Trump Tax Cut has Unintended Consequences for Pipeline Projects

President Trump’s marvelous tax cut has had some unintended (negative) consequences for pipeline companies. Trade groups and some states are pressuring the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to force pipeline companies to cut the rates they charge customers in light of the Trump tax cut. The corporate tax rate is going from 35% (highest of any modern/Western country) down to 21%. Which will encourage all sorts of investment in the good old US of A. When pipelines file rate cases for how much they will charge customers to flow gas (or oil or whatever else) through the pipeline, part of the calculation for what FERC allows them to charge is based on profitability. Since those companies will now be a whole lot more profitable (tax payments going down), the customers using those pipelines want the rates recalculated to reflect the savings. In other words, they want part of the tax savings too. But wait just a rootin’-tootin’ minute! (says the pipeline companies). The pipelines have duly signed contracts in place. You can’t just rework a single portion of those contracts with the sweep of a pen. What about other components in the contract that are used in calculating prices? In some (many?) cases pipeline companies have borne increased costs that are not passed along to customers. If the customers (mainly utility companies) want FERC to adjust the rates, they may not like how those rates get adjusted considering all the other factors that could/should be changed. Maybe they’ll go up instead of down! A battle is brewing between utilities and the pipelines that feed them, all because of Trump’s tax cut…

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