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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 EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019
Or
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from                      to                     
Commission file number 000-23211
____________________________________________________
CASELLA WASTE SYSTEMS, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter) 
____________________________________________________
Delaware 03-0338873
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
 (I.R.S. Employer
Identification No.)
25 Greens Hill Lane, Rutland, VT
 05701
(Address of principal executive offices) (Zip Code)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (802775-0325
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each classTrading
Symbol(s)
Name of each exchange
on which registered
Class A common stock, $0.01 par value per shareCWSTThe Nasdaq Stock Market LLC
(Nasdaq Global Select Market)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
None. 
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in 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 checkmark 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 every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).    Yes      No  
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company," and "emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer   Accelerated filer 
Non-accelerated filer   Smaller reporting company 
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Act.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).    Yes      No  
The aggregate market value of the common equity held by non-affiliates of the registrant, based on the last reported sale price of the registrant’s Class A common stock on the Nasdaq Stock Market at the close of business on June 28, 2019 was approximately $1,765 million. The registrant does not have any non-voting common stock outstanding.
There were 46,803,112 shares of Class A common stock, $0.01 par value per share, of the registrant outstanding at February 15, 2020. There were 988,200 shares of Class B common stock, $0.01 par value per share, of the registrant outstanding at February 15, 2020.
Documents Incorporated by Reference
Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K incorporates by reference information from the definitive Proxy Statement for the registrant’s 2020 Annual Meeting of Stockholders or a Form10-K/A to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission not later than 120 days after the registrant’s fiscal year ended December 31, 2019.



Table of Contents

CASELLA WASTE SYSTEMS, INC.
ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K
TABLE OF CONTENTS
 
ITEM 1.
ITEM 1A.
ITEM 1B.
ITEM 2.
ITEM 3.
ITEM 4.
ITEM 5.
ITEM 6.
ITEM 7.
ITEM 7A.
ITEM 8.
ITEM 9.
ITEM 9A.
ITEM 9B.
ITEM 10.
ITEM 11.
ITEM 12.
ITEM 13.
ITEM 14.
ITEM 15.
ITEM 16.



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PART I
Unless the context requires otherwise, all references in this Annual Report on Form 10-K to “Casella Waste Systems, Inc.”, “Casella”, the “Company”, “we”, “us” or “our” refer to Casella Waste Systems, Inc. and its consolidated subsidiaries.
Forward-Looking Statements
This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains or incorporates a number of forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, including statements regarding: 
expected liquidity and financing plans;
expected future revenues, operations, expenditures and cash needs;
fluctuations in the commodity pricing of our recyclables, increases in landfill tipping fees and fuel costs and general economic and weather conditions;
projected future obligations related to final capping, closure and post-closure costs of our existing landfills and any disposal facilities which we may own or operate in the future;
our ability to use our net operating losses and tax positions;
our ability to service our debt obligations;
the projected development of additional disposal capacity or expectations regarding permits for existing capacity;
the recoverability or impairment of any of our assets or goodwill;
estimates of the potential markets for our products and services, including the anticipated drivers for future growth;
sales and marketing plans or price and volume assumptions;
the outcome of any legal or regulatory matter;
potential business combinations or divestitures; and
projected improvements to our infrastructure and the impact of such improvements on our business and operations.
In addition, any statements contained in or incorporated by reference into this report that are not statements of historical fact should be considered forward-looking statements. You can identify these forward-looking statements by the use of the words “believes”, “expects”, “anticipates”, “plans”, “may”, “will”, “would”, “intends”, “estimates” and other similar expressions, whether in the negative or affirmative. These forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, estimates, forecasts and projections about the industry and markets in which we operate, as well as management’s beliefs and assumptions, and should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and notes thereto. We cannot guarantee that we actually will achieve the plans, intentions or expectations disclosed in the forward-looking statements made. The occurrence of the events described and the achievement of the expected results depends on many events, some or all of which are not predictable or within our control. Actual results may differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.
There are a number of important risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, without limitation, those detailed in Item 1A, “Risk Factors” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. We explicitly disclaim any obligation to update any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as otherwise required by law.
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
Overview
Founded in 1975 with a single truck, Casella Waste Systems, Inc. is a regional, vertically integrated solid waste services company. We provide resource management expertise and services to residential, commercial, municipal and industrial customers, primarily in the areas of solid waste collection and disposal, transfer, recycling and organics services. We provide integrated solid waste services in six states: Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Maine and Pennsylvania, with our headquarters located in Rutland, Vermont. We have managed operations through four operating segments, including (i) two regional operating segments, which we designate as our Eastern and Western regions, (ii) Recycling, which comprises our larger-scale recycling operations and our commodity brokerage operations and (iii) "Other", which comprises organic services, ancillary operations, along with major accounts and industrial services. Effective January 1, 2020, we reorganized our operating segments as follows: we aligned our organics services and our major account and industrial services with our Recycling segment to form the Resource Solutions segment, thus creating a single resource renewal-focused segment. We also moved our ancillary transportation services, which were previously included in our Other segment, into our Western region.
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As of January 31, 2020, we owned and/or operated 43 solid waste collection operations, 58 transfer stations, 20 recycling facilities, eight Subtitle D landfills, four landfill gas-to-energy facilities and one landfill permitted to accept construction and demolition ("C&D") materials.
Strategy
Our goal is to build a sustainable and profitable company by providing exemplary service to our customers, while operating safe and environmentally sound facilities. Over the last decade, we have worked with many of our key customers to improve their environmental footprint to meet sustainability goals by increasing their recycling rates, diverting organic materials out of the waste stream into beneficial use processes, and partnering to develop resource solutions within their organizations. Since we first began operating in Vermont in 1975, our business strategy has been firmly tied to creating a sustainable resource management model and we continue to be rooted in these same tenets today.
We continue to invest in resources (team, technology, and capital) to further develop this important long-term strategy that we believe will continue to differentiate our service offerings to our customers, make us an employer of choice for our people, and improve our economic returns. We strive to create long-term value for all of our stakeholders, including customers, employees, communities and shareholders.
Our primary objective is to maximize long-term shareholder value through a combination of financial performance and strategic asset positioning. Annually, we complete a comprehensive strategic planning process to assess and refine our strategic objectives in the context of our asset mix and the current market environment. This process helps the management team allocate resources to a range of business opportunities with the goal to maximize long-term financial returns and competitive positioning.
In early August 2017, we announced an updated long-term strategic plan through our fiscal year ending December 31, 2021 (the “2021 Plan”). The 2021 Plan remains focused on enhancing shareholder returns by improving cash flows and reducing debt leverage through the following strategic initiatives:
Increasing landfill returns by driving pricing in excess of inflation in the disposal capacity constrained markets in the Northeast and working to maximize capacity utilization.
Driving additional profitability in our collection operations through profitable revenue growth and operating efficiencies.
Creating incremental value through our resource solutions offerings in our recycling, organics, and customer solutions operations.
Using technology to drive profitable growth and efficiencies through our efforts to update key systems to drive back office transformation, operating efficiencies and sales force effectiveness.
Allocating capital to balance debt delevering with smart growth through continued capital discipline and selective acquisitions of complementary businesses and assets.
To support our efforts, we continue to invest in our employees through leadership development, our career paths program that helps to build long-term development for our employees, technical training for key roles such as drivers and mechanics, and incentive compensation structures that seek to align our employees’ incentives with our long-term goal to improve cash flows and returns on invested capital. Over the last three years we have grown our workforce by approximately 32%, and we believe that continuing to invest in our team and culture are keys to our continued success.
Increasing Landfill Returns
Disposal capacity continues to tighten in the Northeast market as permanent site closures are reducing capacity and stronger economic and construction activity are driving higher volumes. Given this supply-demand imbalance and the positioning of our assets, we were able to advance disposal pricing by 5.1% (or average price per ton by 7.1%) for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019 ("fiscal year 2019").
We believe that this positive pricing backdrop will continue as additional site closures are expected over the next several years, and as we reset multi-year contracts we expect to advance pricing in excess of Consumer Price Index on a larger percentage of our inbound waste streams.
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On the landfill development side, we continue to advance key permitting activities across our landfills to increase annual capacity limits at select sites and expand total permitted capacity across our footprint. We have been successful in advancing permit increases at Subtitle D landfills located in Angelica, New York (“Hyland Landfill”), Seneca, New York ("Ontario County Landfill"), Chemung, New York ("Chemung County Landfill"), West Old Town, Maine ("Juniper Ridge Landfill"), Schuyler Falls, New York (“Clinton County Landfill”), Coventry, Vermont ("Waste USA Landfill"), and Campbell, New York (“Hakes Landfill”) over the last four years. Cumulatively, these efforts have added 462 thousand tons per year of permitted capacity and approximately 46.8 million tons of permitted airspace. We have recently been informed by the New Hampshire Division of Environmental Services that it will be necessary to amend our permit application for an additional 1.2 million cubic yards of capacity at the North Country Environmental Services landfill located in Bethlehem, New Hampshire ("NCES Landfill"). This will likely impact the timing of our permit and our results of operations. There can be no assurance that we will receive this permit after it is refiled.
Driving Additional Profitability in Collection Operations
Collection pricing was up 5.3% for fiscal year 2019, as compared to the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018 ("fiscal year 2018"), with sustained execution against our strategic pricing programs. On the operating side, we continue to advance several key areas, including route optimization, fleet standardization and automation, and maintenance programs to further reduce our operating costs in the collection line-of-business. We are in the fifth year of our comprehensive fleet plan, which is designed to optimize our fleet and target truck replacements to maximize returns, reduce our operating expenses through lower maintenance costs, improve our service levels through reduced down times, and conduct additional automation and optimization of trucks and service types.
The combination of these operating advancements and pricing programs are driving improved results in our collection line-of-business, with our cost of operations as a percentage of revenues down approximately (510) basis points from the twelve months ended December 31, 2014 to fiscal year 2019.
Creating Incremental Value Through Resource Solutions
One of the key objectives of our strategy is to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace by offering value-added resource solutions to our customers. These solutions range from our customer solutions business, which provides professional services to large industrial institutional or multi-site retail customers, to our organics business, which is a leader in organics processing and disposal in the Northeast, and to our large scale, technology-driven recycling business.
Our customer solutions business has continued to improve margins and returns through fiscal year 2019, as we further transformed the business from the legacy brokerage model to a professional services organization focused on providing resource solutions to large industrial and institutional accounts.
Over the last three years, we have worked to reshape our recycling business model to drive higher returns in all market cycles and reduce exposure to recycling commodity volatility. We have accomplished this goal by: (1) restructuring most third-party processing contracts to limit downside risk by charging processing fees; (2) implementing our Sustainability Recycling Adjustment Fee (“SRA Fee”) for our collection customers (the SRA Fee floats inversely to changes in recycling commodity prices); (3) making key investments in recycling processing infrastructure to reduce operating costs and improve the quality of the end commodities; and (4) developing strong partnerships with industrial consumers of recycled materials to ensure that the materials our customers recycle make their way into new products and beneficial uses. Our risk mitigation programs have offset most of the recent commodity price declines driven primarily by China’s National Sword program that banned the import of certain recycled materials and imposed strict new contamination standards for others, and we expect these programs to continue to reduce our commodity risk exposure.
Using Technology to Drive Profitable Growth and Efficiencies
We launched a 5-year technology plan in August 2017 to drive profitable growth, reduce our general and administration costs by 75 to 100 basis points as a percentage of revenues by 2021, and improve our operating efficiencies. We have focused our efforts on improving our overall technology platform, driving sales force effectiveness, and increasing efficiencies in our back-office and across our operations.
To date as part of our technology plan, we have successfully implemented: the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system to help manage and drive higher salesforce effectiveness; the Microsoft Dynamics Case Management system to ensure strong integration between our salesforce, customer care group and operating teams; and the cloud-based NetSuite ERP system as the new financial backbone to our business. We plan to focus our technology efforts in the fiscal year ending December 31, 2020 ("fiscal year 2020") on process and technology enhancement for procurement, piloting a new order-to-cash system for our collection line-of-business, and piloting a new on-board computing and dynamic route optimization system.
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Allocating Capital to Balance Debt Delevering with Smart Growth
Over the last six years we made significant progress in simplifying our business structure, improving cash flows and reducing risk exposure by: (1) divesting, or in certain cases, closing underperforming operations that did not enhance or complement our core operations; (2) refinancing debt to lower interest costs and improve financial flexibility; and (3) adhering to strict capital discipline and debt repayment.
Given our progress in each area and as part of the 2021 Plan, we shifted our capital strategy to use our capital in a manner that balances continued delevering with smart acquisition and development growth. As part of this strategy, we set a goal of adding $20 million to $40 million per year of annualized revenues through acquisition or development activity. We believe that acquisition or development activity should be opportunistic, and we plan to strictly adhere to our disciplined capital return hurdles and rigorous review process.
We have made significant progress ramping up our strategic growth initiative, as we have acquired 19 solid waste collection and transfer businesses during fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2019, with approximately $130 million of annualized revenues. We expect revenue growth of approximately $30 million in fiscal year 2020 from the full year of revenue from acquisitions completed in 2019, but which contributed to our revenues for only part of the year in 2019.
We are focused on acquiring well-run businesses in strategic markets across our footprint that will drive additional internalization to our landfills and operating synergies. We are also focused on more effectively optimizing waste placement around the Northeast as the ever-tightening disposal market is creating additional opportunities to source new volumes at higher prices.
Operational Overview
Our solid waste and recycling operations comprise a full range of non-hazardous solid waste services, including collections, transfer stations, material recovery facilities ("MRFs") and disposal facilities.
Collections. A majority of our commercial and industrial collection services are performed under one-to-five year service agreements, with prices and fees determined by such factors as: collection frequency; type of equipment and containers furnished; type, volume and weight of solid waste collected; distance to the disposal or processing facility; and cost of disposal or processing. Our residential collection and disposal services are performed either on a subscription basis (with no underlying contract) with individuals, or through contracts with municipalities, homeowner associations, apartment building owners or mobile home park operators.
Transfer Stations. Our transfer stations receive, compact and transfer solid waste, collected primarily by our various residential and commercial collection operations, for transport to disposal facilities by larger vehicles. We believe that transfer stations benefit us by: (1) increasing the size of the wastesheds which have access to our landfills; (2) reducing costs by improving utilization of collection personnel and equipment; and (3) helping us build relationships with municipalities and other customers by providing a local physical presence and enhanced local service capabilities.
Material Recovery Facilities. Our MRFs receive, sort, bale and sell recyclable materials originating from the municipal solid waste stream, including newsprint, cardboard, office paper, glass, plastic, steel or aluminum containers and bottles. We operate six large-scale, high volume MRFs within our Recycling region in geographic areas served by our collection divisions. Revenues are received from municipalities and customers in the form of processing fees, tipping fees and commodity sales. These MRFs, one of which is located in New York, two of which are located in Vermont, two of which are located in Massachusetts, and one of which is located in Maine, process over 0.4 million tons per year of recycled materials delivered to them by municipalities and commercial customers under long-term contracts. We also operate smaller MRFs, which generally process recyclables collected from our various residential and commercial collection operations.
Landfills. We operate eight solid waste Subtitle D landfills and one landfill permitted to accept C&D materials. Revenues are received from municipalities and other customers in the form of tipping fees. The estimated capacity at our landfills is subject to change based on engineering factors, requirements of regulatory authorities, our ability to continue to operate our landfills in compliance with applicable regulations and our ability to successfully renew operating permits and obtain expansion permits at our sites.
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The following table (in thousands) reflects the aggregate landfill capacity and airspace changes, in tons, for landfills we operated during fiscal years 2019, 2018 and 2017:
 Fiscal Year 2019Fiscal Year 2018Fiscal Year 2017
 Estimated
Remaining
Permitted
Capacity
(1)
Estimated
Additional
Permittable
Capacity
(1)(2)
Estimated
Total
Capacity
Estimated
Remaining
Permitted
Capacity
(1)
Estimated
Additional
Permittable
Capacity
(1)(2)
Estimated
Total
Capacity
Estimated
Remaining
Permitted
Capacity
(1)
Estimated
Additional
Permittable
Capacity
(1)(2)
Estimated
Total
Capacity
Balance, beginning of year35,810  47,053  82,863  36,159  46,301  82,460  31,022  59,089  90,111  
New expansions pursued (3)
—  648648  —  —  —  —  —  —  
Permits granted (4)
12,675  (12,675) —  —  —  —  9,273  (9,273) —  
Airspace consumed(4,048) —  (4,048) (4,160) —  (4,160) (3,958) —  (3,958) 
Changes in engineering estimates (5)
(3) (887) (890) 3,811  752  4,563  (178) (3,515) (3,693) 
Balance, end of year44,434  34,139  78,573  35,810  47,053  82,863  36,159  46,301  82,460  
(1)We convert estimated remaining permitted capacity and estimated additional permittable capacity from cubic yards to tons generally by assuming a compaction factor derived from historical average compaction factors, with modification for future anticipated changes. In addition to a total capacity limit, certain permits place a daily and/or annual limit on capacity.
(2)Represents capacity which we have determined to be “permittable” in accordance with the following criteria: (i) we control the land on which the expansion is sought; (ii) all technical siting criteria have been met or a variance has been obtained or is reasonably expected to be obtained; (iii) we have not identified any legal or political impediments which we believe will not be resolved in our favor; (iv) we are actively working on obtaining any necessary permits and we expect that all required permits will be received; and (v) senior management has approved the project based on a review of the engineering design and determination that the financial return profile meets our investment criteria.
(3)The increase in capacity associated with new expansions pursued in fiscal year 2019 relates to the determination of additional permittable airspace at the NCES Landfill in our Eastern region.
(4)The increase in remaining permitted airspace capacity in fiscal year 2019 was the result of a permit received at the Waste USA Landfill and at the Hakes Landfill in our Western region. The increase in remaining permitted capacity in fiscal year 2017 was the result of a permit received at the Juniper Ridge Landfill in our Eastern region.
(5)The variation in changes in airspace capacity associated with engineering estimates are primarily the result of changes in compaction at our landfills and estimated airspace changes associated with design changes at certain of our landfills, which in fiscal year 2017 includes the impact associated with the decision to close the Town of Southbridge, Massachusetts landfill ("Southbridge Landfill").
Eastern Region
NCES Landfill. NCES Landfill is a Subtitle D landfill located in Bethlehem, New Hampshire that we purchased in 1994. NCES Landfill currently consists of approximately 50 acres of permitted or permittable landfill area, is permitted to accept municipal solid waste, C&D material and certain pre-approved special waste and has no annual tonnage limitations. We have recently been informed by the New Hampshire Division of Environmental Services that it will be necessary to amend our permit application for an additional 1.2 million cubic yards of capacity at the NCES Landfill. This will likely impact the timing of our permit and our results of operations. There can be no assurance that we will receive this permit after it is refiled. In fiscal year 2017, NCES Landfill entered into an agreement for the construction of a landfill gas-to-energy plant, which will be constructed, owned and operated by a third-party once completed.
Juniper Ridge Landfill. Juniper Ridge Landfill is a Subtitle D landfill located in West Old Town, Maine. In 2004, we completed transactions with the State of Maine and Georgia-Pacific Corporation (“Georgia Pacific”), pursuant to which the State of Maine took ownership of Juniper Ridge Landfill, formerly owned by Georgia Pacific, and we became the operator under a 30-year operating and services agreement between us and the State of Maine. Juniper Ridge Landfill currently consists of approximately 179 acres of permitted or permittable landfill area, which is sufficient to permit the additional airspace required for the term of the 30-year operating and services agreement, and is permitted to accept the following waste originating from the State of Maine: up to 0.1 million tons of municipal solid waste per year through March 2020, and C&D material, ash from municipal solid waste incinerators and fossil fuel boilers, front end processed residuals and bypass municipal solid waste from waste-to-energy facilities and certain pre-approved special waste. Outside of the limitations on municipal solid waste, there are no annual tonnage limitations at Juniper Ridge Landfill. In fiscal year 2019, Casella entered into an agreement for the construction of a landfill gas-to-energy plant at the Juniper Ridge Landfill, which will be constructed, owned and operated by a third-party.
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Western Region
Waste USA Landfill. Waste USA Landfill is a Subtitle D landfill located in Coventry, Vermont that we purchased in 1995, and is the only operating permitted Subtitle D landfill in the State of Vermont. Waste USA Landfill consists of approximately 148 acres of permitted or permittable landfill area and is permitted to accept up to 0.6 million tons of municipal solid waste, C&D material and certain pre-approved special waste annually. The Waste USA Landfill site houses a landfill gas-to-energy plant, which is owned and operated by a third-party, that has the capacity to generate 8.0 MW of energy.
Clinton County Landfill. Clinton County Landfill is a Subtitle D landfill located in Schuyler Falls, New York. Clinton County Landfill, which currently consists of approximately 197 acres of permitted or permittable landfill area portions of which are leased from Clinton County, is permitted to accept up to approximately 0.25 million tons of municipal solid waste, C&D material and certain pre-approved special waste annually. The Clinton County Landfill site houses a landfill gas-to-energy facility, which is owned by us and operated by a third-party, that has the capacity to generate 6.4 MW of energy.
Hyland Landfill. Hyland Landfill is a Subtitle D landfill located in Angelica, New York that we own, and that began accepting waste in 1998. Hyland Landfill currently consists of approximately 121 acres of permitted or permittable landfill area and is permitted to accept up to 0.5 million tons of municipal solid waste, C&D material and certain pre-approved special waste annually. The Hyland Landfill site houses a landfill gas-to-energy facility, which is owned by us and operated by a third-party, that has the capacity to generate 4.8 MW of energy.
Ontario County Landfill. Ontario County Landfill is a Subtitle D landfill located in Seneca, New York. In 2003, we entered into a 25-year operation, management and lease agreement for the Ontario County Landfill with the Ontario County Board of Supervisors. Ontario County Landfill currently consists of approximately 171 acres of permitted or permittable landfill area and is permitted to accept up to 0.9 million tons of municipal solid waste, C&D material and certain pre-approved special waste annually and is strategically situated to accept long haul volume from both the eastern and downstate New York markets. In January 2016, we received an expansion permit at the Ontario County Landfill, which is sufficient to permit the additional airspace required for the remaining term of the 25-year operation, management and lease agreement. The Ontario County Landfill site houses a Zero-Sort MRF, which is operated by us, and a landfill gas-to-energy facility, which is owned and operated by a third-party, that has the capacity to generate 11.2 MW of energy.
Hakes Landfill. Hakes Landfill is a C&D landfill located in Campbell, New York that we purchased in 1998. Hakes Landfill currently consists of approximately 78 acres of permitted or permittable landfill area and is permitted to accept up to 0.5 million tons of C&D material annually.
Chemung County Landfill. Chemung County Landfill is a Subtitle D landfill located in Chemung, New York. In 2005, we entered into a 25-year operation, management and lease agreement for Chemung County Landfill and certain other facilities with Chemung County. Chemung County Landfill currently consists of approximately 113 acres of permitted or permittable landfill area strategically situated to accept long haul volume from both eastern and downstate New York markets and is permitted to accept up to 0.4 million tons of municipal solid waste and certain pre-approved special waste annually and 20.5 thousand tons of C&D material annually. In fiscal year 2016, we received an expansion permit at Chemung County Landfill, which is sufficient to permit the additional airspace required for the remaining term of the 25-year operation, management and lease agreement. In fiscal year 2019, we exercised an option to extend the remaining term of the operation, management and lease agreement for five years through 2035.
McKean Landfill. McKean landfill is a Subtitle D landfill located in Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania (“McKean Landfill”) that we purchased in 2011 as part of a bankruptcy reorganization. McKean Landfill currently consists of approximately 256 acres of permitted or permittable landfill area and is permitted to accept up to approximately 0.3 million tons of municipal solid waste, C&D material and certain pre-approved special waste annually. The facility permit authorizes the construction of the rail siding at the landfill which if completed, would expand the market reach for the landfill to other rail capable transfer facilities. We have not yet committed to the construction of the rail siding pending a determination of the economic viability. We believe that McKean Landfill is well situated to provide services to the oil and gas industry that explores natural gas resources in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania in the form of disposal capacity for residual materials.
Closed Landfills
In fiscal year 2017, we initiated a plan to cease operations of Southbridge Landfill and decided to not proceed with expansion efforts and to close Southbridge Landfill once the remaining capacity had been exhausted, which occurred in fiscal year 2018. Closure operations, which began in November 2018 when Southbridge Landfill reached its final capacity, are ongoing.
In addition to Southbridge Landfill, we own and/or manage five unlined landfills and three lined landfills that are not currently in operation. We are closing, in the case of Southbridge Landfill, or have closed and capped all of these landfills according to applicable environmental regulatory standards.
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Operating Segments
We have managed operations through four operating segments, including (i) two regional operating segments, which we designate as our Eastern and Western regions, (ii) Recycling, which comprises our larger-scale recycling operations and our commodity brokerage operations and (iii) "Other", which comprises organic services, ancillary operations, along with major accounts and industrial services. Effective January 1, 2020, we reorganized our operating segments as follows: we aligned our organics services and our major account and industrial services, with our Recycling segment to form the Resource Solutions segment, thus creating a single resource renewal-focused segment. We also moved our ancillary transportation services, which were previously included in our Other segment, into our Western region. Accordingly, as of January 1, 2020, our operating segments consist of the Eastern and Western regions and Resource Solutions. See Note 20, Segment Reporting to our consolidated financial statements included under Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for a summary of revenues, certain expenses, profitability, capital expenditures, goodwill, and total assets of our operating segments.  
Within each geographic region, we organize our solid waste services around smaller areas that we refer to as “wastesheds.” A wasteshed is an area that comprises the complete cycle of activities in the solid waste services process, from collection to transfer operations and recycling to disposal in landfills, some of which may be owned and/or operated by third parties. We typically operate several divisions within each wasteshed, each of which provides a particular service, such as collection, recycling, disposal or transfer. Each division operates interdependently with the other divisions within the wasteshed. Each wasteshed generally operates autonomously from adjoining wastesheds.
Through the six MRFs and commodity brokerage operation comprising our Recycling segment, we provide services to five anchor contracts, which have original terms ranging from five to twenty years and expire at various times through calendar year end 2028. The terms of each contract vary, but all of the contracts provide that the municipality or third-party delivers materials to our facility. These contracts may include a minimum volume guarantee by the municipality. We also have service agreements with individual towns and cities and commercial customers, including small solid waste companies and major competitors, that do not have processing capacity within a specific geographic region.
The following table provides information about each operating segment (as of January 31, 2020 except revenue information, which is for fiscal year 2019):
 
Eastern
Region
Western
Region
Recycling
Other
Revenues (in millions)$219.5  $343.4  $42.8  $137.6  
Properties:
Solid waste collection facilities17  26  —  —  
Transfer stations24  34  —  —  
Recycling facilities    
Subtitle D landfills  —  —  
C&D landfills—   —  —  
See our consolidated financial statements included under Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for our financial results for fiscal years 2019, 2018 and 2017, and our financial position as of December 31, 2019 and December 31, 2018.
Eastern region
Our Eastern region consists of wastesheds located in Maine, northern, central and southeastern New Hampshire and central and eastern Massachusetts. Our Eastern region is vertically integrated, with transfer, landfill, processing and recycling assets serviced by our collection operations.
We entered the Maine market in 1996 and have grown organically and through acquisitions. We currently operate the Juniper Ridge Landfill under a 30-year agreement with the State of Maine.
We entered the southern New Hampshire market in 1999 and the eastern Massachusetts market in 2000 and since have grown organically and through acquisitions. In this market, we rely to a large extent on third-party disposal capacity, but our landfills and other assets have provided additional opportunities to internalize volumes. In fiscal year 2018, we acquired Complete Disposal Company, Inc. and its subsidiary United Material Management of Holyoke, Inc. (collectively, "Complete"). Complete provides residential and roll-off collection services, and operates a C&D processing facility and a solid waste transfer station with both truck and rail transfer capabilities. In fiscal year 2017, we initiated the plan to cease operations of our Southbridge Landfill and decided to not proceed with expansion efforts and to close the Southbridge Landfill once the remaining capacity had been exhausted, which occurred in fiscal year 2018. Closure operations at the Southbridge Landfill began in November 2018.
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 Western region
Our Western region includes wastesheds located in Vermont, southwestern New Hampshire, eastern, western and upstate New York and in Pennsylvania around McKean Landfill. The portion of eastern New York served by our Western region includes Clinton (operation of Clinton County), Franklin, Essex, Warren, Washington, Saratoga, Rennselaer, and Albany counties.
Our Western region also consists of wastesheds in western New York, which includes Ithaca, Elmira, Oneonta, Lowville, Potsdam, Geneva, Auburn, Rochester, Dunkirk, Jamestown and Olean markets. We began entering into these wastesheds in 1997 and have expanded primarily through tuck-in acquisitions and organic growth. Our Western region collection operations include leadership positions in nearly every rural market outside of the larger metropolitan markets such as Syracuse and Buffalo.
We remain focused on increasing our vertical integration in our Western region through extension of our reach into new markets and managing new materials. We believe that maximizing these logistics through the use of rail, if implemented, long haul trucks and trailer tippers at our facilities will increase our reach.
Recycling
Our Recycling segment is one of the largest processors and marketers of recycled materials in the northeastern United States, comprised of six MRFs that process and market recyclable materials that municipalities and commercial customers deliver under long-term contracts. Two of the six MRFs are leased, three are owned, and one is operated by us under a contract with municipal third-party. In fiscal year 2019, our Recycling segment processed and/or marketed over 0.7 million tons of recyclable materials including tons marketed through our commodity brokerage division and our baling facilities located throughout our footprint. Recycling’s facilities are located in Vermont, New York, Maine, and Massachusetts.
A substantial portion of the material provided to Recycling is delivered pursuant to five anchor contracts. The anchor contracts have an original term of five to twenty years and expire at various times through 2028. The terms of the recycling contracts vary, but all of the contracts provide that the municipality or a third-party delivers the recycled materials to our facility. Under the recycling contracts, we charge the municipality a fee for each ton of material delivered to us. Some contracts contain revenue sharing arrangements under which the municipality receives a specified percentage of our revenues from the sale of the recovered materials if certain economic thresholds are met.
Our Recycling segment has historically derived a significant portion of its revenues from the sale of recyclable materials, particularly newspaper, corrugated containers, plastics, ferrous and aluminum. The pricing for these materials can fluctuate based upon market conditions. However, we have actively worked to reduce our risk exposure to commodity pricing volatility over the last four years through our efforts to shift customers to a processing fee model and other risk management programs. In fiscal year 2019, we generated 36.8% of Recycling segment revenues from commodity sales as compared to 77.6% in the fiscal year ended December 31, 2015.
We effectively manage commodity pricing volatility through our long-term revenue sharing (or processing fee) contracts with customers. Under such contracts, we obtain a guaranteed minimum price for recyclable materials through the receipt of a tipping or processing fee when commodity prices fall below agreed upon thresholds. Conversely, when prices for recyclable materials rise above agreed upon thresholds, we provide the counterparty with a portion of the related revenues above such threshold. Also, we mitigate the impact from commodity price fluctuations through the use of a floating SRA fee charged to collection customers to offtake recycling commodity risk. Further, we work to manage commodity pricing risk through commodity sales contracts with large domestic companies that use the recyclable materials in their manufacturing process, such as paper, packaging and consumer goods companies.
At times, we also hedge against fluctuations in the commodity prices of recycled paper and corrugated containers in order to mitigate the variability in cash flows and earnings generated from the sales of recycled materials at floating prices. As of December 31, 2019, no such commodity hedges were in place. The global recycling market has experienced negative commodity pricing pressure resulting from China's National Sword program in 2017. Markets continued to decline in 2019, leveling off at historical lows compared to prior years. We expect markets to remain depressed into the foreseeable future.
Other
Our Other segment derives a significant portion of its revenues from our Customer Solutions and Organics businesses. Our resource solutions strategy seeks to leverage our core competencies in materials processing, industrial recycling, clean energy, and organics service offerings in order to generate additional value from the waste stream for our customers. Our Customer Solutions business works with larger scale organizations (including multi-location customers, colleges and universities, municipalities, and industrial customers) to develop customized solid waste solutions. The focus of this business is to help these large-scale organizations achieve their economic and environmental objectives related to waste and residual management. We differentiate our services from our competitors by providing customized and comprehensive resource solutions, which enables us to win new business, including traditional solid waste collection and disposal customers.
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Our Organics business has been working to develop and/or partner with firms that have developed innovative approaches to deriving incremental value from the organic portion of the waste stream. Through our earthlife® soils products, we offer a wide array of organic fertilizers, composts, and mulches that help our customers recycle organic waste streams. We also have ownership interests in AGreen Energy, LLC and BGreen Energy, LLC, which we account for as cost method investments, that partner with other capital investors to build farm-based anaerobic digesters in the northeastern United States to generate electricity from farm and food waste streams.
Competition
The solid waste services industry is highly competitive. We compete for collection and disposal volume primarily on the basis of the quality, breadth and price of our services. From time to time, competitors may reduce the price of their services in an effort to expand market share or to win a competitively bid municipal contract. These practices may also lead to reduced pricing for our services or the loss of business. In addition, competition exists within the industry for potential acquisition candidates.
Our business strategy generally focuses on operating in secondary or tertiary markets where we have a leading market share. However, in the larger urban markets where we operate, we typically compete against one or more of the large national solid waste companies, including Waste Management, Inc., Republic Services, Inc. and Waste Connections, Inc., any of which may be able to achieve greater economies of scale than we can. We also compete with a number of regional and local companies that offer competitive prices and quality service. In addition, we compete with operators of alternative disposal facilities, including incinerators; with certain municipalities, counties and districts that operate their own solid waste collection and disposal facilities; and with rail-serviced transfer stations that use rail transport to move waste to disposal sites outside of northeastern markets. Public sector facilities may have certain advantages over us due to the availability of user fees, charges or tax revenues.
Marketing and Sales
We have fully integrated sales and marketing strategies with a primary focus on acquiring and retaining commercial, industrial, municipal and residential customers. Our business strategy focuses on creating a highly differentiated sustainable resource management model that meets customers’ unique needs and provides value “beyond the curb”.
Maintenance of a local presence and identity is an important aspect of our sales and marketing strategy, and many of our divisional managers are involved in local governmental, civic and business organizations. Our name and logo, or, where appropriate, that of our divisional operations, are displayed on all of our containers and trucks. We attend and make presentations at municipal and state meetings, and we advertise in a variety of media throughout our service footprint.
The Customer Solutions business serves customers with multiple locations and is focused on growing our share of business with municipal, institutional, commercial and industrial customers. This group provides customers with a broader set of solutions to augment our regional and divisional service capabilities.
Marketing activities are focused on retaining existing customers and attracting new commercial and residential customers directly on-route in order to enhance profitability. Marketing campaigns are integrated with divisional management teams, sales personnel and the centralized customer care center.
Employees
As of January 31, 2020, we employed approximately 2,500 employees, including approximately 500 professionals or managers, sales, clerical, information systems or other administrative employees and approximately 2,000 employees involved in collection, transfer, disposal, recycling or other operations. Approximately 150 of our employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements. We believe relations with our employees are strong.
Risk Management, Insurance and Performance or Surety Bonds
We actively maintain environmental and other risk management programs that we believe are appropriate for our business. Our environmental risk management program includes evaluating existing facilities, as well as potential acquisitions, for compliance with environmental law requirements. Operating practices at all of our operations are intended to reduce the possibility of environmental contamination, enforcement actions and litigation. We also maintain a worker safety program, which focuses on safe practices in the workplace.
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We carry a range of insurance intended to protect our assets and operations, including a commercial general liability policy and a property damage policy. A partially or completely uninsured claim against us (including liabilities associated with cleanup or remediation at our facilities), if successful and of sufficient magnitude, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Due primarily to market factors beyond our control, the insurance market is increasingly restrictive, prohibiting our ability to obtain adequate coverage at reasonable prices, if at all. Any future difficulty in obtaining insurance could also impair our ability to secure future contracts, which may be conditioned upon the availability of adequate insurance coverage. See the risk factor titled “Our insurance coverage and self-insurance reserves may be inadequate to cover all significant risk exposures” in Item 1A, “Risk Factors” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
See also Item 3, “Legal Proceedings” and Note 12, Commitments and Contingencies to our consolidated financial statements included under Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
We self-insure for automobile and workers’ compensation coverage with reinsurance coverage limiting our maximum exposure. Our maximum exposure in fiscal year 2019 under the workers’ compensation plan was $1.25 million per individual event. Our maximum exposure in fiscal year 2019 under the automobile plan was $1.2 million per individual event. Effective, January 1, 2020, our maximum exposure under the automobile plan was increased to $1.65 million per individual event.
Municipal solid waste collection contracts and landfill closure and post-closure obligations may require performance or surety bonds, letters of credit or other means of financial assurance to secure contractual performance. While we have not experienced difficulty in obtaining these financial instruments, if we are unable to obtain these financial instruments in sufficient amounts or at acceptable rates we could be precluded from entering into additional municipal contracts or obtaining or retaining landfill operating permits.
We hold a 19.9% ownership interest in Evergreen National Indemnity Company (“Evergreen”), a surety company which provides surety bonds to secure our contractual obligations for certain municipal solid waste collection contracts and landfill closure and post-closure obligations. Our ownership interest in Evergreen is pledged to Evergreen as security for our obligations under the bonds they provide on our behalf.
Customers
We provide our collection services to commercial, institutional, industrial and residential customers. A majority of our commercial and industrial collection services are performed under one-to-five year service agreements, and fees are determined by such factors as: professional or management services required; collection frequency; type of equipment and containers furnished; the type, volume and weight of the solid waste, recyclables or organics collected; the distance to the disposal or processing facility; and the cost of disposal or processing. Our residential collection and disposal services are performed either on a subscription basis (with no underlying contract) with individuals, or through contracts with municipalities, homeowners' associations, apartment owners or mobile home park operators.
Our Recycling segment provides recycling services to municipalities, commercial haulers and commercial waste generators within the geographic proximity of the processing facilities.
Seasonality and Severe Weather
Our transfer and disposal revenues historically have been higher in the late spring, summer and early fall months. This seasonality reflects lower volumes of waste in the late fall, winter and early spring months because: 
the volume of waste relating to C&D activities decreases substantially during the winter months in the northeastern United States; and
decreased tourism in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and eastern New York during the winter months tends to lower the volume of waste generated by commercial and restaurant customers, which is partially offset by increased volume from the ski industry.
Because certain of our operating and fixed costs remain constant throughout the fiscal year, operating income is therefore impacted by a similar seasonality. Our operations can be adversely affected by periods of inclement or severe weather, which could increase our operating costs associated with the collection and disposal of waste, delay the collection and disposal of waste, reduce the volume of waste delivered to our disposal sites, increase the volume of waste collected under our existing contracts (without corresponding compensation), decrease the throughput and operating efficiency of our materials recycling facilities, or delay construction or expansion of our landfill sites and other facilities. Our operations can also be favorably affected by severe weather, which could increase the volume of waste in situations where we are able to charge for our additional services provided.
Our Recycling segment experiences increased volumes of fiber in November and December due to increased retail activity during the holiday season.
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Regulation
Introduction
We are subject to extensive federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations. The environmental regulations affecting us are administered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and other federal, state and local environmental, zoning, health and safety agencies. Failure to comply with such requirements could result in substantial costs, including civil and criminal fines and penalties. Except as described in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, we believe that we are currently in substantial compliance with applicable federal, state and local environmental laws, permits, orders and regulations. Other than as disclosed herein, we do not currently anticipate any material costs to bring our existing operations into environmental compliance, although there can be no assurance in this regard for the future. We expect that our operations in the solid waste services industry will be subject to continued and increased regulation, legislation and enforcement oversight. We attempt to anticipate future legal and regulatory requirements and to keep our operations in compliance with those requirements.
In order to transport, process, or dispose of solid waste, it is necessary for us to possess and comply with one or more permits from federal, state and/or local agencies. We must renew these permits periodically, and the permits may be modified or revoked by the issuing agency under certain circumstances.
The principal federal statutes and regulations applicable to our operations are as follows:
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, as amended (“RCRA”)
The RCRA regulates the generation, treatment, storage, handling, transportation and disposal of solid waste and requires states to develop programs to ensure the safe disposal of solid waste. The RCRA divides waste into two categories, hazardous and non-hazardous. Wastes are generally classified as hazardous if they either (a) are specifically included on a list of hazardous wastes, or (b) exhibit certain characteristics defined as hazardous and are not specifically designated as non-hazardous. Wastes classified as hazardous waste are subject to more extensive regulation than wastes classified as non-hazardous, and businesses that deal with hazardous waste are subject to regulatory obligations in addition to those imposed on businesses that deal with non-hazardous waste.
Among the wastes that are specifically designated as non-hazardous are household waste and “special” waste, including items such as petroleum contaminated soils, asbestos, foundry sand, shredder fluff and most non-hazardous industrial waste products.
The EPA regulations issued under Subtitle C of the RCRA impose a comprehensive “cradle to grave” system for tracking the generation, transportation, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes. Subtitle C regulations impose obligations on generators, transporters and disposers of hazardous wastes, and require permits that are costly to obtain and maintain for sites where those businesses treat, store or dispose of such material. Subtitle C requirements include detailed operating, inspection, training and emergency preparedness and response standards, as well as requirements for manifesting, record keeping and reporting, corrective action, facility closure, post-closure and financial responsibility. Most states have promulgated regulations modeled on some or all of the Subtitle C provisions issued by the EPA, and in many instances the EPA has delegated to those states the principal role in regulating businesses which are subject to those requirements. Some state regulations impose obligations different from and in addition to those the EPA imposes under Subtitle C.
Leachate generated at our landfills and transfer stations is tested on a regular basis, and generally is not regulated as a hazardous waste under federal law. However, there is no guarantee that leachate generated from our facilities in the future will not be classified as hazardous waste.
In October 1991, the EPA adopted the Subtitle D regulations under RCRA governing solid waste landfills. The Subtitle D regulations, which generally became effective in October 1993, include siting restrictions, facility design standards, operating criteria, closure and post-closure requirements, financial assurance requirements, groundwater monitoring requirements, groundwater remediation standards and corrective action requirements. In addition, the Subtitle D regulations require that new landfill sites meet more stringent liner design criteria (typically, composite soil and synthetic liners or two or more synthetic liners) intended to keep leachate out of groundwater and have extensive collection systems to carry away leachate for treatment prior to disposal. Regulations generally require us to install groundwater monitoring wells at virtually all landfills we operate, to monitor groundwater quality and, indirectly, the effectiveness of the leachate collection systems. The Subtitle D regulations also require facility owners or operators to control emissions of landfill gas (including methane) generated at landfills exceeding certain regulatory thresholds. State landfill regulations must meet those requirements or the EPA will impose such requirements upon landfill owners and operators in that state.
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The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, as amended (“Clean Water Act”)
The Clean Water Act regulates the discharge of pollutants into the “waters of the United States” from a variety of sources, including solid waste disposal sites and transfer stations, processing facilities and waste-to-energy facilities (collectively, “solid waste management facilities”). If run-off or treated leachate from our solid waste management facilities is discharged into streams, rivers or other surface waters, the Clean Water Act would require us to apply for and obtain a discharge permit, conduct sampling and monitoring and, under certain circumstances, reduce the quantity of pollutants in such discharge. A permit also may be required if that run-off or leachate is discharged to an offsite treatment facility. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering whether discharges to groundwater also require permits under the Clean Water Act. County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Docket No. 18-260. Almost all solid waste management facilities must comply with the EPA’s storm water regulations, which govern the discharge of regulated storm water to surface waters.
Under federal regulation, facilities that have above ground and/or below ground petroleum storage capacities over certain thresholds may be subject to regulations and/or permitting under the Clean Water Act. Many of our facilities have petroleum storage and are required to have a spill, prevention, control and countermeasures (“SPCC”) plan to prevent petroleum release to waters of the U.S. due to a spill, rupture or leak.
Several states in which we operate have been delegated the authority to implement the Clean Water Act requirements and in some cases the regulations are more stringent than the federal regulations. We believe we are in compliance with the Clean Water Act regulations; however future changes to the law or regulations could have a material impact on our business.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, as amended (“CERCLA”)
CERCLA established a regulatory and remedial program intended to provide for the investigation and remediation of facilities where, or from which, a release of any hazardous substance into the environment has occurred or is threatened. CERCLA has been interpreted to impose retroactive, strict, and under certain circumstances, joint and severable, liability for the costs to investigate and clean up facilities on current owners and operators of the site, former owners and operators of the site at the time of the disposal of the hazardous substances, as well as the generators and certain transporters of the hazardous substances. CERCLA imposes liability for the costs of evaluating and addressing damage to natural resources. The costs of CERCLA investigation and cleanup can be substantial. Liability under CERCLA does not depend upon the existence or disposal of “hazardous waste” as defined by RCRA, but can be based on the presence of any of more than 700 “hazardous substances” listed by the EPA, many of which can be found in household waste. The definition of “hazardous substances” in CERCLA incorporates substances designated as hazardous or toxic under the Federal Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and Toxic Substances Control Act ("TSCA"). If we were found to be a responsible party for a CERCLA cleanup, under certain circumstances, the enforcing agency could pursue us or any other responsible party, for all investigative and remedial costs, even if others also were liable. CERCLA also authorizes the EPA to impose a lien in favor of the United States upon all real property subject to, or affected by, a remedial action for all costs for which the property owner is liable. CERCLA provides a responsible party with the right to bring a contribution action against other responsible parties for their allocable share of investigative and remedial costs. Our ability to obtain reimbursement for amounts we pay in excess of our allocable share of such costs would be limited by our ability to identify and locate other responsible parties and to prove the extent of their responsibility and by the financial resources of such other parties.
The Clean Air Act of 1970, as amended (“Clean Air Act”)
The Clean Air Act, generally through state implementation of federal requirements, regulates emissions of air pollutants from certain landfills based upon the date the landfill was constructed, the total capacity of the landfill and the annual volume of emissions. The EPA has promulgated new source performance standards regulating air emissions of certain regulated pollutants (non-methane organic compounds) from municipal solid waste landfills. Landfills located in areas where ambient levels of regulated pollutants exceed certain thresholds may be subject to more extensive air pollution controls and emission limitations. In addition, the EPA has issued standards regulating the disposal of asbestos-containing materials under the Clean Air Act.
The EPA is also focusing on the emissions of greenhouse gases, or GHG, including carbon dioxide and methane. In December 2009, the EPA issued its “endangerment finding” that carbon dioxide poses a threat to human health and welfare, providing the basis for the EPA to regulate GHG emissions. In December 2009 the EPA’s “Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases” rule went into effect, requiring facilities that emit twenty-five thousand metric tons or more per year of GHG emissions to submit annual reports to the EPA.
In 2010, the EPA issued the so-called “GHG Tailoring Rule”, which described how certain sources that emit GHG would be subject to heightened Clean Air Act Prevention of Significant Deterioration ("PSD") / Title V regulation. In June 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision partially invalidating the GHG Tailoring Rule and in 2015, the D.C. Circuit directed the EPA to consider further revisions to its regulations. We do not know whether or when the EPA will finalize regulations following the Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit decisions, or what obligations such regulations will impose on our operations.
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The adoption of other laws and regulations, which may include the imposition of fees or taxes, could adversely affect our collection and disposal operations. Additionally, certain of the states in which we operate are implementing air pollution control regulations, including regional cap and trade systems, relating to GHG that may be more stringent than regulations the EPA may promulgate. Changing environmental regulations could require us to take any number of actions, including purchasing emission allowances or installing additional pollution control technology, and could make some operations less profitable, which could adversely affect our results of operations.
Congress has considered various options, including a cap and trade system, which could impose a limit on and establish a pricing mechanism for GHG emissions and emission allowances. There also is pressure for the United States to join international efforts to control GHG emissions.
The Clean Air Act regulates emissions of air pollutants from our processing facilities. The EPA has enacted standards that apply to those emissions. It is possible that the EPA, or a state where we operate, will enact additional or different emission standards in the future.
All of the federal statutes described above authorize lawsuits by private citizens to enforce certain provisions of the statutes. In addition to a penalty award to the United States, some of those statutes authorize an award of attorney’s fees to private parties successfully advancing such an action.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, as amended (“OSHA”)
OSHA establishes employer responsibilities and authorizes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to promulgate and enforce occupational health and safety standards, including the obligation to maintain a workplace free of recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious injury, to comply with adopted worker protection standards, to maintain certain records, to provide workers with required disclosures and to implement certain health and safety training programs. A variety of those promulgated standards may apply to our operations, including those standards concerning notices of hazards, safety in excavation and demolition work, the handling of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials, and worker training and emergency response programs.
The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, As Amended (“PURPA”)
PURPA exempts qualifying facilities from most federal and state laws governing the financial organization and rate regulation of electric utilities, and generally requires electric utilities to purchase electricity generated by qualifying facilities at a price equal to the utility’s full “avoided cost”. Our five landfill gas-to-energy facilities are self- certified as “qualifying facilities”.
State and Local Regulations
Each state in which we now operate or may operate in the future has laws and regulations governing (1) water and air pollution, and the generation, storage, treatment, handling, processing, transportation, incineration and disposal of solid waste and hazardous waste; (2) in most cases, the siting, design, operation, maintenance, closure and post-closure maintenance of solid waste management facilities; and (3) in some cases, vehicle emissions limits or fuel types, which impact our collection operations. Such standards typically are as stringent as, and may be more stringent and broader in scope than, federal regulations. Most of the federal statutes noted above authorize states to enact and enforce laws with standards that are more protective of the environment than the federal analog. In addition, many states have adopted statutes comparable to, and in some cases more stringent than, CERCLA. Those statutes impose requirements for investigation and remediation of contaminated sites and liability for costs and damages associated with such sites, and some authorize the state to impose liens to secure costs expended addressing contamination on property owned by responsible parties. Some of those liens may take priority over previously filed instruments. Some states have enacted statutes that impose liability for substances in addition to the “hazardous substances” listed by EPA under CERCLA.
Many municipalities in which we currently operate or may operate in the future also have ordinances, laws and regulations affecting our operations. These include zoning and health measures that limit solid waste management activities to specified sites or conduct, flow control provisions that direct the delivery of solid wastes to specific facilities or to facilities in specific areas, laws that grant the right to establish franchises for collection services and then put out for bid the right to provide collection services, and bans or other restrictions on the movement of solid wastes into a municipality.
Some states have enacted laws that allow agencies with jurisdiction over waste management facilities to deny or revoke permits based on the applicant’s or permit holder’s compliance status. Some states also consider the compliance history of the corporate parent, subsidiaries and affiliates of the applicant or permit holder.
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Certain permits and approvals issued under state or local law may limit the types of waste that may be accepted at a solid waste management facility or the quantity of waste that may be accepted at a solid waste management facility during a specific time period. In addition, certain permits and approvals, as well as certain state and local regulations, may limit a solid waste management facility to accepting waste that originates from specified geographic areas or seek to restrict the importation of out-of-state waste or otherwise discriminate against out-of-state waste. Generally, restrictions on importing out-of-state waste have not withstood judicial challenge. However, from time to time federal legislation is proposed which would allow individual states to prohibit the disposal of out-of-state waste or to limit the amount of out-of-state waste that could be imported for disposal and would require states, under certain circumstances, to reduce the amounts of waste exported to other states. Although such legislation has not been passed by Congress, if similar legislation is enacted, states in which we operate solid waste management facilities could limit or prohibit the importation of out-of-state waste. Such actions could materially and adversely affect the business, financial condition and results of operations of any of our landfills within those states that receive a significant portion of waste originating from out-of-state.
Certain states and localities may restrict the export of waste from their jurisdiction, or require that a specified amount of waste be disposed of at facilities within their jurisdiction. In 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected as unconstitutional and therefore invalid, a local ordinance that sought to limit waste going out of the locality by imposing a requirement that the waste be delivered to a particular privately-owned facility. However, in 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a U.S. District Court ruling that the flow control regulations in Oneida and Herkimer counties in New York requiring trash haulers to use publicly-owned transfer stations are constitutional, and therefore valid. Additionally, certain state and local jurisdictions continue to seek to enforce such restrictions. Some proposed federal legislation would allow states and localities to impose flow restrictions. Those restrictions could reduce the volume of waste going to solid waste management facilities in certain areas, which may materially adversely affect our ability to operate our facilities and/or affect the prices we can charge for certain services. Those restrictions also may result in higher disposal costs for our collection operations. Flow control restrictions could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
There has been an increasing trend at the state and local levels to mandate or encourage both waste reduction at the source and waste recycling, and to prohibit or restrict the disposal in landfills of certain types of solid wastes, including yard wastes and leaves, certain construction or architectural wastes, food wastes, beverage containers, newspapers, household appliances and electronics such as computers, and batteries. Regulations reducing the volume and types of wastes available for transport to and disposal in landfills could affect our ability to operate our landfill facilities. Vermont, for example, enacted Act 148, containing among other things, a phased waste ban for recyclables, organics and leaf/yard waste. The law became effective July 1, 2012, with phased deadlines for compliance beginning 2014 through 2020. Vermont also passed a law requiring recycling of architectural waste from construction or demolition of a commercial project. The law became effective in January 2015.
Massachusetts revised its regulations governing solid waste management with a framework to encourage the re-use of organic waste material and prohibiting such material from disposal for large-scale commercial generators by October 2014.
New York State revised its regulations governing solid waste management, 6 NYCRR Part 360, effective in November 2017. The revised regulations, among other things, include requirements to conduct landfill liner integrity testing and install radiation detectors at certain facilities.
Although there is no federal law governing extended producer responsibility (“EPR”) regulations; many states have implemented or are contemplating EPR regulations for certain products. EPR regulations are intended to place responsibility for ultimate management or end-of-useful-life handling of the products they create. In addition to financial responsibility, an EPR program may include responsibility for local take-back or recycling programs. For example, several states in which we operate have EPR regulations for electronic waste. If broad EPR laws or regulations were adopted and managed under a manufacturer implemented program, it could have an impact on our business.
The EPA and environmental agencies within individual states in which we operate also consider and promulgate changes to water quality standards, action levels, remediation goals, and other federal or state regulatory standards for individual compounds or classes of compounds. These changes can also include the development of new or more stringent standards for “Emerging Contaminants”, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances ("PFASs"), pharmaceutical compounds, and a variety of synthetic chemical compounds used in manufacturing and industrial processes. In December 2016, EPA also designated ten chemical substances for risk evaluations under TSCA, and in December 2019, EPA designated an additional 20 chemical substances for risk evaluation, based on the requirements of the June 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. Changes in regulatory standards for existing or emerging contaminants can result in higher levels of cost and effort associated with the performance of environmental investigations and ongoing compliance at our facilities.
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Information about our Executive Officers
Our executive officers and their respective ages are as follows:
NameAgePosition
John W. Casella69  Chairman of the Board of Directors, Chief Executive Officer and Secretary
Edwin D. Johnson63  President and Chief Operating Officer
Edmond “Ned” R. Coletta44  Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Christopher B. Heald55  Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer
David L. Schmitt69  Senior Vice President and General Counsel
John W. Casella has served as Chairman of our Board of Directors since July 2001 and as our Chief Executive Officer since 1993. Mr. Casella also served as our President from 1993 to July 2001 and as Chairman of our Board from 1993 to December 1999. In addition, Mr. Casella has served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Casella Waste Management, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of ours, since 1977. Mr. Casella is also an executive officer and director of Casella Construction, Inc., a company owned by Mr. Casella and his brother Douglas R. Casella, also a member of our Board of Directors, which specializes in general contracting, soil excavation and heavy equipment work, and which performs landfill-construction and related services for us. Mr. Casella has been a member of numerous industry-related and community service-related state and local boards and commissions, including the National Recycling Coalition, Board of Directors of the Associated Industries of Vermont, the Association of Vermont Recyclers, the Vermont State Chamber of Commerce, the Rutland Industrial Development Corporation and the Rutland Regional Medical Center. Mr. Casella has also served on various state task forces, serving in an advisory capacity to the Governors of Vermont and New Hampshire on solid waste issues. Mr. Casella holds an A.S. in Business Management from Bryant & Stratton College and a B.S. in Business Education from Castleton State College.
Edwin D. Johnson has served as our President and Chief Operating Officer since December 2012 and as our Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer from July 2010 until December 2012. From March 2007 to July 2010, Mr. Johnson served as Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Accounting Officer at Waste Services, Inc, a solid waste services company. From November 2004 to March 2007, Mr. Johnson served as Chief Financial Officer of Expert Real Estate Services, Inc., a full service real estate brokerage company. Mr. Johnson is a Certified Public Accountant and holds an MBA from Florida International University and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Administration from Washington & Lee University.
Edmond “Ned” R. Coletta has served as our Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer since December 2012. Mr. Coletta joined us in December 2004 and has served in positions of increasing responsibility, including as our Vice President of Finance and Investor Relations from January 2011 to December 2012. Prior to that Mr. Coletta served as our Director of Finance and Investor Relations from August 2005 to January 2011. From 2002 until he joined us, Mr. Coletta served as the Chief Financial Officer and was a member of the Board of Directors of Avedro, Inc. (FKA ThermalVision, Inc.), an early stage medical device company that he co-founded. From 1997 to 2001, he served as a research and development engineer for Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems. Mr. Coletta holds an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science Engineering from Brown University.
Christopher B. Heald has served as our Vice President of Finance and Chief Accounting Officer since January 2013. Mr. Heald joined us in September 2001 and has served in positions of increasing responsibility, including as our Director of Financial Reporting and Analysis from July 2010 to January 2013 and as our Accounting Manager from August 2002 to July 2010. Mr. Heald is a Certified Public Accountant and holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Vermont.
David L. Schmitt has served as our Senior Vice President and General Counsel since June 2012. Mr. Schmitt joined us in May 2006 as our Vice President, General Counsel. Prior to that, Mr. Schmitt served as President of a privately held consulting firm, and further served from 2002 until 2005 as Vice President and General Counsel of BioEnergy International, LLC, (a predecessor company to Myriant Corporation), a firm specializing in the production of bio-succinic acid. He served from 1995 until 2001, as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Bradlees, Inc., a retailer in the northeast United States, and from 1986 through 1990, as Vice President and General Counsel of Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc., a multi-faceted corporation specializing in the development, ownership and operation of large-scale power facilities, fueled by solid waste and other alternative fuels. He is admitted to the Bar of Pennsylvania, and holds a Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Duquesne University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from The Pennsylvania State University.
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Availability of Reports and Other Information
Our website is www.casella.com. We make available, free of charge through our website, our Annual and Transition Reports on Form 10-K and 10-KT, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, Proxy Statements on Schedule 14A, and any amendments to those materials filed pursuant to Sections 13(a) and 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. We make these reports available through our website as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such materials with or furnish them to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). The information found on our website is not part of this or any other report we file with or furnish to the SEC.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
The following important factors, among others, could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by forward-looking statements made in this Annual Report on Form 10-K and presented elsewhere by management from time to time. The risks and uncertainties described below are those that we have identified as material, but are not the only risks and uncertainties facing us. Our business is also subject to general risks and uncertainties that affect many other companies, including overall economic and industry conditions, especially in the northeastern United States, where our operations and customers are principally located, changes in laws or accounting rules or other disruptions of expected economic or business conditions. Additional risks and uncertainties not currently known to us or that we currently believe are not material also may impair our business’s results of operations and financial condition.
We have in place an Enterprise Risk Management process that involves systematic risk identification and mitigation covering the categories of strategic, financial, operational, and compliance risk. The goal of enterprise risk management is not to eliminate all risk, but rather to identify and assess risks; assign, mitigate and monitor risks; and report the status of our risks to the Board of Directors and its committees.
Risks Related to Our Business
We face substantial competition in the solid waste services industry, and if we cannot successfully compete in the marketplace, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially adversely affected.
The solid waste services industry is highly competitive, has undergone a period of consolidation and requires substantial labor and capital resources. The markets in which we compete are served by, or are adjacent to markets served by, one or more of the large national or super regional solid waste companies, as well as numerous regional and local solid waste companies. Intense competition exists not only to provide services to customers, but also to acquire other businesses within each market. Some of our competitors have significantly greater financial and other resources than we do. From time to time, competitors may reduce the price of their services in an effort to expand market share or to win a competitively bid contract. These practices may require us to reduce the pricing of our services and may result in a loss of business.
As is generally the case in our industry, municipal contracts are typically subject to periodic competitive bidding. We may not be the successful bidder to obtain or retain these contracts. If we are unable to compete with larger and better capitalized companies or replace municipal contracts lost through the competitive bidding process with comparable contracts or other revenue sources within a reasonable time period, our revenues would decrease and our operating results could be materially adversely affected.
In our solid waste disposal markets, we also compete with operators of alternative disposal and recycling facilities and with counties, municipalities and solid waste districts that maintain their own solid waste collection, recycling and disposal operations. We are also increasingly competing with companies which seek to use parts of the waste stream as feedstock for renewable energy supplies. Public entities may have financial advantages because of their ability to charge user fees or similar charges, impose taxes and apply resulting revenues, access tax-exempt financing, transport waste to disposal sites outside of the northeastern markets, and, in some cases, utilize government subsidies.
In addition, we may be impacted by the development and commercialization of disruptive technologies that may materially change how waste management services are provided. If we are unable to gain access to these technologies or to compete effectively against them, our financial results may suffer.
We also experience competition in our hiring of drivers and mechanics necessary to service our customers. This competition may come from other waste management companies, but it also comes from other employers who hire drivers and maintain fleets, such as companies that provide courier delivery services, including United Parcel Service, Inc. and FedEx Corporation, as well as from a tightening labor market. If we are unable to hire and retain sufficient numbers of drivers to service our collection and disposal routes and mechanics to maintain our trucks, our financial condition and operating results could be materially impacted.
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Our growth strategy focuses on complementing or expanding our business through the acquisition of companies or assets, or the development of new operations. However, we may be unable to complete these transactions and, if executed, these transactions may not improve our business or may pose significant risks and could have a negative effect on our operations.
Our growth strategy includes engaging in acquisitions or developing operations or assets with the goal of complementing or expanding our business. These acquisitions may include “tuck-in” acquisitions within our existing markets, acquisitions of assets that are adjacent to or outside of our existing markets, or larger, more strategic acquisitions. In addition, from time to time we may acquire businesses that are complementary to our core business strategy. We may not be able to identify suitable acquisition candidates, and if we identify suitable acquisition candidates, we may be unable to successfully negotiate the acquisition at a price or on terms and conditions acceptable to us. Furthermore, we may be unable to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals to complete potential acquisitions.
Our ability to achieve the benefits from any potential future acquisitions, including cost savings and operating efficiencies, depends in part on our ability to successfully integrate the operations of such acquired businesses with our operations. The integration of acquired businesses and other assets may require significant management time and resources that would otherwise be available for the ongoing management of our existing operations. Any operations, properties or facilities that we acquire may be subject to unknown liabilities, such as undisclosed environmental contamination, or other environmental liability, including off-site disposal liability for which we would have no recourse, or only limited recourse, to the former owners of such operations or properties. As a result, if a liability were asserted against us based upon ownership of an acquired property, we might be required to pay significant sums to settle it, which could adversely affect our financial results and cash flow.
The waste management industry is undergoing fundamental change as traditional waste streams are increasingly viewed as renewable resources, which may adversely affect volumes and tipping fees at our landfills.
As we continue to develop our landfill capacity, the waste management industry is recognizing the value of the waste stream as a renewable resource, and accordingly, alternatives to landfilling are being developed that seek to maximize the renewable energy and other resource benefits of solid waste. These alternatives affect the demand for landfill airspace, and could affect our ability to operate our landfills at full capacity, as well as the tipping fees and prices that waste management companies generally, and that we, in particular, can charge for landfill airspace. Reduced tipping fees can affect our willingness to incur the expenditures necessary to increase the permitted capacity of the landfills. As a result, our revenues and operating margins could be materially adversely affected due to these disposal alternatives.
The waste industry is subject to extensive government regulations, including environmental laws and regulations, and we incur substantial costs to comply with such laws and regulations. Failure to comply with environmental or other laws and regulations, as well as enforcement actions and litigation arising from an actual or perceived breach of such laws and regulations, could subject us to fines, penalties, and judgments, and impose limits on our ability to operate and expand.
We are subject to potential liability and restrictions under environmental laws and regulations, including potential liability and restrictions arising from or relating to the transportation, handling, recycling, generation, treatment, storage and disposal of wastes, the presence, release, discharge or emission of pollutants, and the investigation, remediation and monitoring of impacts to soil, surface water, groundwater and other environmental media including natural resources, as a result of the actual or alleged presence, release, discharge or emission of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants on, at, under or migrating from our properties, or in connection with our operations. The waste management industry has been and will continue to be subject to regulation, including permitting and related financial assurance requirements, as well as attempts to further regulate the industry, including efforts to regulate and limit the emission of greenhouse gases. Our solid waste operations are subject to a wide range of federal, state and, in some cases, local environmental, odor and noise and land use restrictions. If we are not able to comply with the requirements that apply to a particular facility or if we operate in violation of the terms and conditions of, or without the necessary approvals or permits, we could be subject to administrative or civil, and possibly criminal, fines and penalties, and we may be required to spend substantial capital to bring an operation into compliance, to temporarily or permanently discontinue activities, and/or take corrective actions, possibly including removal of landfilled materials. Those costs or actions could be significant to us and affect our results of operations, cash flows, and available capital. Environmental and land use laws and regulations also affect our ability to expand and, in the case of our solid waste operations, may dictate those geographic areas from which we must, or, from which we may not, accept solid waste. Those laws and regulations may limit the overall size and daily solid waste volume that may be accepted by a solid waste operation. If we are not able to expand or otherwise operate one or more of our facilities because of limits imposed under such laws, we may be required to increase our utilization of disposal facilities owned by third-parties, which could reduce our revenues and/or operating margins.
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In addition to complying with environmental laws and regulations, we are required to obtain government permits to operate our facilities, including all of our landfills. There is no guarantee that we will be able to obtain the requisite permits and, even if we could, that any permit (and any existing permits we currently hold) will be renewed or modified as needed to fit our business needs. We have recently been informed by the New Hampshire Division of Environmental Services that it will be necessary to amend our permit application for an additional 1.2 million cubic yards of capacity at the NCES Landfill. This will likely impact the timing of our permit and our results of operations. There can be no assurance that we will receive this permit after it is refiled and if it is determined that the likelihood of receiving the expansion permit become remote, the capitalized costs related to the expansion effort will be expensed immediately. Localities where we operate generally seek to regulate some or all landfill and transfer station operations, including siting and expansion of operations. The laws and regulations adopted by municipalities in which our landfills and transfer stations are located may limit or prohibit the expansion of a landfill or transfer station, as well as the amount of solid waste that we can accept at the landfill or transfer station on a daily, quarterly or annual basis, and any effort to acquire or expand landfills and transfer stations, which typically involves a significant amount of time and expense. In addition, state laws applicable to certain of our landfills require that the state determine whether acceptance of waste at the landfill not generated within the state provides a substantial public benefit. We may not be successful in obtaining new landfill or transfer station sites or expanding the permitted capacity of any of our current landfills and transfer stations. If we are unable to develop additional disposal and transfer station capacity, our ability to achieve economies from the internalization of our waste stream will be limited. If we fail to receive new landfill permits or renew existing permits, we may incur landfill asset impairment and other charges associated with accelerated closure.
We have historically grown through acquisitions, may make additional acquisitions in the future, and we have tried and will continue to try to evaluate and limit environmental risks and liabilities presented by businesses to be acquired prior to the acquisition. It is possible that some liabilities may prove to be more difficult or costly to address than we anticipate. It is also possible that government officials responsible for enforcing environmental laws and regulations may believe an issue is more serious than we expect, or that we will fail to identify or fully appreciate an existing liability before we become responsible for addressing it. Some of the legal sanctions to which we could become subject could cause the suspension or revocation of a permit, prevent us from, or delay us in, obtaining or renewing permits to operate or expand our facilities, or harm our reputation. As of December 31, 2019, we have recorded a $1.2 million environmental remediation liability for the estimated cost of our share of work associated with a consent order issued by the State of New York to remediate a scrap yard and solid waste transfer station owned by one of our acquired subsidiaries, including the recognition of accretion expense, and a $4.6 million environmental remediation liability related to our obligation associated with installation of a municipal waterline associated with Southbridge Recycling & Disposal Park, Inc. discussed in Item 3, "Legal Proceedings" of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including the recognition of accretion expense in other accrued liabilities and other long-term liabilities. There can be no assurance that the cost of such cleanup or that our share of that cost will not exceed our estimates.
In addition to the costs of complying with environmental laws and regulations, we incur costs in connection with environmental proceedings and litigation brought against us by government agencies and private parties. We are, and may be in the future, a defendant in lawsuits brought by parties alleging environmental damage, including natural resource damage, personal injury, and/or property damage or impairment, or seeking to impose civil penalties, injunctive relief or overturn or prevent the issuance of an operating permit or authorization, all of which may result in us incurring significant liabilities. For information about the material outstanding claims against us and our subsidiaries, see Item 3. “Legal Proceedings” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
We may not have sufficient insurance coverage for our environmental liabilities, such coverage may not cover all of the potential liabilities we may be subject to and/or we may not be able to obtain insurance coverage in the future at reasonable expense, or at all.
The conduct of our businesses is also subject to various other laws and regulations administered by federal, state and local governmental agencies, including tax laws, employment laws and competition laws, among others. New laws, regulations or governmental policy and their related interpretations, or changes in any of the foregoing, including taxes or other limitations on our services, may alter the environment in which we do business and, therefore, may impact our results or increase our costs or liabilities.
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In certain jurisdictions, we are subject to compliance with specific obligations under competition laws due to our competitive position in those jurisdictions. For example, in May 2002, we entered into an assurance of discontinuance with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office concerning, among other matters, the conduct of our business in Vermont relating to certain contract terms applicable to our small commercial container customers. In August 2011, a revised final judgment of consent and order was entered by the Vermont Superior Court Washington Unit, Civil Division, as a result of some of our small commercial container customers having been mistakenly issued contracts that did not strictly comply with the terms of the assurance of discontinuance. Pursuant to the order, we paid a civil penalty in an aggregate amount of $1.0 million. In July 2014, we entered into an assurance of discontinuance with the office of the New York Attorney General in connection with certain of our commercial practices in certain specified counties in New York, pursuant to which we paid the State of New York a sum of $0.1 million. The assurances of discontinuance and order provide for certain restrictions on our customer contract terms, certain conditions on our business acquisitions, sales and market share and require us to maintain an internal compliance program. Failure to comply with these requirements or other laws or regulations could subject us to enforcement actions or financial penalties which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Our results of operations are affected by low commodity prices and diminished markets for recyclable materials.
Our results of operations have been and will continue to be affected by falling purchase or resale prices or market requirements for recyclable materials. Our recycling business involves the purchase and sale of recyclable materials, some of which are priced on a commodity basis. The commodity markets continue to see ongoing negative pressure on pricing associated with the decline of the fiber market due to less use of paper products such as newspaper and office paper as a result of increased on-line reading. As a result of these market changes, domestic demand for various recycled fibers from mill buyers has steadily declined over the past decade, and as such we have exported more of these materials overseas to China. In 2017, China launched a campaign called National Sword which has imposed significant restrictions on the importation into China of recyclable materials, including a complete ban on the import into China of mixed paper and new quality standards for contaminants in recyclable materials commencing January 1, 2018. Furthermore, China has issued limited import licenses for its mills to import recyclable commodities, resulting in a decrease of over 50% of imports of recyclable commodities into China. These factors have had a significant impact on our business and have required us to seek alternative export markets for recyclable commodities.
In addition, some of the countries that took recyclable commodities following China’s imposition of restrictions, including Indonesia and India, have themselves imposed similar restrictions on U.S. exports, further impacting prices. Although we have restructured many of our recycling contracts to require the respective municipalities to absorb some of the impact of declining commodity prices, these restructured contracts have had the impact of significantly increasing the costs to municipalities for continuing to offer recycling services to their customers. In the event that the costs of such services becomes excessive, such municipalities could discontinue their recycling programs altogether, which could materially affect our financial results.
We seek to limit our exposure to fluctuating commodity prices through: our revenue sharing contracts that share commodity prices above a threshold level or charge a tipping fee below the threshold; our net commodity rate formula that allows us to pass back higher costs to sell commodities, including higher labor costs or equipment costs to meet new quality standards; our floating Sustainability Recycling Adjustment fee that passes back the cost of recycling to our collection customers; and as applicable, the use of hedging agreements, floor price contracts and long-term supply contracts with customers. Although we have introduced these risk mitigation programs to help offset volatility in commodity prices and to offset higher labor or capital costs to meet more stringent contamination standards, we cannot provide assurance that we can use these programs with our customers in all circumstances or that they will mitigate these risks in an evolving recycling environment.
Our business requires a high level of capital expenditures.
Our business is capital intensive. Our capital expenditure requirements include fixed asset purchases and capital expenditures for landfill development and cell construction, as well as site and cell closure. We use a substantial portion of our cash flows from operating activities toward capital expenditures, which reduces our flexibility to use such cash flows for other purposes, such as reducing our indebtedness. Our capital expenditures could increase if we make acquisitions or further expand our operations, or as a result of factors beyond our control, such as changes in federal, state or local governmental requirements. The amount that we spend on capital expenditures may exceed current expectations, which may require us to obtain additional funding for our operations or impair our ability to grow our business.
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We are upgrading our technology infrastructure and there can be no assurance that our efforts will be completed on the projected timetable or that our investment will result in the expected gains.
We are upgrading our technology infrastructure, including a limited pilot of a new service management system and other systems that we believe will improve our internal processes and the productivity of our employees. These upgrades are complex and there can be no assurance that they will result in expected productivity gains and operating cost reductions on our anticipated timeline, if at all. In addition, if we are not able to maintain the security of our data, confidential information about us or our customers or suppliers could be inadvertently disclosed, subjecting us to possible expenses and other liabilities as well as adversely impacting customer and other third party relationships. If we are unable to benefit from new technologies, we may be at a competitive disadvantage to other companies in the waste management industry, in which case our operating results could suffer.
Cybersecurity incidents could negatively impact our business and our relationships with customers, adversely affecting our financial results and exposing us to litigation risk.
We use computer technology in substantially all aspects of our business operations. We also use mobile devices, social networking and other online activities to connect with our customers and our employees to be able to process transactions and provide information that we feel is necessary to manage our business. 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 us and our business partners. We also rely on a Payment Card Industry compliant third party to protect our customers’ credit card information. Further, as we pursue our strategy to grow through acquisitions and to pursue new initiatives that improve our operations and cost structure, we are also expanding and improving our information technologies, resulting in a larger technological presence and corresponding exposure to cybersecurity risk. If we fail to assess and identify cyber security 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 preventive or detection measures and incident response efforts may not be entirely effective, especially as cyber security attacks continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, often are not recognized until launched against a target and may be difficult to detect for a long time.
If company, personal or otherwise protected information is improperly accessed, tampered with or distributed, we may face significant financial exposure, including incurring significant costs to remediate possible injury to the affected parties. We may also be subject to sanctions and civil or criminal penalties if we are found to be in violation of the privacy or security rules under laws protecting confidential information. If our established network of security controls, policy enforcement mechanisms, educational awareness programs and monitoring systems that we use to address these threats to technology fail, 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. While we have purchased insurance coverage for cybersecurity risks, there can be no assurance that any such coverage would be adequate to cover potential liability.
Our business is geographically concentrated and is therefore subject to regional economic downturns.
Our operations and customers are concentrated principally in New England and New York. Therefore, our business, financial condition and results of operations are susceptible to regional economic downturns and other regional factors, including state regulations and budget constraints and severe weather conditions. In addition, as we seek to expand in our existing markets, opportunities for growth within this region will become more limited and the geographic concentration of our business will increase.
Our results of operations and financial condition may be negatively affected if we inadequately accrue for final capping, closure and post-closure costs or by the timing of these costs for our waste disposal facilities.
We have material financial obligations relating to final capping, closure and post-closure costs of our existing owned or operated landfills and will have material financial obligations with respect to any disposal facilities that we may own or operate in the future. Once the permitted capacity of a particular landfill is reached and additional capacity is not authorized, or a determination is made to cease operations at a landfill due to other considerations, the landfill must be closed and capped, and we must begin post-closure maintenance. We establish accruals for the estimated costs associated with such final capping, closure and post-closure obligations over the anticipated useful life of each landfill on a per ton basis. We have provided and expect that we will in the future provide accruals for financial obligations relating to final capping, closure and post-closure costs of our owned or operated landfills, generally for a term of 30 years after closure of a landfill. Our financial obligations for final capping, closure or post-closure costs could exceed the amounts accrued or amounts otherwise receivable pursuant to trust funds established for this purpose. Such a circumstance could result in significant unanticipated charges that would have an adverse effect on our business.
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In addition, the timing of any such final capping, closure or post-closure costs, which exceed established accruals, may further negatively affect our business. Since we will be unable to control the timing and amounts of such costs, we may be forced to delay investments or planned improvements in other parts of our business or we may be unable to meet applicable financial assurance requirements. Any of the foregoing would negatively affect our business and results of operations.
Fluctuations in fuel costs could affect our operating expenses and results.
The price and supply of fuel is unpredictable and fluctuates based on events beyond our control, including among others, geopolitical developments, supply and demand for oil and gas, actions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other oil and gas producers, war and unrest in oil producing countries and regional production patterns. Because fuel is needed to run our fleet of trucks, price escalations for fuel increase our operating expenses. In fiscal year 2019, we used approximately 6.5 million gallons of diesel fuel in our solid waste operations. Although we have an Energy and Environmental fee program, which includes an Energy component that floats on a monthly basis based on diesel fuel prices, contractual restrictions and competitive conditions may impact our opportunity to pass this fee on to our customers in all circumstances.
Our insurance coverage and self-insurance reserves may be inadequate to cover all significant risk exposures.
We carry a range of insurance policies intended to protect our assets and operations, including general liability insurance, property damage and environmental risk insurance. While we endeavor to purchase insurance coverage appropriate to our risk assessment, we are unable to predict with certainty the frequency, nature or magnitude of claims for direct or consequential damages, and as a result our insurance program may not fully cover us for losses we may incur. In addition, as a result of a number of catastrophic weather and other events in the United States, insurance companies have incurred substantial losses and accordingly in many cases they have substantially reduced the nature and amount of insurance coverage available to the market, have broadened exclusions, and/or have substantially increased the cost of such coverage. It is likely that the tight insurance market will continue into the foreseeable future. A partially or completely uninsured claim against us (including liabilities associated with cleanup or remediation at our facilities), if successful and of sufficient magnitude, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Any future difficulty in obtaining insurance could also impair our ability to secure future contracts, which may be conditioned upon the availability of adequate insurance coverage. In addition, claims associated with risks we have retained under our self-insurance programs may exceed our recorded reserves which could negatively impact future earnings.
We could be precluded from entering into contracts or obtaining or maintaining permits or certain contracts if we are unable to obtain third-party financial assurance to secure our contractual obligations.
Public solid waste collection, recycling and disposal contracts, and obligations associated with landfill closure and post-closure typically require performance or surety bonds, letters of credit or other means of financial assurance to secure our contractual performance. We currently obtain performance and surety bonds from Evergreen National Indemnity Company, in which we hold a 19.9% equity interest. If we are unable to obtain the necessary financial assurance in sufficient amounts or at acceptable rates, we could be precluded from entering into additional municipal contracts or from obtaining or retaining landfill management contracts or operating permits.
We may be required to write-off or impair capitalized costs or intangible assets in the future or we may incur restructuring costs or other charges, each of which could harm our earnings.
In accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States, we capitalize certain expenditures and advances relating to our acquisitions, pending acquisitions, landfills, cost method investments and development projects. In addition, we have considerable unamortized assets. From time to time in future periods, we may be required to incur a charge against earnings in an amount equal to any unamortized capitalized expenditures and advances, net of any portion thereof that we estimate will be recoverable, through sale or otherwise, relating to: (1) any operation or other asset that is being sold, permanently shut down or impaired or has not generated or is not expected to generate sufficient cash flow; (2) any pending acquisition that is not consummated; (3) any landfill or development project that is not expected to be successfully completed; and (4) any goodwill or other intangible assets that are determined to be impaired.
In response to such charges and costs and other market factors, we may be required to implement restructuring plans in an effort to reduce the size and cost of our operations and to better match our resources with our market opportunities. As a result of such actions, we would expect to incur restructuring expenses and accounting charges which may be material. Several factors could cause a restructuring to adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. These include potential disruption of our operations, the development of our landfill capacity and recycling technologies and other aspects of our business. Employee morale and productivity could also suffer and result in unintended employee attrition. Any restructuring would require substantial management time and attention and may divert management from other important work. Moreover, we could encounter delays in executing any restructuring plans, which could cause further disruption and additional unanticipated expense.
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Our revenues and our operating income experience seasonal fluctuations.
Our transfer and disposal revenues historically have been higher in the late spring, summer and early fall months. This seasonality reflects the lower volume of solid waste during the late fall, winter and early spring months primarily because: 
the volume of waste relating to C&D activities decreases substantially during the winter months in the northeastern United States; and
decreased tourism in Vermont, Maine and eastern New York during the winter months tends to lower the volume of solid waste generated by commercial and restaurant customers, which is partially offset by increased volume from the ski industry.
Since certain of our operating and fixed costs remain constant throughout the fiscal year, operating income is impacted by a similar seasonality. In addition, particularly harsh weather conditions typically result in increased operating costs.
Adverse weather conditions may limit our operations and increase the costs of collection and disposal.
Our collection and landfill operations could be adversely impacted by extended periods of inclement weather, or by increased severity of weather. Adverse weather could increase our operating costs associated with the collection and disposal of waste, delay the collection and disposal of waste, reduce the volume of waste delivered to our disposal sites, increase the volume of waste collected under our existing contracts (without corresponding compensation), decrease the throughput and operating efficiency of our materials recycling facilities, or delay construction or expansion of our landfill sites and other facilities. In addition, adverse weather conditions may result in the temporary suspension of our operations, which can significantly affect our operating results in the affected regions during those periods.
Efforts by labor unions to organize our employees could divert management attention and increase our operating expenses.
Certain groups of our employees have chosen to be represented by unions, and we have negotiated collective bargaining agreements with these groups. The negotiation of collective bargaining agreements could divert management attention and result in increased operating expenses and lower net income (or increased net loss). If we are unable to negotiate acceptable collective bargaining agreements, we may be subject to union-initiated work stoppages, including strikes. Depending on the type and duration of any labor disruptions, our revenues could decrease and our operating expenses could increase, which could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. As of January 31, 2020, approximately 6% of our employees were represented by unions.
Our enterprise risk management process may not be effective in mitigating the risks to which we are subject, or in reducing the potential for losses in connection with such risks.
Our enterprise risk management framework is designed to minimize or mitigate the risks to which we are subject, as well as any losses stemming from such risks. Although we seek to identify, measure, monitor, report, and control our exposure to such risks, and employ a broad and diversified set of risk monitoring and mitigation techniques in the process, those techniques are inherently limited in their ability to anticipate the existence or development of risks that are currently unknown and unanticipated. The ineffectiveness of our enterprise risk management framework in mitigating the impact of known risks or the emergence of previously unknown or unanticipated risks may result in our incurring losses in the future that could adversely impact our financial condition and results of operations.
Risks Related to Our Indebtedness
We have substantial debt and have the ability to incur additional debt. The principal and interest payment obligations of such debt may restrict our future operations.
As of December 31, 2019, we had approximately $522.7 million of outstanding principal indebtedness (excluding approximately $24.5 million of outstanding letters of credit issued under our term loan A facility ("Term Loan Facility") and revolving line of credit facility (“Revolving Credit Facility” and, together with the Term Loan Facility, the "Credit Facility"). The Credit Facility consists of the Term Loan Facility with term loans in the outstanding principal amount of $350.0 million and the Revolving Credit Facility with loans thereunder being available up to an aggregate principal amount of $200.0 million, of which $148.6 million of unused commitments remain under the Revolving Credit Facility, subject to customary borrowing conditions. In addition, the terms of our existing indebtedness permit us to incur additional debt. Our substantial debt, among other things:
requires us to dedicate a substantial portion of any cash flow from operations to the payment of interest and principal due under our debt, which reduces funds available for other business purposes, including capital expenditures and acquisitions;
may place us at a competitive disadvantage compared with some of our competitors that may have less debt and better access to capital resources; and
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limits our ability to obtain additional financing required to fund working capital and capital expenditures and for other general corporate purposes, but does allow us to increase the amount of our debt substantially subject to the conditions in the Credit Facility.
Our ability to satisfy our obligations and to reduce our total debt depends on our future operating performance and on economic, financial, competitive and other factors, many of which are beyond our control. Our business may not generate sufficient cash flow, and future financings may not be available to provide sufficient net proceeds, to meet these obligations or to successfully execute our business strategy.
The Credit Facility requires us to meet a number of financial ratios and covenants.
The Credit Facility contains certain affirmative and negative covenants which, among other things and subject, in certain cases, to certain basket amounts and other exceptions, limit the existence of additional indebtedness, the existence of liens or pledges, certain investments, acquisitions and sales or other transfers of assets, the payment of dividends and distributions and repurchases of equity, prepayments of certain junior indebtedness, and certain other transactions. Our ability to comply with these covenants may be affected by events beyond our control, including prevailing economic, financial and industry conditions. These covenants could have an adverse effect on our business by limiting our ability to take advantage of financing, merger and acquisition or other corporate opportunities. Additionally, the Credit Facility requires, solely for the benefit of the lenders under the Revolving Credit Facility, that we meet financial tests, including, without limitation:
minimum consolidated EBITDA to consolidated cash interest charges ratio; and
maximum consolidated funded debt (net of up to an agreed amount of cash and cash equivalents) to consolidated EBITDA ratio.
An event of default under any of our debt agreements could permit some of our lenders, including the lenders under the Credit Facility, to declare all amounts borrowed from them to be immediately due and payable, together with accrued and unpaid interest, or, in the case of the Credit Facility, terminate the commitment to make further credit extensions thereunder, which could, in turn, trigger cross-defaults under other debt obligations. If we were unable to repay debt to our lenders, or were otherwise in default under any provision governing our outstanding debt obligations, our secured lenders could proceed against us and against the collateral securing that debt.
Risks Related to Our Common Stock
Holders of our Class A common stock are entitled to one vote per share, and holders of our Class B common stock are entitled to ten votes per share. The lower voting power of the Class A common stock may negatively affect the attractiveness of our Class A common stock to investors and, as a result, its market value.
We have two classes of common stock: Class A common stock, which is entitled to one vote per share, and Class B common stock, all of which are beneficially owned by John W. Casella, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and his brother, Douglas R. Casella, a member of our Board of Directors, and which is entitled to ten votes per share. Except for the election of one of our directors and in certain limited circumstances required by applicable law, holders of Class A common stock and Class B common stock vote together as a single class on all matters to be voted on by our stockholders. As of January 31, 2020, an aggregate of 988,200 shares of our Class B common stock, representing 9,882,000 votes, were outstanding. Based on the number of shares of common stock outstanding as of January 31, 2020, the shares of our Class A common stock and Class B common stock beneficially owned by John W. Casella and Douglas R. Casella represented approximately 18.9% of the aggregate voting power of our stockholders. Consequently, John W. Casella and Douglas R. Casella are able to substantially influence all matters for stockholder consideration and constitute, and are expected to continue to constitute, a significant portion of the shares entitled to vote on all matters requiring approval by our stockholders. The difference in the voting power of our Class A common stock and Class B common stock could diminish the market value of our Class A common stock if investors attribute value to the superior voting rights of our Class B common stock and the power those rights confer.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
None.
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ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
Our headquarters is located at 25 Greens Hill Lane, Rutland, Vermont 05701, where we currently lease approximately 12,000 square feet of office space.
Our principal property and equipment consists of land, landfills, buildings, machinery and equipment, rolling stock and containers. At January 31, 2020, we operated eight subtitle D landfills, four of which we own and four of which we lease; one landfill permitted to accept C&D materials that we own; 58 transfer stations, 32 of which we own, eight of which we lease and 18 of which we operate under a contract; 43 solid waste collection facilities, 25 of which we own, 17 of which we lease and one of which we operate under a contract; 20 recycling processing facilities, ten of which we own, seven of which we lease and three of which we operate under a contract; four landfill gas-to-energy facilities that we own; and 25 corporate office and other administrative facilities, five of which we own and 20 of which we lease (See Item 1, “Business” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for property information by operating segment and location). We believe that our property and equipment are adequately maintained and sufficient for our current operations.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
In the ordinary course of our business and as a result of the extensive governmental regulation of the solid waste industry, we are subject to various judicial and administrative proceedings involving state and local agencies. In these proceedings, an agency may seek to impose fines or to revoke or deny renewal of an operating permit held by us. From time to time, we may also be subject to actions brought by special interest or other groups, adjacent landowners or residents in connection with the permitting and licensing of landfills and transfer stations, or allegations of environmental damage or violations of the permits and licenses pursuant to which we operate. In addition, we may be named defendants in various claims and suits pending for alleged damages to persons and property, alleged violations of certain laws and alleged liabilities arising out of matters occurring during the ordinary operation of a waste management business.
Environmental Remediation Liability (including related litigation)
We are subject to liability for environmental damage, including personal injury and property damage, that our solid waste, recycling and power generation facilities may cause to neighboring property owners, particularly as a result of the contamination of drinking water sources or soil, possibly including damage resulting from conditions that existed before we acquired the facilities. We may also be subject to liability for similar claims arising from off-site environmental contamination caused by pollutants or hazardous substances if we or our predecessors arrange or arranged to transport, treat or dispose of those materials. The following matters represent our material outstanding claims.
Southbridge Recycling & Disposal Park, Inc.
In October 2015, our Southbridge Recycling and Disposal Park, Inc. (“SRD”) subsidiary reported to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (“MADEP”) results of analysis of samples collected pursuant to our existing permit from private drinking water wells located near the Town of Southbridge, Massachusetts (“Town”) Landfill (“Southbridge Landfill”), which was operated by SRD and later closed in November 2018 when Southbridge Landfill reached its final capacity. Those results indicated the presence of contaminants above the levels triggering notice and response obligations under MADEP regulations. In response to those results, we are carrying out an Immediate Response Action pursuant to Massachusetts General Law Chapter 21E (the "Charlton 21E Obligations") pursuant to state law. Further, we have implemented a plan to analyze and better understand the groundwater near the Southbridge Landfill and we are investigating with the objective of identifying the source or sources of the elevated levels of contamination measured in the well samples. If it is determined that some or all of the contamination originated at the Southbridge Landfill, we will work with the Town (the Southbridge Landfill owner and the former operator of an unlined portion of the Southbridge Landfill, which was used prior to our operation of a double-lined portion of the Southbridge Landfill commencing in 2004) to evaluate and allocate the liabilities related to the Charlton 21E Obligations. In July 2016, we sent correspondence to the Town pursuant to Chapter 21E of Massachusetts General Laws demanding that the Town reimburse us for the environmental response costs we had spent and that the Town be responsible for all such costs in the future, as well as any other costs or liabilities resulting from the release of contaminants from the unlined portion of the Southbridge Landfill. The Town responded in September 2016, denying that the Southbridge Landfill is the source of such contamination, and claiming that if it is, that we may owe an indemnity to the Town pursuant to the Operating Agreement between us and the Town dated May 29, 2007, as amended. We entered into a Tolling Agreement with the Town to delay any further administrative or legal actions until our work with MADEP more specifically defines the parties’ responsibilities for the Charlton 21E Obligations, if any. Please see below for further discussion of our relationship with the Town regarding the Charlton 21E Obligations.
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In February 2016, we and the Town received a Notice of Intent to Sue under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA") from a law firm purporting to represent residents proximate to the Southbridge Landfill (“Residents”), indicating its intent to file suit against us on behalf of the Residents alleging the groundwater contamination originated from the Southbridge Landfill. In February 2017, we received an additional Notice of Intent to Sue from the National Environmental Law Center under the Federal Clean Water Act ("CWA") and RCRA (collectively the “Acts”) on behalf of Environment America, Inc., d/b/a Environment Massachusetts, and Toxics Action Center, Inc., which have referred to themselves as the Citizen Groups. The Citizen Groups alleged that we had violated the Acts, and that they intended to seek appropriate relief in federal court for those alleged violations. On or about June 9, 2017, a lawsuit was filed against us, SRD and the Town in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (the “Massachusetts Court”) by the Citizen Groups and the Residents alleging violations of the Acts (the “Litigation”), and demanding a variety of remedies under the Acts, including fines, remediation, mitigation and costs of litigation, and remedies for violations of Massachusetts civil law related to personal and property damages, including remediation, diminution of property values, compensation for lost use and enjoyment of properties, enjoinment of further operation of the Southbridge Landfill, and costs of litigation, plus interest on any damage award, on behalf of the Residents. We believe the Litigation to be factually inaccurate, and without legal merit, and we and SRD intend to vigorously defend the Litigation. Nevertheless, we believe it is reasonably possible that a loss will occur as a result of the Litigation although an estimate of loss cannot be reasonably provided at this time. We also continue to believe the Town should be responsible for costs or liabilities associated with the Litigation relative to alleged contamination originating from the unlined portion of the Southbridge Landfill, although there can be no assurance that we will not be required to incur some or all of such costs and liabilities.
In December 2017, we filed a Motion to Dismiss the Litigation, and on October 1, 2018, the Massachusetts Court granted our Motion to Dismiss, and accordingly, dismissed the Citizen Groups claims under the Acts. The Massachusetts Court has retained jurisdiction of the Residents claims. The Citizen Groups intend to appeal the Massachusetts Court’s decision to grant our Motion to Dismiss. The Residents moved for a stay of their case until the Citizen Groups appealed. We opposed the stay and in March 2019, the Massachusetts Court denied the Residents motion for a stay. We are in active discovery in the Residents case.
We entered into an Administrative Consent Order on April 26, 2017 (the “ACO”), with MADEP, the Town, and the Town of Charlton, committing us to equally share the costs with MADEP, of up to $10.0 million ($5.0 million each) for the Town to install a municipal waterline in the Town of Charlton ("Waterline"). Upon satisfactory completion of that Waterline, and other matters covered by the ACO, we and the Town will be released by MADEP from any future responsibilities for the Charlton 21E Obligations. We also entered into an agreement with the Town on April 28, 2017 entitled the “21E Settlement and Water System Construction Funding Agreement” (the “Waterline Agreement”), wherein we and the Town released each other from claims arising from the Charlton 21E Obligations. Pursuant to the Waterline Agreement, the Town will issue a twenty (20) year bond for our portion of the Waterline costs (up to $5.0 million). We have agreed to reimburse the Town for periodic payments under such bond. Construction of the waterline is complete and homeowners are relying on municipal water supply. Remaining aspects of the project are minor and are expected to be completed in early 2020. Bond reimbursement to the Town will commence in the fiscal year ending December 31, 2020.
We have recorded an environmental remediation liability related to our obligation associated with the installation of the Waterline in other accrued liabilities and other long-term liabilities. We inflate the estimated costs in current dollars to the expected time of payment and discount the total cost to present value using a risk-free interest rate of 1.9%.
A summary of the changes to the environmental remediation liability associated with the Southbridge Landfill follows (in millions):
 Twelve Months Ended December 31, 2019
 20192018
Beginning balance$5.2  $5.9  
Accretion expense0.1  —  
Obligations incurred—  0.2  
Obligations settled (1)
(0.7) (0.9) 
Ending balance$4.6  $5.2  
(1)Includes amounts that are being processed through accounts payable as a part of our disbursements cycle.
We completed the first phase of landfill capping and closure at the Southbridge Landfill in the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019, and are actively seeking approval from MADEP to close and cap the remainder of the landfill.
The costs and liabilities we may be required to incur in connection with the foregoing Southbridge Landfill matters could be material to our results of operations, our cash flows and our financial condition.
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Potsdam Environmental Remediation Liability
On December 20, 2000, the State of New York Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) issued an Order on Consent (“Order”) which named Waste-Stream, Inc. (“WSI”), our subsidiary, General Motors Corporation (“GM”) and Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation (“NiMo”) as Respondents. The Order required that the Respondents undertake certain work on a 25-acre scrap yard and solid waste transfer station owned by WSI in Potsdam, New York, including the preparation of a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (“Study”). A draft of the Study was submitted to the DEC in January 2009 (followed by a final report in May 2009). The Study estimated that the undiscounted costs associated with implementing the preferred remedies would be approximately $10.2 million. On February 28, 2011, the DEC issued a Proposed Remedial Action Plan for the site and accepted public comments on the proposed remedy through March 29, 2011. We submitted comments to the DEC on this matter. In April 2011, the DEC issued the final Record of Decision (“ROD”) for the site. The ROD was subsequently rescinded by the DEC for failure to respond to all submitted comments. The preliminary ROD, however, estimated that the present cost associated with implementing the preferred remedies would be approximately $12.1 million. The DEC issued the final ROD in June 2011 with proposed remedies consistent with its earlier ROD. An Order on Consent and Administrative Settlement naming WSI and NiMo as Respondents was executed by the Respondents and DEC with an effective date of October 25, 2013. On January 29, 2016, a Cost-Sharing Agreement was executed between WSI, NiMo, Alcoa Inc. (“Alcoa”) and Reynolds Metal Company (“Reynolds”) whereby Alcoa and Reynolds elected to voluntarily participate in the onsite remediation activities at a combined 15% participant share. The majority of the remediation work was completed in the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019. WSI is jointly and severally liable with NiMo, Alcoa and Reynolds for the total cost to remediate.
We have recorded an environmental remediation liability associated with the Potsdam site based on incurred costs to date and estimated costs to complete the remediation in other accrued liabilities and other long-term liabilities. Our expenditures could be significantly higher if costs exceed estimates. We inflate the estimated costs in current dollars to the expected time of payment and discount the total cost to present value using a risk-free interest rate of 1.5%.
A summary of the changes to the environmental remediation liability associated with the Potsdam site follows (in millions):
 Twelve Months Ended December 31, 2019
 20192018
Beginning balance$5.6  $5.8  
Obligations incurred (1)
(4.5) (0.2) 
Ending balance$1.1  $5.6  
(1)Includes amounts that are being processed through accounts payable as a part of our disbursements cycle.
Legal Proceedings
North Country Environmental Services
On or about March 8, 2018, the Citizen Groups described above delivered correspondence to our subsidiary, North Country Environmental Services, Inc. ("NCES") and us, providing notice of the Citizen Groups' intent to sue NCES and us for violations of the CWA in conjunction with NCES's operation of its landfill in Bethlehem, New Hampshire ("NCES Landfill"). On May 14, 2018, the Citizen Groups filed a lawsuit against NCES and us in the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire (the “New Hampshire Court”) alleging violations of the CWA, arguing that ground water discharging into the Ammonoosuc River is a "point source" under the CWA (the "New Hampshire Litigation"). The New Hampshire Litigation seeks remediation and fines under the CWA. On June 15, 2018, we and NCES filed a Motion to Dismiss the New Hampshire Litigation. On July 13, 2018, the Citizen Groups filed objections to our Motion to Dismiss. On July 27, 2018, we filed a reply in support of our Motion to Dismiss. On September 25, 2018, the New Hampshire Court denied our Motion to Dismiss. In March of 2019, we filed a motion in the New Hampshire Litigation asking for a stay of this litigation until certain appeals from discordant federal circuits were heard by the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”). SCOTUS has granted certiorari determining that the circumstances described are sufficient for SCOTUS to hear such cases. Our motion for a stay was granted in the New Hampshire Litigation, and SCOTUS is expected to hear and rule on such cases this calendar year. In any event, we intend to continue to vigorously defend against the New Hampshire Litigation, which we believe is without merit.
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Ontario County, New York Class Action Litigation
On or about September 17, 2019, Richard Vandemortel and Deb Vandemortel filed a class action complaint against us on behalf of similarly situated citizens in Ontario County, New York. The lawsuit has been filed in Ontario County (the “New York Litigation”). It alleges that over one thousand (1,000) citizens constitute the putative class in the New York Litigation, and it seeks damages for diminution of property values and infringement of the putative class’ rights to live without interference to their daily lives due to odors emanating from the Ontario County Landfill, which is operated by us pursuant to a long-term Operation, Maintenance and Lease Agreement with Ontario County. The New York Litigation was served on us on October 14, 2019. We are reviewing the New York Litigation and intend to present a vigorous defense.
ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES
Not applicable.
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PART II
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
Our Class A common stock trades on the Nasdaq Global Select Market (“Nasdaq Stock Market”) under the symbol CWST. There is no established trading market for our Class B common stock. As of January 31, 2020, there were approximately 420 holders of record of our Class A common stock and two holders of record of our Class B common stock.
For purposes of calculating the aggregate market value of the shares of common stock held by non-affiliates, as shown on the cover page of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, we have assumed that all the outstanding shares of Class A common stock were held by non-affiliates except for the shares beneficially held by directors and executive officers and funds represented by them.
Dividends
No dividends have ever been declared or paid on our common stock and we do not anticipate paying any cash dividends on our common stock in the foreseeable future.
The information required by Item 201(d) of Regulation S-K is included in Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Stock Performance Graph
The following performance graph and related information shall not be deemed “soliciting material” or “filed” with the Securities and Exchange Commission, nor shall such information be incorporated by reference into any future filing under the Securities Act of 1933 or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, each as amended, except to the extent that we specifically incorporate it by reference into such filing.
The stock performance graph below compares the percentage change in cumulative stockholder return on our Class A common stock for the period from December 31, 2014 through December 31, 2019, with the cumulative total return on the Russell 2000 Index and our Industry Peer Group ("Peer Group"). The stock performance graph assumes the investment on December 31, 2014 of $100.00 in our Class A common stock at the closing price on such date, in the Russell 2000 Index and the Peer Group, and that dividends are reinvested. No dividends have been declared or paid on our Class A common stock.
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https://cdn.kscope.io/cf9e06e7dcb742b466c5478774863cf8-cwst-20191231_g1.jpg
December 31, 2014December 31, 2015December 31, 2016December 31, 2017December 31, 2018December 31, 2019
Casella Waste Systems, Inc.$100.00  $148.02  $307.18  $569.80  $705.20  $1,139.36  
Russell 2000$100.00  $95.59  $115.95  $132.94  $118.30  $148.49  
Peer Group (1)
$100.00  $104.55  $141.45  $177.75  $188.01  $239.46  
 
(1)The Peer Group is comprised of Waste Connections Inc., Covanta Holding Corp., Waste Management, Inc. and Republic Services, Inc.
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ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
The selected consolidated financial and operating data set forth below was derived from the consolidated financial statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K and from the consolidated financial statements included in Item 8 of previous Annual Reports on Form 10-K that we filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This information should be read in conjunction with Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and our consolidated financial statements and notes thereto included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
 Fiscal Year Ended December 31,
 20192018201720162015
 Statement of Operations Data:
(in thousands, except per share data)
Revenues$743,290  $660,660  $599,309  $565,030  $546,500  
Cost of operations508,656  453,291  405,188  381,973  382,615  
General and administration92,782  84,791  79,243  75,356  72,892  
Depreciation and amortization79,790  70,508  62,102  61,856  62,704  
Withdrawal costs - multiemployer pension plan3,591  —  —  —  —  
Southbridge Landfill closure charge, net2,709  8,054  65,183  —  —  
Expense from acquisition activities and other items2,687  1,872  176  —  —  
Contract settlement charge—  2,100  —  —  1,940  
Development project charge—  311  —  —  —  
Environmental remediation charge—  —  —  900  —  
Divestiture transactions—  —  —  —  (5,517) 
Operating income (loss)53,075  39,733  (12,583) 44,945  31,866  
Interest expense, net24,735  26,021  24,887  38,652  40,090  
Other expense (income), net(1,439) 7,676  (418) 12,657  2,206  
Income (loss) before income taxes 29,779  6,036  (37,052) (6,364) (10,430) 
(Benefit) provision for income taxes(1,874) (384) (15,253) 494  1,351  
Net income (loss)31,653  6,420  (21,799) (6,858) (11,781) 
Less: Net (loss) income attributable to noncontrolling interests—  —  —  (9) 1,188  
Net income (loss) attributable to common stockholders$31,653  $6,420  $(21,799) $(6,849) $(12,969) 
Basic earnings (loss) per share attributable to common stockholders:
Weighted average common shares outstanding47,226  42,688  41,846  41,233  40,642  
Basic earnings (loss) per common share (1)
$0.67  $0.15  $(0.52) $(0.17) $(0.32) 
Diluted earnings (loss) per share attributable to common stockholders:
Weighted average common shares outstanding47,966  44,168  41,846  41,233  40,642  
Diluted earnings (loss) per common share (1)
$0.66  $0.15  $(0.52) $(0.17) $(0.32) 

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Fiscal Year Ended December 31,
 20192018201720162015
Other Data:
Capital expenditures$103,165  $73,232  $64,862  $54,238  $49,995  
Cash flows provided by operating activities$116,829  $120,834  $107,538  $80,434  $70,507  
Cash flows used in investing activities$(177,462) $(164,197) $(76,447) $(62,964) $(48,784) 
Cash flows provided by (used in) financing activities$60,097  $45,375  $(31,640) $(18,585) $(26,087) 
Balance Sheet Data:
Cash and cash equivalents$3,471  $4,007  $1,995  $2,544  $2,312  
Restricted cash$—  $—  $—  $—  $1,347  
Working capital, net (2)$(31,247) $(18,411) $(6,184) $(6,382) $(10,990) 
Property, plant and equipment, net$443,825  $404,577  $361,547  $398,466  $402,252  
Goodwill$185,819  $162,734  $122,605  $119,899  $118,976  
Total assets$932,182  $732,410  $614,949  $631,512  $633,669  
Debt, less current portion$509,021  $542,001  $477,576  $503,961  $505,985  
Total stockholders’ equity (deficit)$122,753  $(15,832) $(37,862) $(24,550) $(21,597) 

(1)Computed as described in Note 3, Summary of Significant Accounting Policies to the consolidated financial statements included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
(2)Working capital, net is defined as current assets, excluding cash and cash equivalents, minus current liabilities.
ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
The following discussion of our financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and notes thereto, and other financial information, included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. This discussion contains forward-looking statements and involves numerous risks and uncertainties. Our actual results may differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements.
Discussion and analysis of the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018 compared to the fiscal year ended December 31, 2017 is included under the heading “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018 as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on February 22, 2019.
Company Overview
Founded in 1975 with a single truck, Casella Waste Systems, Inc., a Delaware corporation, and its wholly-owned subsidiaries (collectively, “we”, “us” or “our”), is a regional, vertically-integrated solid waste services company. We provide resource management expertise and services to residential, commercial, municipal and industrial customers, primarily in the areas of solid waste collection and disposal, transfer, recycling and organics services. We provide integrated solid waste services in six states: Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Maine and Pennsylvania, with our headquarters located in Rutland, Vermont. We have managed operations through four operating segments, including (i) two regional operating segments, which we designate as our Eastern and Western regions, (ii) Recycling, which comprises our larger-scale recycling operations and our commodity brokerage operations and (iii) "Other", which comprises organic services, ancillary operations, along with major accounts and industrial services. Effective January 1, 2020, we reorganized our operating segments as follows: we aligned our organics services and our major account and industrial services with our Recycling segment to form the Resource Solutions segment, thus creating a single resource renewal-focused segment. We also moved our ancillary transportation services, which were previously included in our Other segment, into our Western region. Accordingly, as of January 1, 2020, our operating segments consist of the Eastern and Western regions and Resource Solutions.
As of January 31, 2020, we owned and/or operated 43 solid waste collection operations, 58 transfer stations, 20 recycling facilities, eight Subtitle D landfills, four landfill gas-to-energy facilities and one landfill permitted to accept construction and demolition (“C&D”) materials.
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Recent Developments
On January 9, 2019, North Country Environmental Services, Inc. ("NCES") filed an application for a 1.2 million (cy) expansion of the capacity of its landfill in Bethlehem, New Hampshire ("NCES Landfill") with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (“NHDES”) (“Stage VI Expansion”). The Stage VI Expansion would provide NCES with over five (5) years of additional capacity beyond the capacity of Stage V.
In January 2020, NHDES informed NCES and us that NHDES had concerns regarding the short-term public benefit need for the Stage VI expansion, and also in respect of certain technical concerns regarding the Stage VI expansion. Given the fact the NHDES decided to review our permit application for the Stage VI Expansion with respect to public benefit determination using a different regulatory framework than used in any of our previous permitting activities at NCES, we informed the NHDES on February 11, 2020, that while we vigorously disagreed with NHDES’ review of our application and the context for the NHDES’ concerns, we would withdraw our application with the expectation of refiling the application with the NHDES as soon as possible. While the refiling of the application for the Stage VI Expansion could be rejected by the NHDES, and while delay of the Stage VI Expansion will surely occur, we remain confident that we will receive a permit for the Stage VI Expansion. We believe that a loss of $1.2 million is reasonably possible, but not probable.
Acquisitions and Divestitures
Acquisitions
We have a business development team that identifies acquisition candidates, categorizes the opportunity by strategic fit and perceived level of financial accretion, establishes contact with the appropriate representative of the acquisition candidate and gathers further information on the acquisition candidate.
We have made in the past, and we may make in the future, acquisitions in order to acquire or develop additional disposal capacity. These acquisitions may include “tuck-in” acquisitions within our existing markets, assets that are adjacent to or outside of our existing markets, or larger, more strategic acquisitions. In addition, from time to time, we may acquire businesses that are complementary to our core business strategy. We face competition for acquisition targets, particularly the larger and more meaningful targets, but we believe that our strong relationships and reputation in New England and New York help to offset this factor.
In the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019 ("fiscal year 2019"), we acquired nine businesses: three tuck-in solid waste collection businesses in our Eastern region and four tuck-in solid waste collection businesses, a business comprised of solid waste collection, transfer and recycling operations, and a business comprised of solid waste hauling and transfer assets in our Western region for total consideration of $82.2 million, including $72.1 million in cash, $5.5 million in non-cash consideration, $2.7 million notes payable and $1.9 million in holdbacks to the sellers.
In the fiscal year ended December 31 2018 ("fiscal year 2018"), we acquired nine businesses: six solid waste collection businesses and one transfer business in our Western region and two businesses comprised of solid waste collection and transfer operations in our Eastern region for total consideration of $99.5 million, including $86.7 million in cash, $4.3 million in Class A common stock, and $8.5 million in contingent consideration and holdbacks to the sellers.
Divestitures
From time to time, we may sell or divest certain investments or other components of our business. These divestitures may be undertaken for a number of reasons, including: to generate proceeds to pay down debt; as a result of a determination that the specified asset will provide inadequate returns to us or that the asset no longer serves a strategic purpose in connection with our business; or as a result of a determination that the asset may be more valuable to a third-party. We will continue to look to divest certain activities and investments that no longer enhance or complement our core business if the right opportunity presents itself.
Results of Operations
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Revenues
We manage our solid waste operations, which include a full range of solid waste services, on a geographic basis through two regional operating segments, which we designate as our Eastern and Western regions. Revenues in our Eastern and Western regions consist primarily of fees charged to customers for solid waste collection and disposal, landfill, landfill gas-to-energy, transfer and recycling services. We derive a substantial portion of our collection revenues from commercial, industrial and municipal services that are generally performed under service agreements or pursuant to contracts with municipalities. The majority of our residential collection services are performed on a subscription basis with individual households. Landfill and transfer customers are charged a tipping fee on a per ton basis for disposing of their solid waste at our disposal facilities and transfer stations. We also generate and sell electricity at certain of our landfill facilities. Revenues from our Recycling segment consist of revenues derived from municipalities and customers in the form of processing fees, tipping fees and commodity sales. Revenues from organics services, ancillary operations, and major account and industrial services are included in our Other segment. Our revenues are shown net of inter-company eliminations.
The table below shows revenue attributable to services provided (in millions) for the following periods:
 Fiscal Year Ended December 31,$
Change
 20192018
Collection$372.0  $303.4  $68.6  
Disposal181.9  181.1  0.8  
Power3.6  5.1  (1.5) 
Processing7.2  7.2  —  
Solid waste564.7  496.8  67.9  
Organics56.3  54.2  2.1  
Customer solutions79.5  67.5  12.0  
Recycling42.8  42.2  0.6  
Total revenues$743.3  $660.7  $82.6  
Solid waste revenues
A summary of the period-to-period change in solid waste revenues (dollars in millions and as percentage growth of solid waste revenues) follows:
Period-to-Period Change for Fiscal Year 2019 vs Fiscal Year 2018
 Amount% Growth
Price$25.3  5.1 %
Volume(5.1) (1.0)%
Surcharges and other fees5.0  1.0 %
Commodity price and volume(3.7) (0.7)%
Acquisitions57.9  11.6 %
Closed operations(10.5) (2.1)%
Solid waste revenues$68.9  13.9 %
(1)Adjusted for $1.0 million of inter-company movements between solid waste collection volume and Customer Solutions associated with the acquisition of a business.
Price. 
The price change component in fiscal year 2019 solid waste revenues growth from the prior year is a result of the following:
$16.2 million from favorable collection pricing; and
$9.1 million from favorable disposal pricing associated primarily with our landfills and transfer stations.
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Volume.
The volume change component in fiscal year 2019 solid waste revenues growth from the prior year is a result of the following:
$(2.6) million from lower collection volumes as we continue to focus on pricing and the quality of revenue;
$(2.1) million from lower disposal volumes (of which $(5.6) million relates to lower transportation volumes primarily associated with a large contaminated soils project that occurred in fiscal year 2018, $1.8 million relates to higher landfill volumes, and $1.7 million relates to higher transfer station volumes); and
$(0.4) million from lower processing volumes.
Surcharges and other fees.
The surcharges and other fees change component in fiscal year 2019 solid waste revenues growth from the prior year is associated primarily with the Energy component of the Energy and Environmental fee and the Sustainability Recycling Adjustment fee. The Energy component of the fee floats on a monthly basis based on diesel fuel prices. The Sustainability Recycling Adjustment fee floats on a monthly basis based on recycled commodity prices.
Commodity price and volume.
The commodity price and volume change component in fiscal year 2019 solid waste revenues growth from the prior year is a result of the following:
$(1.2) million from unfavorable energy pricing and, to a lesser extent, unfavorable commodity pricing; and
$(2.5) million from lower commodity volumes due to lower commodity processing volumes and landfill gas-to-energy production.
Acquisitions.
The acquisitions change component in fiscal year 2019 solid waste revenues growth is a result of increased acquisition activity, including the following:
the acquisition of nine businesses in fiscal year 2019: seven tuck-in solid waste collection businesses, a business comprised of solid waste collection, transfer and recycling operations, and a business comprised of solid waste hauling and transfer assets; and
the acquisition of nine businesses in fiscal year 2018: six tuck-in solid waste collection businesses, one transfer business, and two businesses comprised of solid waste collection and transfer operations, combined to a lesser extent with roll over impact of acquisitions made in fiscal year 2017.
Closed operations.
The closed operations change component in fiscal year 2019 total solid waste revenues growth from prior year is a result of the closure of the landfill located in Southbridge, Massachusetts ("Southbridge Landfill") in our Eastern region in the quarter ended December 31, 2018 and the closure of a transfer station in our Western region in the quarter ended March 31, 2019.
Organics revenues
Fiscal year 2019 organics revenues increased $2.1 million from the prior year as a result of higher volumes associated with two large transportation and disposal contracts.
Customer Solutions revenues
Fiscal year 2019 revenues increased $11.0 million from the prior year as a result of higher volumes mainly due to multi-site retail and industrial services organic growth.
Recycling revenues
Fiscal year 2019 recycling revenues increased $0.6 million from the prior year as a result of the following:
$8.0 million from higher recycling processing fees; and
$1.1 million from higher commodity volumes; partially offset by
$(8.5) million from unfavorable commodity pricing in the marketplace.
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Operating Expenses
A summary of our cost of operations, general and administration expenses and depreciation and amortization expenses is as follows (dollars in millions and as a percentage of total revenues):
 Fiscal Years Ended December 31,
 20192018
   
Cost of operations$508.7  68.4 %$453.3  68.6 %
General and administration$92.8  12.5 %$84.8  12.8 %
Depreciation and amortization$79.8  10.7 %$70.5  10.7 %

Cost of Operations
Cost of operations includes labor costs, tipping fees paid to third-party disposal facilities, fuel costs, maintenance and repair costs of vehicles and equipment, workers’ compensation and vehicle insurance costs, the cost of purchasing materials to be recycled, third-party transportation costs, district and state taxes, host community fees and royalties. Cost of operations also includes accretion expense related to final capping, closure and post-closure obligations, leachate treatment and disposal costs and depletion of landfill operating lease obligations.
An explanation of the period-to-period change in cost of operations is as follows:
Third-party direct costs in fiscal year 2019 increased $25.8 million from the prior year as a result of the following:
higher disposal costs associated with: additional volumes related to acquisition activity; additional volumes related to multi-site retail and industrial services organic growth in our Customer Solutions line-of-business; increased disposal pricing in the northeastern United States; and an increased reliance on third-party disposal sites in our Organics line-of-business during the first half of the fiscal year; and
higher hauling and third-party transportation costs associated with: higher collection volumes related to acquisition activity; higher transportation rates; and higher brokerage volumes in our Customer Solutions line-of-business with high pass through direct costs; partially offset by lower hauling and third-party transportation costs in the Western region associated with lower transportation volumes related to a large contaminated soils project that occurred in the prior year.
Labor and related benefit costs in fiscal year 2019 increased $15.9 million from the prior year due to higher labor costs related primarily to acquisition activity and wage increases associated with tight labor markets.
Maintenance and repair costs in fiscal year 2019 increased $13.3 million from the prior year due primarily to higher fleet and facility maintenance costs associated with acquisition activity and related business growth.
Fuel costs in fiscal year 2019 increased $2.8 million from the prior year due primarily to higher volumes associated with acquisition activity.
Direct operational costs in fiscal year 2019 decreased $(2.4) million from the prior year due to lower landfill operating lease amortization and lower host royalty fees driven primarily by the closure of the Southbridge Landfill in the Eastern region; lower rent expense associated with operating leases; and lower landfill operating costs; partially offset by higher auto insurance costs associated primarily with claims activity.
General and Administration
General and administration expenses include management, clerical and administrative compensation and overhead, professional services and costs associated with marketing, sales force and community relations efforts.
The period-to-period change in general and administration expense can be primarily attributed to higher labor and related benefit costs associated with acquisition activity and higher accrued incentive compensation, partially offset by lower equity compensation costs and lower professional service fees related to reduced legal costs and consulting fees.
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Depreciation and Amortization
Depreciation and amortization expense includes: (i) depreciation of property and equipment (including assets recorded for finance leases) on a straight-line basis over the estimated useful lives of the assets; (ii) amortization of landfill costs (including those costs incurred and all estimated future costs for landfill development and construction, along with asset retirement costs arising from closure and post-closure obligations) 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 unpermitted expansion capacity that meets certain criteria for amortization purposes, and amortization of landfill asset retirement costs arising from final capping obligations on a units-of-consumption method as airspace is consumed over the estimated capacity associated with each final capping event; and (iii) amortization of intangible assets with a definite life, using either an economic benefit provided approach or on a straight-line basis over the definitive terms of the related agreements.
A summary of the components of depreciation and amortization expense (dollars in millions and as a percentage of total revenues) follows:
Fiscal Year Ended December 31,
 20192018
   
Depreciation expense$45.1  6.1 %$35.4  5.4 %
Landfill amortization expense27.5  3.7 %31.8  4.8 %
Other amortization expense7.2  0.9 %