FERC Takes Aim at Adjusting Pipe Rates in Light of Trump Tax Cut

Last Thursday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held an open meeting during which the commissioners “took significant action” to address the Trump tax cut legislation enacted last December. FERC wants to be sure the tax cuts coming to electric companies and pipeline companies are passed on to consumers and pipeline shippers. We are still trying to make sense of it all and frankly, we still don’t fully understand it. What we can tell you about what FERC did last week is this: The agency proposed new solutions to eliminate “tax loopholes” for natural gas pipelines. Closing these so-called loopholes will eliminate certain tax benefits for MLPs–master limited partnerships. A good many pipeline companies (most) are organized as MLPs, which allows tax advantages to flow to investors. With certain tax benefits for MLP unitholders on the chopping block, all of a sudden some (most?) MLPs don’t look like such a hot investment anymore, at least on paper. Which has caused pipeline companies, many of them with operations in the Marcellus/Utica, to issue a flurry of public announcements to say “FERC’s actions won’t impact us all that much.” The stock market certainly didn’t share that sentiment with shares (called “units”) in MLPs taking a hit since FERC’s announcement. Below is a collection of stories–bits of stories–that we’ve pieced together in an attempt to shed light on what is happening, and how it may change the pipeline business in the future…

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