The Company is including the following factors and cautionary statements to make applicable and to take advantage of the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 for any forward-looking statements made by, or on behalf of, the Company. Forward-looking statements include statements concerning plans, objectives, goals, strategies, future events or performance, and underlying assumptions (many of which are based, in turn, upon further assumptions) and other statements that are other than statements of historical facts. From time to time, the Company may publish or otherwise make available forward-looking statements of this nature. All these subsequent forward-looking statements, whether written or oral and whether made by or on behalf of the Company, also are expressly qualified by these factors and cautionary statements.
Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results or outcomes to differ materially from those expressed. The Company's expectations, beliefs and projections are expressed in good faith and are believed by the Company to have a reasonable basis, including without limitation, management's examination of historical operating trends, data contained in the Company's records and other data available from third parties. Nonetheless, the Company's expectations, beliefs or projections may not be achieved or accomplished.
Any forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date on which the statement is made, and the Company undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statement or statements to reflect events or circumstances that occur after the date on which the statement is made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. New factors emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for management to predict all of the factors, nor can it assess the effect of each factor on the Company's business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statement.
Following are some specific factors that should be considered for a better understanding of the Company's financial condition. These factors and the other matters discussed herein are important factors that could cause actual results or outcomes for the Company to differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements.
The Company's pipeline and midstream business is dependent on factors, including commodity prices and commodity price basis differentials, that are subject to various external influences that cannot be controlled.
These factors include: fluctuations in oil, NGL and natural gas production and prices; fluctuations in commodity price basis differentials; domestic and foreign supplies of oil, NGL and natural gas; political and economic conditions in oil producing countries; actions of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries; and other risks incidental to the development and operations of natural gas pipeline systems. Continued prolonged depressed prices for oil, NGL and natural gas could impede the growth of the pipeline and midstream business, and could negatively affect the results of operations, cash flows and asset values of the Company's pipeline and midstream business.
The regulatory approval, permitting, construction, startup and/or operation of pipelines and power generation and transmission facilities may involve unanticipated events or delays that could negatively impact the Company's business and its results of operations and cash flows.
The construction, startup and operation of pipelines and power generation and transmission facilities involve many risks, which may include: delays; breakdown or failure of equipment; inability to obtain required governmental permits and approvals; inability to obtain or renew easements; public opposition; inability to complete financing; inability to negotiate acceptable equipment acquisition, construction, fuel supply, off-take, transmission, transportation or other material agreements; changes in markets and market prices for power; cost increases and overruns; the risk of performance below expected levels of output or efficiency; and the inability to obtain full cost recovery in regulated rates. Such unanticipated events could negatively impact the Company's business, its results of operations and cash flows.
Economic volatility, including volatility in North Dakota's Bakken region, affects the Company's operations, as well as the demand for its products and services and the value of its investments and investment returns including its pension and other postretirement benefit plans, and may have a negative impact on the Company's future revenues and cash flows.
The global demand and price volatility for natural resources, interest rate changes, governmental budget constraints and the ongoing threat of terrorism can create volatility in the financial markets. Unfavorable economic conditions can negatively affect the level of public and private expenditures on projects and the timing of these projects which, in turn, can negatively affect the demand for the Company's products and services, primarily at the Company's construction businesses. The level of demand for construction products and services could be adversely impacted by the economic conditions in the industries the Company serves, as well as in the economy in general. State and federal budget issues may negatively affect the funding available for infrastructure spending. The ability of the Company's electric and natural gas distribution businesses to grow service territory and customer base is affected by the economic environments of the markets served. This economic volatility could have a material adverse effect on the Company's results of operations, cash flows and asset values.
Changing market conditions could negatively affect the market value of assets held in the Company's pension and other postretirement benefit plans and may increase the amount and accelerate the timing of required funding contributions.
The Company relies on financing sources and capital markets. Access to these markets may be adversely affected by factors beyond the Company's control. If the Company is unable to obtain cost effective financing in the future, the Company's ability to execute its business plans, make capital expenditures or pursue acquisitions that the Company may otherwise rely on for future growth could be impaired. As a result, the market value of the Company's common stock may be adversely affected. If the Company issues a substantial amount of common stock it could have a dilutive effect on its existing shareholders.
The Company relies on access to short-term borrowings, including the issuance of commercial paper, long-term capital markets and asset sales as sources of liquidity for capital requirements not satisfied by its cash flow from operations. If the Company is not able to access capital at competitive rates, the ability to implement its business plans may be adversely affected. Market disruptions or a downgrade of the Company's credit ratings may increase the cost of borrowing or adversely affect its ability to access one or more financial markets. Such disruptions could include:
Economic turmoil, market disruptions and volatility in the securities trading markets, as well as other factors including changes in the Company's results of operations, financial position and prospects, may adversely affect the market price of the Company's common stock.
- A significant economic downturn
- The financial distress of unrelated industry leaders in the same line of business
- Deterioration in capital market conditions
- Turmoil in the financial services industry
- Volatility in commodity prices
- Terrorist attacks
- Cyber attacks
The issuance of a substantial amount of the Company's common stock, whether sold pursuant to the registration statement, issued in connection with an acquisition or otherwise, or the perception that such an issuance could occur, may adversely affect the market price of the Company's common stock.
The Company is exposed to credit risk and the risk of loss resulting from the nonpayment and/or nonperformance by the Company's customers and counterparties.
If the Company's customers or counterparties were to experience financial difficulties or file for bankruptcy, the Company could experience difficulty in collecting receivables. The nonpayment and/or nonperformance by the Company's customers and counterparties could have a negative impact on the Company's results of operations and cash flows.
The backlogs at the Company's construction materials and contracting and construction services businesses are subject to delay or cancellation and may not be realized. Backlog consists of the uncompleted portion of services to be performed under job-specific contracts. Contracts are subject to delay, default or cancellation and the contracts in the Company's backlog are subject to changes in the scope of services to be provided as well as adjustments to the costs relating to the applicable contracts. Backlog may also be affected by project delays or cancellations resulting from weather conditions, external market factors and economic factors beyond the Company's control. Accordingly, there is no assurance that backlog will be realized.
Environmental and Regulatory Risks
The Company's operations are subject to environmental laws and regulations that may increase costs of operations, impact or limit business plans, or expose the Company to environmental liabilities.
The Company is subject to environmental laws and regulations affecting many aspects of its operations, including laws and regulations regarding air and water quality, waste management and other environmental considerations. These laws and regulations can increase capital, operating and other costs, cause delays as a result of litigation and administrative proceedings, and create compliance, remediation, containment, monitoring and reporting obligations, particularly relating to electric generation and natural gas gathering, transmission and storage operations. These laws and regulations generally require the Company to obtain and comply with a variety of environmental licenses, permits, inspections and other approvals. Although the Company strives to comply with all applicable environmental laws and regulations, public and private entities and private individuals may interpret the Company's legal or regulatory requirements differently and seek injunctive relief or other remedies against the Company. The Company cannot predict the outcome, financial or operational, of any such litigation or administrative proceedings.
Existing environmental laws and regulations may be revised and new laws and regulations seeking to protect the environment may be adopted or become applicable to the Company. These laws and regulations could require the Company to limit the use or output of certain facilities, restrict the use of certain fuels, retire and replace certain facilities, install pollution controls, remediate environmental impacts, remove or reduce environmental hazards, or forego or limit the development of resources. Revised or new laws and regulations that increase compliance costs or restrict operations, particularly if costs are not fully recoverable from customers, could have a material adverse effect on the Company's results of operations and cash flows.
On April 17, 2015, the EPA published a rule, under the RCRA, for coal combustion residuals that regulates coal ash as a solid waste and not a hazardous waste. The rule requires ground water and location restriction evaluations to be conducted by October 2017 at ash impoundments and landfills not located at coal mines. In 2015, one ash impoundment at Lewis & Clark Station was replaced with a new concrete basin. Additional site and groundwater analyses may identify the need to upgrade or close additional impoundments or the Company may need to install replacement ash management systems. The cost of replacement ash impoundments or landfills may be material. If these costs are not fully recoverable from customers, they could have a material adverse effect on the Company's results of operations and cash flows.
On August 15, 2014, the EPA published a rule under Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act, establishing requirements for water intake structures at existing steam electric generating facilities. The purpose of the rule is to reduce impingement and entrainment of fish and other aquatic organisms at cooling water intake structures. The majority of the Company's electric generating facilities are either not subject to the rule or have completed studies that project compliance expenditures are not material. The Lewis & Clark Station will complete a study that will be submitted to the Montana DEQ by July 31, 2019, to be used in determining any required controls. It is unknown at this time what controls may be required at this facility or if compliance costs will be material. The installation schedule for any required controls would be established with the permitting agency after the study is completed.
Initiatives to reduce GHG emissions could adversely impact the Company's operations.
Concern that GHG emissions are contributing to global climate change has led to international, federal and state legislative and regulatory proposals to reduce or mitigate the effects of GHG emissions. The Company's primary GHG emission is carbon dioxide from fossil fuels combustion at Montana-Dakota's electric generating facilities, particularly its coal-fired facilities. Approximately 50 percent of Montana-Dakota's owned generating capacity and approximately 75 percent of the electricity it generated in 2016 was from coal-fired facilities.
On October 23, 2015, the EPA published the Clean Power Plan rule that requires existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating facilities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. On February 9, 2016, however, the United States Supreme Court granted an application for a stay of the Clean Power Plan pending disposition of the applicants' petition for review in the D.C. Circuit Court and disposition of the applicants' petition for a writ of certiorari if such a writ is sought. As published, the rule required that by September 6, 2016, states submit to the EPA either a request for a two-year extension to submit a final state plan or a final plan demonstrating how emissions reductions will be achieved including emission limits in the form of an annual emission cap or an emission rate that will be applied to each fossil fuel-fired electric generating facility within the state starting in 2022. Emissions limits become more stringent from 2022 to 2030, with the 2030 emission limits applying thereafter. It is unknown at this time what each state will require for emissions limits or reductions from each of Montana-Dakota's owned and jointly owned fossil fuel-fired electric generating units. Compliance costs will become clearer as final state plans are submitted to the EPA. The effective date and compliance dates in the rule are expected to be addressed in a future decision made by the United States Supreme Court.
On January 14, 2015, the federal government of the United States announced a goal to reduce methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry by 40 percent to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025. On June 3, 2016, the EPA published a rule updating new source performance standards for the oil and natural gas industry. The rule builds on 2012 requirements to reduce volatile organic compound emissions from oil and natural gas sources by establishing requirements to reduce methane emissions from previously regulated sources, as well as adding volatile organic compound and methane requirements for sources previously not covered by the rule. The rule impacts new and modified natural gas gathering and boosting stations and transmission and storage compressor stations. WBI Energy is developing implementation plans for complying with the rule. In addition, on March 10, 2016, the EPA announced plans to reduce emissions from the oil and natural gas industry by moving to regulate emissions from existing sources. On November 10, 2016, the EPA issued an Information Collection Request to gather information on existing sources of methane emissions, technologies to reduce emissions and the costs of those technologies in the oil and natural gas industry. Several companies, including WBI Energy, were selected to respond to the Information Collection Request. The information collected will be used to develop comprehensive regulations to reduce methane emissions from existing sources. It is unknown at this time how the Company will be impacted or if compliance costs will be material.
On September 15, 2016, the Washington DOE issued a Clean Air rule that requires carbon dioxide emission reductions from various industries in the state, including emissions from the combustion of natural gas supplied to end-use customers by natural gas distribution companies, such as Cascade. In 2017, the rule requires Cascade to hold carbon dioxide emissions to a baseline, equal to the average emissions in 2012 to 2016. Beginning in 2018, annual carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by an additional 1.7 percent of the baseline from the previous year's emissions. Compliance for natural gas suppliers is to be achieved through purchasing emissions credits from projects located within the state of Washington and, to a limited and declining extent, out-of-state allowances. Purchasing emissions credits and allowances will increase operating costs for Cascade. If Cascade is not able to receive timely and full recovery of compliance costs from its customers, such costs could adversely impact the results of its operations. On September 27, 2016 and September 30, 2016, Cascade and three other natural gas distribution utility companies jointly filed complaints in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington and the Thurston County Superior Court, respectively, asking the courts to deem the rule invalid. The companies assert that the Washington DOE undertook this rulemaking without the requisite statutory authority. The Thurston County Superior Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on April 14, 2017, while litigation in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington has been held in abeyance until there is a ruling in the Thurston County Superior Court.
Additional treaties, legislation or regulations to reduce GHG emissions may be adopted that affect the Company's utility operations by requiring additional energy conservation efforts or renewable energy sources, as well as other mandates that could significantly increase capital expenditures and operating costs or reduce demand for the Company's utility services. If the Company's utility operations do not receive timely and full recovery of GHG emission compliance costs from customers, then such costs could adversely impact the results of its operations and cash flows.
The Company monitors, analyzes and reports the GHG emissions from its other operations as required by applicable laws and regulations. The Company will continue to monitor GHG regulations and their potential impact on operations.
Due to the uncertain availability of technologies to control GHG emissions and the unknown obligations that potential GHG emission legislation or regulations may create, the Company cannot determine the potential financial impact on its operations.
The Company is subject to government regulations that may delay and/or have a negative impact on its business and its results of operations and cash flows. Statutory and regulatory requirements also may limit another party's ability to acquire the Company or impose conditions on an acquisition of or by the Company.
The Company is subject to regulation or Governmental actions by federal, state and local regulatory agencies with respect to, among other things, allowed rates of return and recovery of investment and cost, financing, rate structures, health care coverage and cost, taxes, franchises and recovery of purchased power and purchased gas costs. These governmental regulations significantly influence the Company's operating environment and may affect its ability to recover costs from its customers. The Company is unable to predict the impact on operating results from the future regulatory activities of any of these agencies. Changes in regulations or the imposition of additional regulations could have an adverse impact on the Company's results of operations and cash flows. Approval from a number of federal and state regulatory agencies would need to be obtained by any potential acquirer of the Company as well as for acquisitions by the Company. The approval process could be lengthy and the outcome uncertain.
The Company's electric and natural gas transmission and distribution operations involve risks that may result in accidents. These events and pipeline safety regulation costs that could adversely affect the Company’s business and its results of operations and cash flows.
The Company's electric and natural gas transmission and distribution activities include a variety of operating risks, such as leaks, explosions and mechanical problems, which could result in loss of human life, personal injury, property damage, environmental pollution, impairment of operations and substantial losses. The Company maintains insurance against some, but not all, of these risks and losses. The occurrence of these losses not fully covered by insurance could have a material effect on the Company’s financial position, results of operations and cash flows.
Additionally, the operating or other costs that may be required to comply with current pipeline safety regulations and potential new regulations under various agencies could be significant. The regulations require verification of pipeline infrastructure records by pipeline owners and operators to confirm the maximum allowable operating pressure of certain lines. Increased emphasis on pipeline safety issues and increased regulatory scrutiny may result in penalties and higher costs of operations. If these costs are not fully recoverable from customers, they could have a material adverse effect on the Company’s results of operations and cash flows.
Weather conditions can adversely affect the Company's operations, revenues and cash flows.
The Company's results of operations can be affected by changes in the weather. Weather conditions influence the demand for electricity and natural gas, affect the price of energy commodities, affect the ability to perform services at the construction materials and contracting and construction services businesses and affect ongoing operation and maintenance and construction activities for the pipeline and midstream business. In addition, severe weather can be destructive, causing outages, and/or property damage, which could require additional costs to be incurred. As a result, adverse weather conditions could negatively affect the Company's results of operations, financial position and cash flows.
Competition exists in all of the Company's businesses.
All of the Company's businesses are subject to competition. Construction services' competition is based primarily on price and reputation for quality, safety and reliability. Construction materials products are marketed under highly competitive conditions and are subject to such competitive forces as price, service, delivery time and proximity to the customer. The electric utility and natural gas industries also are experiencing increased competitive pressures as a result of consumer demands, technological advances and other factors. The pipeline and midstream business competes with several pipelines for access to natural gas supplies and gathering, transportation and storage business. Competition could negatively affect the Company's results of operations, financial position and cash flows.
The Company could be subject to limitations on its ability to pay dividends.
The Company depends on earnings from its divisions and dividends from its subsidiaries to pay dividends on its common stock. Regulatory, contractual and legal limitations, as well as capital requirements and the Company's financial performance or cash flows, could limit the earnings of the Company's divisions and subsidiaries which, in turn, could restrict the Company's ability to pay dividends on its common stock and adversely affect the Company's stock price.
Costs related to obligations under MEPPs could have a material negative effect on the Company's results of operations and cash flows.
Various operating subsidiaries of the Company participate in approximately 75 MEPPs for employees represented by certain unions. The Company is required to make contributions to these plans in amounts established under numerous collective bargaining agreements between the operating subsidiaries and those unions.
The Company may be obligated to increase its contributions to underfunded plans that are classified as being in endangered, seriously endangered or critical status as defined by the Pension Protection Act of 2006. Plans classified as being in one of these statuses are required to adopt RPs or FIPs to improve their funded status through increased contributions, reduced benefits or a combination of the two. Based on available information, the Company believes that approximately 35 percent of the MEPPs to which it contributes are currently in endangered, seriously endangered or critical status.
The Company may also be required to increase its contributions to MEPPs if the other participating employers in such plans withdraw from the plans and are not able to contribute amounts sufficient to fund the unfunded liabilities associated with their participants in the plans. The amount and timing of any increase in the Company's required contributions to MEPPs may also depend upon one or more factors including the outcome of collective bargaining, actions taken by trustees who manage the plans, actions taken by the plans' other participating employers, the industry for which contributions are made, future determinations that additional plans reach endangered, seriously endangered or critical status, government regulations and the actual return on assets held in the plans, among others. The Company may experience increased operating expenses as a result of the required contributions to MEPPs, which may have a material adverse effect on the Company's results of operations, financial position or cash flows.
In addition, pursuant to ERISA, as amended by MPPAA, the Company could incur a partial or complete withdrawal liability upon withdrawing from a plan, exiting a market in which it does business with a union workforce or upon termination of a plan to the extent these plans are underfunded. The Company could also incur additional withdrawal liability if its withdrawal from a plan is determined by that plan to be part of a mass withdrawal.
The Company's operations may be negatively impacted by cyberattacks or acts of terrorism.
The Company operates in industries that require continual operation of sophisticated information technology systems and network infrastructure. While the Company has developed procedures and processes that are designed to strengthen and protect these systems, they may be vulnerable to failures or unauthorized access due to hacking, theft, sabotage, viruses, acts of terrorism, acts of war or other causes. If the technology systems were to fail or be breached and these systems were not recovered in a timely manner, the Company's operational systems and infrastructure, such as the Company's electric generation, transmission and distribution facilities and its natural gas storage and pipeline systems, may be unable to fulfill critical business functions, including an inability to generate or distribute some part of our energy services and other products to customers. Such disruption could result in decreased revenues and/or significant remediation costs which could have a material adverse effect on the Company's results of operations, financial position and cash flows. Additionally, because electric generation and transmission systems and natural gas pipelines are part of an interconnected system with other operators, a disruption elsewhere in the system could negatively impact the Company's business.
The Company's business requires access to sensitive customer, employee and Company data in the ordinary course of business. Despite the Company's implementation of security measures, a failure or breach of a security system could compromise sensitive data. Such an event could result in negative publicity and reputational harm, remediation costs and possible legal claims and fines which could adversely affect the Company's financial results. The Company's third-party service providers that perform critical business functions or have access to sensitive information may also be vulnerable to security breaches and other risks that could have an adverse effect on the Company.
The Company may be subject to potential material liabilities relating to the past sale of assets or businesses, primarily arising from events prior to sale.
The Company previously sold its oil and natural gas assets and its membership interests in Dakota Prairie Refining. The Company may be subject to potential liabilities, either directly or through indemnification of the buyers or others, relating to these transactions or other sales, primarily arising from events prior to the sale, or from breaches of any representations, warranties or covenants in the purchase and sale agreements.
Other factors that could impact the Company's businesses.
The following are other factors that should be considered for a better understanding of the financial condition of the Company. These other factors may impact the Company's financial results in future periods.
- Acquisition, disposal and impairments of assets or facilities
- Changes in operation, performance and construction of plant facilities or other assets
- Changes in present or prospective generation
- The ability to obtain adequate and timely cost recovery for the Company's regulated operations through regulatory proceedings
- The availability of economic expansion or development opportunities
- Population growth rates and demographic patterns
- Market demand for, available supplies of, and/or costs of, energy- and construction-related products and services
- The cyclical nature of large construction projects at certain operations
- Changes in tax rates, policies or tax reform
- Unanticipated project delays or changes in project costs, including related energy costs
- Unanticipated changes in operating expenses or capital expenditures
- Labor negotiations or disputes
- Inability of the contract counterparties to meet their contractual obligations
- Changes in accounting principles and/or the application of such principles to the Company
- Changes in technology
- Changes in legal or regulatory proceedings
- The ability to effectively integrate the operations and the internal controls of acquired companies
- The ability to attract and retain skilled labor and key personnel
- Increases in employee and retiree benefit costs and funding requirements