|Contingencies and Commitments
CMS Energy and Consumers are involved in various matters that give rise to contingent liabilities. Depending on the specific issues, the resolution of these contingencies could negatively affect CMS Energy’s and Consumers’ liquidity, financial condition, and results of operations. In their disclosures of these matters, CMS Energy and Consumers provide an estimate of the possible loss or range of loss when such an estimate can be made. Disclosures that state that CMS Energy or Consumers cannot predict the outcome of a matter indicate that they are unable to estimate a possible loss or range of loss for the matter.
CMS Energy Contingencies
Bay Harbor: CMS Land retained environmental remediation obligations for the collection and treatment of leachate at Bay Harbor after selling its interests in the development in 2002. Leachate is produced when water enters into cement kiln dust piles left over from former cement plant operations at the site. In 2012, CMS Land and EGLE finalized an agreement that established the final remedies and the future water quality criteria at the site. CMS Land completed all construction necessary to implement the remedies required by the agreement and will continue to maintain and operate a system to discharge treated leachate into Little Traverse Bay under an NPDES permit, which was valid through September 2020. CMS Land submitted a renewal request for the permit in April 2020. CMS Land is allowed to continue operating under the previous NPDES permit until a response is received from EGLE.
At March 31, 2021, CMS Energy had a recorded liability of $45 million for its remaining obligations for environmental remediation. CMS Energy calculated this liability based on discounted projected costs, using a discount rate of 4.34 percent and an inflation rate of one percent on annual operating and maintenance costs. The undiscounted amount of the remaining obligation is $56 million. CMS Energy expects to pay the following amounts for long-term leachate disposal and operating and maintenance costs during the remainder of 2021 and in each of the next five years:
|Long-term leachate disposal and operating and maintenance costs||$||3 ||$||4 ||$||4 ||$||4 ||$||4 ||$||4 |
CMS Energy’s estimate of response activity costs and the timing of expenditures could change if there are changes in circumstances or assumptions used in calculating the liability. Although a liability for its present estimate of remaining response activity costs has been recorded, CMS Energy cannot predict the ultimate financial impact or outcome of this matter.
Equatorial Guinea Tax Claim: In 2002, CMS Energy sold its oil, gas, and methanol investments in Equatorial Guinea. The government of Equatorial Guinea claims that, in connection with the sale, CMS Energy owes $152 million in taxes, plus substantial penalties and interest that could be up to or
exceed the amount of the taxes claimed. In 2015, the matter was proceeding to formal arbitration; however, since then, the government of Equatorial Guinea has stopped communicating. CMS Energy has concluded that the government’s tax claim is without merit and believes the likelihood of material loss to be remote, but cannot predict the financial impact or outcome of the matter. An unfavorable outcome could have a material adverse effect on CMS Energy’s liquidity, financial condition, and results of operations.
Consumers Electric Utility Contingencies
Electric Environmental Matters: Consumers’ operations are subject to environmental laws and regulations. Historically, Consumers has generally been able to recover, in customer rates, the costs to operate its facilities in compliance with these laws and regulations.
Cleanup and Solid Waste: Consumers expects to incur remediation and other response activity costs at a number of sites under NREPA. Consumers believes that these costs should be recoverable in rates, but cannot guarantee that outcome. Consumers estimates that its liability for NREPA sites for which it can estimate a range of loss will be between $2 million and $4 million. At March 31, 2021, Consumers had a recorded liability of $2 million, the minimum amount in the range of its estimated probable NREPA liability, as no amount in the range was considered a better estimate than any other amount.
Consumers is a potentially responsible party at a number of contaminated sites administered under CERCLA. CERCLA liability is joint and several. In 2010, Consumers received official notification from the EPA that identified Consumers as a potentially responsible party for cleanup of PCBs at the Kalamazoo River CERCLA site. The notification claimed that the EPA has reason to believe that Consumers disposed of PCBs and arranged for the disposal and treatment of PCB-containing materials at portions of the site. In 2011, Consumers received a follow-up letter from the EPA requesting that Consumers agree to participate in a removal action plan along with several other companies for an area of lower Portage Creek, which is connected to the Kalamazoo River. All parties, including Consumers, that were asked to participate in the removal action plan declined to accept liability. Until further information is received from the EPA, Consumers is unable to estimate a range of potential liability for cleanup of the river.
Based on its experience, Consumers estimates that its share of the total liability for known CERCLA sites will be between $3 million and $8 million. Various factors, including the number and creditworthiness of potentially responsible parties involved with each site, affect Consumers’ share of the total liability. At March 31, 2021, Consumers had a recorded liability of $3 million for its share of the total liability at these sites, the minimum amount in the range of its estimated probable CERCLA liability, as no amount in the range was considered a better estimate than any other amount.
The timing of payments related to Consumers’ remediation and other response activities at its CERCLA and NREPA sites is uncertain. Consumers periodically reviews these cost estimates. A change in the underlying assumptions, such as an increase in the number of sites, different remediation techniques, the nature and extent of contamination, and legal and regulatory requirements, could affect its estimates of NREPA and CERCLA liability.
Ludington PCB: In 1998, during routine maintenance activities, Consumers identified PCB as a component in certain paint, grout, and sealant materials at Ludington. Consumers removed part of the PCB material and replaced it with non‑PCB material. Consumers has had several communications with the EPA regarding this matter, but cannot predict the financial impact or outcome.
MCV PPA: In 2017, the MCV Partnership initiated arbitration against Consumers, asserting a breach of contract associated with the MCV PPA. In 2019, an arbitration panel issued an order concluding that the
MCV Partnership is not entitled to any damages associated with a claim against Consumers that was related to the Clean Air Act. In November 2020, the MCV Partnership and Consumers signed a settlement agreement resolving all remaining disputes between the parties, and filed the settlement and associated agreements with the MPSC for approval. In March 2021, the MPSC approved the settlement and associated agreements.
Consumers Gas Utility Contingencies
Gas Environmental Matters: Consumers expects to incur remediation and other response activity costs at a number of sites under NREPA. These sites include 23 former MGP facilities. Consumers operated the facilities on these sites for some part of their operating lives. For some of these sites, Consumers has no present ownership interest or may own only a portion of the original site.
At March 31, 2021, Consumers had a recorded liability of $56 million for its remaining obligations for these sites. This amount represents the present value of long-term projected costs, using a discount rate of 2.57 percent and an inflation rate of 2.5 percent. The undiscounted amount of the remaining obligation is $61 million. Consumers expects to pay the following amounts for remediation and other response activity costs during the remainder of 2021 and in each of the next five years:
|Remediation and other response activity costs||$||3 ||$||9 ||$||23 ||$||11 ||$||2 ||$||1 |
Consumers periodically reviews these cost estimates. Any significant change in the underlying assumptions, such as an increase in the number of sites, changes in remediation techniques, or legal and regulatory requirements, could affect Consumers’ estimates of annual response activity costs and the MGP liability.
Pursuant to orders issued by the MPSC, Consumers defers its MGP-related remediation costs and recovers them from its customers over a ten-year period. At March 31, 2021, Consumers had a regulatory asset of $118 million related to the MGP sites.
Consumers estimates that its liability to perform remediation and other response activities at NREPA sites other than the MGP sites could reach $3 million. At March 31, 2021, Consumers had a recorded liability of less than $1 million, the minimum amount in the range of its estimated probable liability, as no amount in the range was considered a better estimate than any other amount.
Ray Compressor Station: On January 30, 2019, Consumers experienced a fire at the Ray Compressor Station, which resulted in the Ray Storage Field being off‑line or operating at significantly reduced capacity, which negatively affected Consumers’ natural gas supply and delivery capacity. This incident, which occurred during the extreme polar vortex weather condition, required Consumers to request voluntary reductions in customer load, to implement contingency gas supply purchases, and to implement a curtailment of natural gas deliveries for industrial and large commercial customers pursuant to Consumers’ MPSC curtailment tariff. The curtailment and request for voluntary reductions of customer loads were canceled as of midnight, February 1, 2019. Consumers investigated the cause of the incident, and filed a report on the incident with the MPSC in April 2019. In response, the MPSC issued an order in July 2019, directing Consumers to file additional reports regarding the incident and to include detail of the resulting costs in a future rate proceeding. The compressor station is presently operating at full capacity.
In May 2020, the MPSC approved an administrative settlement agreement between Consumers and the MPSC Staff, which resulted in a $10,000 civil penalty in connection with the fire. Consumers may also be subject to various claims from impacted customers and claims for damages.
In September 2020, the MPSC disallowed the recovery of $7 million in incremental gas purchases related to the fire. In January 2021, the MPSC denied Consumers’ petition for a rehearing challenging this disallowance. In February 2021, Consumers filed an appeal of the MPSC’s denial with the Michigan Court of Appeals. Consumers could also be subject to disallowances of costs associated with the repair and modification of the Ray Compressor Station. At March 31, 2021, Consumers had incurred capital expenditures of $17 million to restore and modify the compressor station.
As of March 31, 2021, Consumers had recorded an insurance recovery of $10 million related to the compressor station; of this amount, $7 million represented recovery of the costs to repair the station and $3 million represented recovery of incremental gas purchases related to the fire. Consumers recognized $4 million of the insurance recovery as a reduction to plant, property, and equipment, $3 million as a reduction of maintenance and other operating expenses, and $3 million as operating revenue.
At this time, Consumers cannot predict the outcome of these matters or other gas-related incidents and a reasonable estimate of a total loss cannot be made, but they could have a material adverse effect on Consumers’ results of operations, financial condition, or liquidity, and could subject Consumers’ gas utility to increased regulatory scrutiny.
Presented in the following table are CMS Energy’s and Consumers’ guarantees at March 31, 2021:
|Guarantee Description||Issue Date||Expiration Date||Maximum Obligation||Carrying Amount|
|CMS Energy, including Consumers|
Indemnity obligations from purchase of VIE1
|September 2020||indefinite||$||341 ||$||— |
Indemnity obligations from stock and asset sale agreements2
|various||indefinite||153 ||2 |
|July 2011||indefinite||30 ||— |
|July 2011||indefinite||$||30 ||$||— |
1In conjunction with the purchase of its interest in Aviator Wind Equity Holdings, CMS Enterprises assumed certain indemnity obligations that protect the associated tax equity investor against losses incurred as a result of breaches of representations and warranties provided by Aviator Wind Equity Holdings and its subsidiaries. These obligations are generally capped at an amount equal to the tax equity investor’s capital contributions plus a specified return, less any distributions and tax benefits it receives, in connection with its membership interest in Aviator Wind. CMS Enterprises would recover 49 percent of any amounts paid to the tax equity investor from the other owner of Aviator Wind Equity Holdings. Additionally, Aviator Wind holds insurance coverage that would partially protect against losses incurred as a result of certain failures to qualify for production tax credits. For further details on CMS Enterprises’ ownership interest in Aviator Wind Equity Holdings, see Note 13, Variable Interest Entities.
2These obligations arose from stock and asset sale agreements under which CMS Energy or a subsidiary of CMS Energy indemnified the purchaser for losses resulting from various matters, primarily claims related to taxes. The maximum obligation amount is mostly related to the Equatorial Guinea tax claim discussed in
the CMS Energy Contingencies section of this Note. CMS Energy believes the likelihood of material loss to be remote for the indemnity obligations not recorded as liabilities.
3This obligation comprises a guarantee provided by Consumers to the U.S. Department of Energy in connection with a settlement agreement regarding damages resulting from the department’s failure to accept spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants formerly owned by Consumers.
Additionally, in the normal course of business, CMS Energy, Consumers, and certain other subsidiaries of CMS Energy have entered into various agreements containing tax and other indemnity provisions for which they are unable to estimate the maximum potential obligation. The carrying value of these indemnity obligations is $1 million. CMS Energy and Consumers consider the likelihood that they would be required to perform or incur substantial losses related to these indemnities to be remote.
In addition to the matters disclosed in this Note and Note 1, Regulatory Matters, there are certain other lawsuits and administrative proceedings before various courts and governmental agencies, as well as unasserted claims that may result in such proceedings, arising in the ordinary course of business to which CMS Energy, Consumers, and certain other subsidiaries of CMS Energy are parties. These other lawsuits, proceedings, and unasserted claims may involve personal injury, property damage, contracts, environmental matters, federal and state taxes, rates, licensing, employment, and other matters. Further, CMS Energy and Consumers occasionally self-report certain regulatory non‑compliance matters that may or may not eventually result in administrative proceedings. CMS Energy and Consumers believe that the outcome of any one of these proceedings and potential claims will not have a material negative effect on their consolidated results of operations, financial condition, or liquidity.