Progress and Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) for Texas
In January 2016, the EPA issued a final rule approving in part and disapproving in part Texas's 2009 State Implementation Plan (SIP) as it relates to the reasonable progress component of the Regional Haze program and issuing a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP). The EPA's emission limits in the FIP assume additional control equipment for specific lignite/coal-fueled generation units across Texas, including new flue gas desulfurization systems (scrubbers) at seven electricity generation units (including Big Brown Units 1 and 2, Monticello Units 1 and 2 and Coleto Creek) and upgrades to existing scrubbers at seven generation units (including Martin Lake Units 1, 2 and 3, Monticello Unit 3 and Sandow Unit 4).
In March 2016, various parties (including Luminant and the State of Texas) filed petitions for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (Fifth Circuit Court) challenging the FIP's Texas requirements. In July 2016, the Fifth Circuit Court granted motions to stay the rule pending final review of the petitions for review. In March 2017, the Fifth Circuit Court granted a motion by the EPA to remand the rule back to the EPA for reconsideration. The stay of the rule (and the emission control requirements) remains in effect. The retirements of our Monticello, Big Brown and Sandow 4 plants should have a favorable impact on this rulemaking and litigation since these plants constitute a large portion of the plants that the rule seeks to regulate. Further, we believe that these retirements and the BART rule (see discussion below) obviates the need for any additional limits on our remaining Texas plants to address the requirements in the regional haze rule.
In September 2017, the EPA signed a final rule addressing BART for Texas electricity generation units, with the rule serving as a partial approval of Texas's 2009 SIP and a partial FIP. For SO2, the rule established an intrastate Texas emission allowance trading program as a "BART alternative" that operates in a similar fashion to a CSAPR trading program. The program includes 39 generating units (including our Martin Lake, Big Brown, Monticello, Sandow 4, Coleto Creek, Stryker 2 and Graham 2 plants). The compliance obligations in the program started on January 1, 2019. The retirements of our Monticello, Big Brown and Sandow 4 plants have enhanced our ability to comply with this BART rule for SO2. For NOX, the rule adopted the CSAPR's ozone program as BART and for particulate matter, the rule approved Texas's SIP that determines that no electricity generation units are subject to BART for particulate matter. Various parties filed a petition challenging the rule in the Fifth Circuit Court as well as a petition for reconsideration filed with the EPA. Luminant intervened on behalf of the EPA in the Fifth Circuit Court action. In March 2018, the Fifth Circuit Court abated its proceedings pending conclusion of the EPA's reconsideration process. In August 2018, the EPA issued a proposal to affirm the prior BART final rule and sought comments on that proposal, which were due in October 2018. We submitted comments supporting the EPA's proposal to affirm the BART final rule. In November 2019, the EPA proposed additional revisions to the BART final rule, and we submitted comments on that proposal in January 2020. If the EPA adopts the rule as proposed in August 2018 or adopts the rule with the revisions proposed in November 2019, we expect that we would be able to comply with the BART rule.
Affirmative Defenses During Malfunctions
In May 2015, the EPA finalized a rule requiring 36 states, including Texas, Illinois and Ohio, to remove or replace either EPA-approved exemptions or affirmative defense provisions for excess emissions during upset events and unplanned maintenance and startup and shutdown events, referred to as the SIP Call. Various parties (including Luminant, the State of Texas and the State of Ohio) filed petitions for review of the EPA's final rule, and all of those petitions were consolidated in the D.C. Circuit Court. In April 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court ordered the case to be held in abeyance. In April 2019, the EPA Region 6 proposed a rule to withdraw the SIP Call with respect to the Texas affirmative defense provisions. We submitted comments on that proposed rulemaking in June 2019. In February 2020, the EPA issued the final rule withdrawing the Texas SIP Call. In April 2020, a group of environmental petitioners, including the Sierra Club, filed a petition in the D.C. Circuit Court challenging the EPA's action.
Illinois Multi-Pollutant Standards (MPS)
In August 2019, changes proposed by the Illinois Pollution Control Board to the MPS rule, which places NOx, SO2 and mercury emissions limits on our coal plants located in MISO went into effect. Under the revised MPS rule, our allowable SO2 and NOX emissions from the MISO fleet are 48% and 42% lower, respectively, than prior to the rule changes. The revised MPS rule requires the continuous operation of existing selective catalytic reduction (SCR) control systems during the ozone season, requires SCR-controlled units to meet an ozone season NOX emission rate limit, and set an additional, site-specific annual SO2 limit for our Joppa Power Station. Additionally, in 2019, the Company retired its Havana, Hennepin, Coffeen and Duck Creek plants in order to comply with the MPS rule's requirement to retire at least 2,000 MW of our generation in MISO. See Note 4 for information regarding the retirement of these four plants.
SO2 Designations for Texas
In November 2016, the EPA finalized its nonattainment designations for counties surrounding our Big Brown, Monticello and Martin Lake generation plants. The final designations require Texas to develop nonattainment plans for these areas. In February 2017, the State of Texas and Luminant filed challenges to the nonattainment designations in the Fifth Circuit Court. Subsequently, in October 2017, the Fifth Circuit Court granted the EPA's motion to hold the case in abeyance considering the EPA's representation that it intended to revisit the nonattainment rule. In December 2017, the TCEQ submitted a petition for reconsideration to the EPA. In August 2019, the EPA issued a proposed Error Correction Rule for all three areas, which, if finalized, would revise its previous nonattainment designations and each area at issue would be designated unclassifiable. In September 2019, we submitted comments in support of the proposed Error Correction Rule.
Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs)
In November 2015, the EPA revised the ELGs for steam electricity generation facilities, which will impose more stringent standards (as individual permits are renewed) for wastewater streams, such as flue gas desulfurization (FGD), fly ash, bottom ash and flue gas mercury control wastewaters. Various parties filed petitions for review of the ELG rule, and the petitions were consolidated in the Fifth Circuit Court. In April 2017, the EPA granted petitions requesting reconsideration of the ELG rule and administratively stayed the rule's compliance date deadlines. In August 2017, the EPA announced that its reconsideration of the ELG rule would be limited to a review of the effluent limitations applicable to FGD and bottom ash wastewaters and the agency subsequently postponed the earliest compliance dates in the ELG rule for the application of effluent limitations for FGD and bottom ash wastewaters from November 1, 2018 to November 1, 2020. Based on these administrative developments, the Fifth Circuit Court agreed to sever and hold in abeyance challenges to effluent limitations. The remainder of the case proceeded, and in April 2019 the Fifth Circuit Court vacated and remanded portions of the EPA's ELG rule pertaining to effluent limitations for legacy wastewater and leachate. In November 2019, the EPA issued a proposal that would extend the compliance deadline for FGD wastewater to no later than December 31, 2025 and maintains the December 31, 2023 compliance date for bottom ash transport water. The proposal also creates new sub-categories of facilities with more flexible FGD compliance options, including a retirement exemption to 2028 and a low utilization boiler exemption. The proposed rule also modified some of the FGD final effluent limitations. We filed comments on the proposal in January 2020.
Given the EPA's decision to reconsider the FGD and bottom ash wastewater provisions of the ELG rule, the rule postponing the ELG rule's earliest compliance dates for those provisions, the uncertainty stemming from the vacatur of the effluent limitations for legacy wastewater and leachate, and the intertwined relationship of the ELG rule with the Coal Combustion Residuals rule discussed below, which is also being reconsidered by the EPA, as well as pending legal challenges concerning both rules, substantial uncertainty exists regarding our projected capital expenditures for ELG compliance, including the timing of such expenditures.
Zimmer NOVs — In December 2014, the EPA issued a notice of violation (NOV) alleging violation of opacity standards at the Zimmer facility. The EPA previously had issued NOVs to Zimmer in 2008 and 2010 alleging violations of the CAA, the Ohio State Implementation Plan and the station's air permits including standards applicable to opacity, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid mist and heat input. In January 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint and proposed consent decree agreed to by Dynegy Zimmer, LLC in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio that would resolve claims alleged in the 2008, 2010 and 2014 NOVs. We expect the consent decree will be effective in the second quarter of 2020. We believe the consent decree will not have a material impact on our results of operations, liquidity or financial condition.
Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR)/Groundwater
In July 2018, the EPA published a final rule, which became effective in August 2018, that amends certain provisions of the CCR rule that the agency issued in 2015. Among other changes, the 2018 revisions extend closure deadlines to October 31, 2020, related to the aquifer location restriction and groundwater monitoring requirements. Also, in August 2018, the D.C. Circuit Court issued a decision that vacates and remands certain provisions of the 2015 CCR rule, including an applicability exemption for legacy impoundments. The EPA is expected to undertake further revisions to its CCR regulations in response to the D.C. Circuit Court's ruling. In October 2018, the rule that extends certain closure deadlines to 2020 was challenged in the D.C. Circuit Court. In March 2019, the D.C. Circuit Court granted the EPA's request for remand without vacatur. In December 2019, the EPA issued a proposed rule that would revise the closure deadlines for unlined CCR impoundments from October 31, 2020 to August 31, 2020 and establish new procedures for seeking extensions of that revised closure deadline. One of the new proposed extension procedures would require the generation plant electing this option to notify the EPA by May 2020 that it will retire by either 2023 or 2028 depending on the size of the impoundment at issue. If the rule is finalized as proposed, we may decide to avail ourselves of this compliance mechanism for some of our facilities. We filed comments on the proposal in January 2020.
MISO — In 2012, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) issued violation notices alleging violations of groundwater standards onsite at our Baldwin and Vermilion facilities' CCR surface impoundments. These violation notices remain unresolved; however, in 2016, the IEPA approved our closure and post-closure care plans for the Baldwin old east, east, and west fly ash CCR surface impoundments. We are working towards implementation of those closure plans.
At our retired Vermilion facility, which was not subject to the EPA's 2015 CCR rule until the aforementioned D.C. Circuit Court decision in August 2018, we submitted proposed corrective action plans involving closure of two CCR surface impoundments (i.e., the old east and the north impoundments) to the IEPA in 2012, and we submitted revised plans in 2014. In May 2017, in response to a request from the IEPA for additional information regarding the closure of these Vermilion surface impoundments, we agreed to perform additional groundwater sampling and closure options and riverbank stabilizing options. In May 2018, Prairie Rivers Network filed a citizen suit in federal court in Illinois against DMG, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act for alleged unauthorized discharges. In August 2018, we filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In November 2018, the district court granted our motion to dismiss and judgment was entered in our favor. Plaintiffs have appealed the judgment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. That appeal is now stayed. In April 2019, PRN also filed a complaint against DMG before the IPCB, alleging that groundwater flows allegedly associated with the ash impoundments at the Vermilion site have resulted in exceedances both of surface water standards and Illinois groundwater standards dating back to 1992. This matter is in the very early stages.
In 2012, the IEPA issued violation notices alleging violations of groundwater standards at the Newton and Coffeen facilities' CCR surface impoundments. We are addressing these CCR surface impoundments in accordance with the federal CCR rule. In June 2018, the IEPA issued a violation notice for alleged seep discharges claimed to be coming from the surface impoundments at our retired Vermilion facility and that notice has since been referred to the Illinois Attorney General.
In December 2018, the Sierra Club filed a complaint with the IPCB alleging the disposal and storage of coal ash at the Coffeen, Edwards and Joppa generation facilities are causing exceedances of the applicable groundwater standards.
In July 2019, coal ash disposal and storage legislation in Illinois was enacted. The legislation addresses state requirements for the proper closure of coal ash ponds in the state of Illinois. The law tasks the IEPA and the IPCB to set up a series of guidelines, rules and permit requirements for closure of ash ponds. In March 2020, IEPA issued its proposed rule and we expect the rulemaking process should be completed by early 2021. Under the proposed rule, coal ash impoundment owners would be required to submit a closure alternative analysis to the IEPA for the selection of the best method for coal ash remediation at a particular site. The proposed rule does not mandate closure by removal at any site.
For all of the above matters, if certain corrective action measures, including groundwater treatment or removal of ash, are required at any of our coal-fueled facilities, we may incur significant costs that could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. Until the revisions to the EPA's CCR rule and the Illinois coal ash rulemaking are finalized and we undertake further site specific evaluations required by each program we will not know the full range of costs of groundwater remediation, if any, that ultimately may be required under those rules. However, the currently anticipated CCR surface impoundment and landfill closure costs, as contained in our AROs, reflect the costs of closure methods that our operations and environmental services teams believe are appropriate and protective of the environment for each location.
MISO 2015-2016 Planning Resource Auction
In May 2015, three complaints were filed at FERC regarding the Zone 4 results for the 2015-2016 planning resource auction (PRA) conducted by MISO. Dynegy is a named party in one of the complaints. The complainants, Public Citizen, Inc., the Illinois Attorney General and Southwestern Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Complainants), challenged the results of the PRA as unjust and unreasonable, requested rate relief/refunds, and requested changes to the MISO planning resource auction structure going forward. Complainants also alleged that Dynegy may have engaged in economic or physical withholding in Zone 4 constituting market manipulation in the PRA. The Independent Market Monitor for MISO (MISO IMM), which was responsible for monitoring the PRA, determined that all offers were competitive and that no physical or economic withholding occurred. The MISO IMM also stated, in a filing responding to the complaints, that there is no basis for the remedies sought by the Complainants. We filed our answer to these complaints explaining that we complied fully with the terms of the MISO tariff in connection with the PRA and disputing the allegations. The Illinois Industrial Energy Consumers filed a related complaint at FERC against MISO in June 2015 requesting prospective changes to the MISO tariff. Dynegy also responded to this complaint with respect to Dynegy's conduct alleged in the complaint.
In October 2015, FERC issued an order of nonpublic, formal investigation (the investigation) into whether market manipulation or other potential violations of FERC orders, rules and regulations occurred before or during the PRA.
In December 2015, FERC issued an order on the complaints requiring a number of prospective changes to the MISO tariff provisions effective as of the 2016-2017 planning resource auction. The order did not address the arguments of the Complainants regarding the PRA and stated that those issues remained under consideration and would be addressed in a future order.
In July 2019, FERC issued an order denying the remaining issues raised by the complaints and noted that the investigation into Dynegy was closed. FERC found that Dynegy's conduct did not constitute market manipulation and the results of the PRA were just and reasonable because the PRA was conducted in accordance with MISO's tariff. With the issuance of the order, this matter has been resolved in Dynegy's favor. The request for rehearing was denied by FERC in March 2020 and remains subject to appeal.