The following abbreviations and acronyms used in this disclosure statement are defined below:
Company - MDU Resources Group, Inc.
Dakota Prairie Refining - Dakota Prairie Refining, LLC, a limited liability company previously owned by WBI Energy and Calumet Specialty Products Partners, L.P.
EPA - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
ERISA - Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
FIP - Funding Improvement Plan
GHG - Greenhouse gas
MEPP – Multiemployer pension plan
Montana-Dakota - Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., a public utility division of the Company
Montana DEQ – Montana Department of Environmental Quality
MPPAA - Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980
NGL - Natural Gas Liquids
RCRA - Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
RP - Rehabilitation Plan
SEC - U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Thurston County Superior Court – State of Washington Thurston County Superior Court
Washington DOE – Washington State Department of Ecology
The Company's business and financial results are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, including those set forth below and in other documents that it files with the SEC. The 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 included elsewhere in this document. If any of the risks described below actually occur, the Company's business, prospects, financial condition or financial results could be materially harmed.
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's electric and natural gas transmission and distribution businesses are subject to comprehensive regulation 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, income taxes, property and other taxes, franchises; recovery of purchased power and purchased natural gas costs; and siting of generation and transmission facilities. 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.
There can be no assurance that applicable regulatory commissions will determine all the costs of the Company's electric and natural gas transmission and distribution businesses to have been prudent, which could result in disallowance of costs. Also, the regulatory process for approval of rates for these businesses may not result in full recovery of the costs of providing services. Changes in regulatory requirements or operating conditions may require early retirement of certain assets. While regulation typically provides relief for these types of retirements, there is no assurance the regulators will allow full recovery of all remaining costs leaving stranded asset costs. Rising fuel costs could increase the risk that the utility businesses will not be able to fully recover those fuel costs from their customers.
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, which may defer potential acquirers from approaching the Company or impact the Company's ability to pursue otherwise attractive acquisitions.
Economic volatility affects the Company's operations, as well as the demand for its products and services.
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 affect the funding available for infrastructure spending.
The ability of the Company's electric and natural gas distribution businesses to grow in service territory, customer base and usage demand is affected by the economic environments and population growth 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. Further, any material decreases in energy demand by customers, for economic or other reasons, could have a material adverse impact on the Company's earnings and results of operations.
The Company's operations involve risks that may result from catastrophic events.
The Company's operations include a variety of inherent hazards and operating risks, such as product leaks, explosions, mechanical failures, vandalism, acts of terrorism and acts of war, which could result in loss of human life; personal injury; property damage; environmental pollution; impairment of operations; and substantial financial 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.
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's operations, particularly its electric and natural gas transmission and distribution businesses, require significant capital investment. The Company relies on the issuance of long-term debt and equity securities 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 may increase the cost of borrowing or adversely affect its ability to access one or more financial markets. Such disruptions could include:
- 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
The issuance of a substantial amount of the Company's common stock, whether issued in connection with an acquisition or otherwise, could have a dilutive effect on existing shareholders, or the perception that such an issuance could occur, may adversely affect the market price of the Company's common stock.
The regulatory approval, permitting, construction, startup and/or operation of pipelines and power generation and transmission facilities may involve unanticipated events, delays and unrecoverable costs.
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.
Additionally, operating or other costs 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.
Financial market changes could impact the Company’s pension and post-retirement benefit plans and obligations.
The global demand and price volatility for natural resources, interest rate changes, governmental budget constraints and threat of terrorism can create volatility in the financial markets. Changing financial market conditions could negatively affect the 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 for those plans as well liabilities and funding requirements for multiemployer plans to which the Company is a participating employer.
The backlogs at the Company's construction materials and contracting and construction services businesses may not accurately represent future revenue.
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. The timing of contract awards, duration of large new contracts and the mix of services can significantly affect backlog. Backlog at any given point in time may not accurately represent the revenue or net income that is realized in any period and the backlog as of the end of the year may not be indicative of the revenue and net income expected to be earned in the following year and should not be relied upon as a stand-alone indicator of future revenues or net income.
The Company's pipeline and midstream business is dependent on factors, including commodity prices and commodity price basis differentials, that are subject to external influences.
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 external factors impact the development of natural gas supplies and the expansion and operation of natural gas pipeline systems. Prolonged depressed prices for oil, NGL and natural gas could negatively affect the growth, results of operations, cash flows and asset values of the Company's pipeline and midstream business.
Reductions in the Company's credit ratings could increase financing costs.
There is no assurance that the Company's current credit ratings, or those of its subsidiaries, will remain in effect or that a rating will not be lowered or withdrawn by a rating agency. The Company's credit ratings may also change as a result of the differing methodologies or changes in the methodologies used by the rating agencies. A downgrade in credit ratings could lead to higher borrowing costs. A credit rating is not a recommendation to buy, sell or hold securities and is applicable only to the specific security to which it applies. Investors should make their own evaluation as to whether an investment in the security is appropriate.
Increasing costs associated with health care plans may adversely affect the Company's results of operations.
The Company's self-insured costs of health care benefits for eligible employees continues to increase. Increasing levels of large individual health care claims and overall health care claims could have an adverse impact on operating results, financial position and liquidity. Legislation related to health care could also change the Company's benefit program and costs.
The Company is exposed to risk of loss resulting from the nonpayment and/or nonperformance by the Company's customers and counterparties.
If the Company's customers or counterparties experience financial difficulties, the Company could experience difficulty in collecting receivables. The nonpayment and/or nonperformance by the Company's customers and counterparties, particularly customers and counterparties of the Company’s construction materials and contracting and construction services businesses for large construction projects, could have a negative impact on the Company's results of operations and cash flows. The Company may also have indirect credit risk due to participation in energy markets such as MISO in which credit losses are socialized to all participants.
Changes in tax law may negatively affect the Company's business.
On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed into law the TCJA that significantly reforms the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended. The TCJA, among other things, includes reductions to United States federal tax rates, repeals the domestic production deduction, disallows regulated utility property for immediate expensing, and modifies or repeals many other business deductions and credits. The changes to the Internal Revenue Code could materially impact the Company. Future guidance, regulations and interpretations clarifying items within the TCJA may be contrary to the Company’s current interpretation or regulatory actions and could have an adverse impact to the Company. The Company continues to examine the impact the TCJA may have on the Company in future periods. The TCJA's impact on the economy, including overall demand and competition for the products and services the Company provides and associated labor availability and costs, is unknown and there could be negative impacts to the Company. The Company's utility businesses' cash flows may be negatively impacted by the disallowance of immediate expensing of utility property. Other changes to federal and state tax laws have the ability to benefit or adversely affect the Company's earnings and customer costs. Significant changes to corporate tax rates could result in the impairment of deferred tax assets that are established based on existing law at the time of deferral. Changes to the value of various tax credits could change the economics of resources and the resource selection for the electric generation business. Regulation incorporates changes in tax law into the rate setting process for the regulated energy delivery businesses and therefore could create timing delays before the impact of changes are realized.
Environmental and Regulatory Risks
The Company's operations could be adversely impacted by climate change.
Climate change may create physical and financial risks to the Company. Such risks could have an adverse effect on the Company's financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Utility customers’ energy needs vary with weather conditions, primarily temperature and humidity. For residential customers, heating and cooling represent the largest energy use. To the extent weather conditions are affected by climate change, customers’ energy use could increase or decrease. Increased energy use by its utility customers due to weather changes may require the Company to invest in additional generating assets, transmission and other infrastructure to serve increased load. Decreased energy use due to weather changes may result in decreased revenues. Extreme weather conditions in general require more system backup, adding to costs, and can contribute to increased system stress, including service interruptions. Weather conditions outside of the Company's service territory could also have an impact on revenues. The Company buys and sells electricity that might be generated outside its service territory depending upon system needs and market opportunities. Extreme weather conditions creating high energy demand may raise electricity prices, which would increase the cost of energy provided to customers.
Severe weather impacts the Company's utility service territories, primarily when thunderstorms, tornadoes and snow or ice storms occur. Severe weather events may damage or disrupt the Company's electric and natural gas transmission and distribution facilities, which could increase costs to repair damaged facilities and restore service to customers. The cost of providing service could increase to the extent the frequency of extreme weather events increases because of climate change or otherwise. The Company may not recover all costs related to mitigating these physical risks.
Severe weather may result in disruptions to the pipeline and midstream business's natural gas supply and transportation systems. These changes could result in increased maintenance and capital costs, disruption of service, regulatory actions and lower customer satisfaction.
Extreme weather conditions caused by climate change or otherwise may cause infrastructure construction projects to be delayed or canceled and limit resources available for such projects increasing the project costs at the construction materials and contracting and construction services businesses.
Climate change may impact a region’s economic health, which could impact revenues at all of the Company's businesses. The Company's financial performance is tied to the health of the regional economies served. The Company provides natural gas and electric utility service, as well as construction materials and services, for states and communities that are economically affected by the agriculture industry. Increases in severe weather events or significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns could adversely affect the agriculture industry and correspondingly the economies of the states and communities affected by that industry.
The price of energy also has an impact on the economic health of communities. The cost of additional regulatory requirements to combat climate change, such as regulation of carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act, or other environmental regulation could impact the availability of goods and prices charged by suppliers which would normally be borne by consumers through higher prices for energy and purchased goods. To the extent financial markets view climate change and emissions of GHGs as a financial risk, this could negatively affect the Company's ability to access capital markets or cause less than ideal terms and conditions.
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, 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. Site and groundwater analyses as required by the rule may identify the need to upgrade or close 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 76 percent of the electricity it generated in 2017 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. The EPA filed a motion with the D.C. Circuit Court on March 28, 2017, requesting the Clean Power Plan's case be held in abeyance. The D.C. Circuit Court granted the EPA’s motion to hold the case in abeyance for 60 days. On August 8, 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court issued an order holding the case in abeyance for an additional 60-day period and directed the EPA to file status reports at 30-day intervals. In parallel, the EPA published a proposal on October 16, 2017, to repeal the Clean Power Plan in its entirety and followed with an advance notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Federal Register on December 28, 2017, requesting comment on replacing the Clean Power Plan through new rulemaking. Compliance costs will become clearer as the EPA completes new rulemaking.
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 currently complying with the rules impacting new and modified sources. 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 oil and gas facility operators, including WBI Energy, to begin the process of existing source rule development. On March 7, 2017, the EPA published notice of withdrawal of the Information Collection Request.
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 asserted that the Washington DOE undertook this rulemaking without the requisite statutory authority. On December 15, 2017, the Thurston County Superior Court vacated the Clean Air rule holding that it is invalid due to a lack of legislative approval to adopt the rule. The ruling may still be appealed by the Washington DOE or interveners. Litigation in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington remains in abeyance pending evaluation of the recent 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 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's various businesses are seasonal and subject to weather conditions that 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 and affect the price of energy commodities. Utility operations have historically generated lower revenues when weather conditions are cooler than normal in the summer and warmer than normal in the winter particularly in jurisdictions that do not have decoupling mechanisms in place. Where decoupling mechanism are in place, there is no assurance the Company will continue to receive such regulatory protection from adverse weather in future rates.
Adverse weather conditions, such as heavy or sustained rainfall or snowfall, storms, wind, and colder weather may affect the demand for products and the ability to perform services at the construction businesses and affect ongoing operation and maintenance and construction activities for the electric and natural gas transmission and distribution businesses. 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.
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 experience 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 for gathering, transportation and storage business. Competition could negatively affect the Company's results of operations, financial position and cash flows.
The Company's inability to obtain, develop and retain key personnel and skilled labor forces may have a negative effect on the Company's operations.
The Company must attract, develop and retain executive officers and other professional, technical and skilled labor forces with the skills and experience necessary to successfully manage, operate and grow the Company's businesses. Competition for these employees is high, and in some cases competition for these employees is on a regional or national basis. A shortage in the supply of these skilled personnel creates competitive hiring markets and increased labor expenses, decreased productivity and potentially lost business opportunities. Additionally, if the Company is unable to hire employees with the requisite skills, the Company may also be forced to incur significant training expenses. As a result, the Company's ability to maintain productivity, relationships with customers, competitive costs, and quality services is limited by the ability to employ the necessary skilled personnel and could negatively affect the Company's results of operations, financial position and cash flows.
The Company's construction materials and contracting and construction services businesses may be exposed to warranty claims.
The Company, particularly its construction businesses, may provide warranties guaranteeing the work performed against defects in workmanship and material. If warranty claims occur, they may require the Company to re-perform the services or to repair or replace the warranted item, at a cost to the Company, and could also result in other damages if the Company is not able to adequately satisfy warranty obligations. In addition, the Company may be required under contractual arrangements with customers to warrant any defects or failures in materials the Company purchased from third parties. While the Company generally requires suppliers to provide warranties that are consistent with those the Company provides to customers, if any of the suppliers default on their warranty obligations to the Company, the Company may nonetheless incur costs to repair or replace the defective materials. Costs incurred as a result of warranty claims could adversely affect the Company's results of operations, financial condition 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 restrict or influence the Company's ability or decision 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 participation 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.
Information technology disruptions or cyberattacks could adversely impact the Company's operations.
The Company's operations require uninterrupted operation of information technology systems and network infrastructure. While the Company has policies, procedures and processes in place designed to strengthen and protect these systems, they may be vulnerable to failures or unauthorized access due to hacking, theft, sabotage, malicious software, acts of terrorism, acts of war, acts of nature or other causes. If these systems fail or become comprised, and they are not recovered in a timely manner, the Company may be unable to fulfill critical business functions. This may include interruption of electric generation, transmission and distribution facilities, natural gas storage and pipeline facilities, and facilities for delivery of construction materials or other products and services. The Company’s accounting systems and its ability to collect information and invoice customers for products and services could also be disrupted. If the Company’s operations were disrupted, it could result in decreased revenues or significant remediation costs that have a material adverse effect on the Company's results of operations and cash flows. Additionally, because electric generation and transmission systems and natural gas pipelines are part of interconnected systems with other operators’ facilities, a cyber-related disruption in another operator’s system could negatively impact the Company's business.
The Company, through the ordinary course of business, requires access to sensitive customer, employee and Company data. While the Company has implemented extensive security measures, a breach of its systems could compromise sensitive data. Such an event could result in negative publicity and reputational harm, remediation costs, legal claims and fines that could have an adverse effect on the Company's financial results. Third-party service providers that perform critical business functions for the Company or have access to sensitive information within the Company also may be vulnerable to security breaches and information technology 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 risks to the Company. These other factors may materially negatively 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 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
- 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
- Losses or costs relating to litigation
- The ability to effectively integrate the operations and the internal controls of acquired companies