FERC proposal on income tax questioned by pipeline companies

Enbridge said it would see a $100 million reduction if U.S. regulators go through with a change in income tax policies.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Some pipeline companies are concerned by U.S. tax changes that could impact their cash flow. File photo by Larry W. Smith/EPA
Some pipeline companies are concerned by U.S. tax changes that could impact their cash flow. File photo by Larry W. Smith/EPA

March 16 (UPI) -- Pipeline company Enbridge Energy Partners said Friday it wants a rehearing after U.S. regulators revised how pipeline firms figure income tax allowances.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled Thursday against certain tax allowances for master limited partnerships. FERC in its ruling said some entities "may be collecting unjust and unreasonable rates" in light of the recent reduction in the corporate income tax outline in the federal tax overhaul.


In a statement, Enbridge Energy Partners, which operates a dense network of pipelines in the Great Lakes region, said if the policy is approved as planned, it would see a $100 million reduction in revenues and a $60 million cut in cash flow.

"Enbridge Energy Partners intends to ask for rehearing of this policy change at the FERC," the company said Friday.

For the fourth quarter, Enbridge reported net income decreased $87 million over the same period from 2016. Fourth quarter and full-year cash flow declined $343 million and $916 million, respectively.

Plains All American, another midstream corporation, said it didn't expect the FERC ruling would have a near-term impact on its books. It's too early, however, to assess the impact on some long-term issues, it added.


Kinder Morgan, which organized in 2014 as a corporation, rather than a limited partnership, said it was pleased that FERC would allow comments on why the adjustment wasn't necessary.

"The competitive environment in which interstate natural gas transmission companies operate is vastly different from the historic 'franchised utility service territory' that is still prevalent for traditional utilities," it said in a statement after the FERC release Thursday. "As a result, many of our rates are set pursuant to negotiated rate arrangements that we believe should not be subject to adjustment due to changes in tax law."

Nevertheless, Kinder said the rate adjustment, should it proceed as planned, won't have a material impact on cash flow.

The ruling comes as the energy sector is fretting over aluminum and steel tariffs. Much of the steel industry in the United States caters to industries like automotive and tariffs could make oil and gas pipeline projects more expensive.

"The [FERC] ruling reduces returns for pipeline companies set up as Master Limited Partnerships and represents a second setback to the midstream sector in two weeks following the steel tariffs that will raise construction costs," Sandy Fielden, the director of oil and products research for Morningstar, told UPI. "Despite these companies providing a crucial conduit to booming oil and gas exports and shrinking the U.S. balance of payments deficit, they seem to be missing out on recognition from the Trump administration."


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