GLOBAL PARTNERS LP 10-K 2017
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
Commission file number 001‑32593
Global Partners LP
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
P.O. Box 9161
800 South Street
Waltham, Massachusetts 02454‑9161
(Address of principal executive offices, including zip code)
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
Securities registered pursuant to section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to section 12(g) of the Act:
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well‑known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☐ No ☒
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ☐ No ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S‑T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files. Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S‑K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10‑K or any amendment to this Form 10‑K. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non‑accelerated filer or a smaller reporting company. See definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b‑2 of the Exchange Act.:
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b‑2 of the Act). Yes ☐ No ☒
The aggregate market value of common units held by non‑affiliates of the registrant (treating directors and executive officers of the registrant’s general partner and their affiliates, for this purpose, as if they were affiliates of the registrant) as of June 30, 2016 was approximately $364,148,403 based on a price per common unit of $13.71, the price at which the common units were last sold as reported on the New York Stock Exchange on such date.
As of March 7, 2017, 33,995,563 common units were outstanding.
Certain statements and information in this Annual Report on Form 10‑K may constitute “forward‑looking statements.” The words “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “plan,” “intend,” “foresee,” “should,” “would,” “could” or other similar expressions are intended to identify forward‑looking statements, which are generally not historical in nature. These forward‑looking statements are based on our current expectations and beliefs concerning future developments and their potential effect on us. While management believes that these forward‑looking statements are reasonable as and when made, there can be no assurance that future developments affecting us will be those that we anticipate. All comments concerning our expectations for future revenues and operating results are based on our forecasts for our existing operations and do not include the potential impact of any future acquisitions. Our forward‑looking statements involve significant risks and uncertainties (some of which are beyond our control) and assumptions that could cause actual results to differ materially from our historical experience and our present expectations or projections. Known material factors that could cause our actual results to differ from those in the forward-looking statements are those described in Part I, Item 1A. “Risk Factors.” These risks and uncertainties include, among other things:
Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward‑looking statements, which speak only as of the date hereof. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward‑looking statements after the date they are made, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
We make available free of charge through our website, www.globalp.com, our Annual Reports on Form 10‑K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10‑Q, Current Reports on Form 8‑K and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file or furnish such material with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). These documents are also available at the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. Our website also includes our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, our Governance Guidelines and the charters of our Audit Committee and Compensation Committee.
A copy of any of these documents will be provided without charge upon written request to the General Counsel, Global Partners LP, P.O. Box 9161, 800 South Street, Suite 500, Waltham, MA 02454; fax (781) 398‑4165.
References in this Annual Report on Form 10‑K to “Global Partners LP,” “Partnership,” “we,” “our,” “us” or like terms refer to Global Partners LP and its subsidiaries. References to “our general partner” refer to Global GP LLC.
We are a midstream logistics and marketing master limited partnership formed in March 2005 engaged in the purchasing, selling, storing and logistics of transporting petroleum and related products, including gasoline and gasoline blendstocks (such as ethanol), distillates (such as home heating oil, diesel and kerosene), residual oil, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane. We own, control or have access to one of the largest terminal networks of refined petroleum products and renewable fuels in Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania (collectively, the “Northeast”). We are one of the largest distributors of gasoline, distillates, residual oil and renewable fuels to wholesalers, retailers and commercial customers in the New England states and New York. We are also one of the largest independent owners, suppliers and operators of gasoline stations and convenience stores in these areas. As of December 31, 2016, we had a portfolio of 1,458 owned, leased and/or supplied gasoline stations, including 248 directly operated convenience stores, in the Northeast, Maryland and Virginia. We also receive revenue from convenience store sales and gasoline station rental income. In addition, we own transload and storage terminals in North Dakota and Oregon that extend our origin‑to‑destination capabilities from the mid‑continent region of the United States and Canada.
We purchase refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane primarily from domestic and foreign refiners and ethanol producers, crude oil producers, major and independent oil companies and trading companies. We operate our business under three segments: (i) Wholesale, (ii) Gasoline Distribution and Station Operations (“GDSO”) and (iii) Commercial.
Global GP LLC, our general partner, manages our operations and activities and employs our officers and substantially all of our personnel, except for most of our gasoline station and convenience store employees who are employed by our wholly owned subsidiary, Global Montello Group Corp. (“GMG”).
Recent Developments and 2016 Transactions
Sale of Terminal Assets—On February 2, 2017, we began soliciting proposals for the potential sale of six refined petroleum products terminals located in New England, New York and Pennsylvania. The assets consist of product terminals that represent 1.1 million barrels of aggregate storage capacity. These assets did not meet the criteria to be presented as held for sale as of December 31, 2016.
Sale of Natural Gas and Electricity Business—On February 1, 2017, we completed the sale of our natural gas marketing and electricity brokerage businesses for approximately $17.3 million, subject to customary closing adjustments. Net proceeds from the sale amounted to approximately $16.3 million. The sale of our natural gas marketing and electricity brokerage businesses reflects our ongoing program to monetize non-strategic assets that are not fundamental to our growth strategy. Prior to the sale, the results of our natural gas marketing and electricity brokerage business were included in our Commercial segment.
Early Termination of Railcar Sublease—On December 21, 2016 (effective December 31, 2016), we voluntarily terminated early a sublease with a counterparty for 1,610 railcars that were underutilized due to unfavorable market conditions in the crude oil by rail market. Separately, we entered into a fleet management services agreement (effective January 1, 2017) with the counterparty, pursuant to which we will provide future railcar storage, freight, cleaning, insurance and other services on behalf of the counterparty. As a result of the sublease termination, we recognized one-time discounted lease exit and termination expenses of $80.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2016 consisting of
(i) $61.7 million cash consideration, (ii) $10.7 million of accrued incremental costs relating to our obligations under the sublease, and (iii) $8.3 million associated with derecognizing accumulated prepaid rent.
The $61.7 million cash consideration represents a discount of $10.2 million from $71.9 million in railcar lease payments that we would have been obligated to pay over the next three years. The termination of the sublease eliminates future lease payments related to these railcars of approximately $30.0 million, $29.0 million and $13.0 million in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. In addition to the discounted lease termination payment, the one-time expense includes costs for future railcar storage, freight, cleaning, insurance and other services, as well as certain non-cash accounting adjustments associated with the early termination. Please read Note 2 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
In connection with the sublease termination, we amended our credit agreement to permit the use of borrowings to make the early termination payment. The amendment also accelerates the step-down in the combined total leverage ratio from 5.50 times to 5.0 times effective with the quarter ended December 31, 2016 and continuing through maturity.
Goodwill and Long-Lived Asset Impairment—In 2016, we recognized a goodwill impairment charge of $121.7 million related to the Wholesale reporting unit and a long-lived asset impairment charge of $28.2 million, substantially all of which is due to crude oil related activities. Please read Note 2 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for a description of the facts and circumstances related to the impairment charges.
Dock Expansion and Tank Conversion—In the third quarter of 2016, we completed the measures at our West Coast facility, including cleaning of tanks and associated infrastructure, to convert the facility from crude oil to ethanol transloading and began transloading ethanol.
Sale of Gasoline Stations—On August 22, 2016, Drake Petroleum Company, Inc., a subsidiary of ours, sold to Mirabito Holdings, Inc. 30 gasoline stations and convenience stores located in New York and Pennsylvania (the “Drake Sites”) for an aggregate total cash purchase price of approximately $40.0 million. Please read Note 5 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements. In connection with closing, the parties entered into long-term supply contracts for branded and unbranded gasoline and other petroleum products. The Drake Sites are a portion of the sites that were acquired by us in connection with the acquisition of Warren Equities, Inc. (“Warren”) in January 7, 2015.
In addition, beginning in April 2016, we retained a real estate firm to coordinate the sales of non-strategic GDSO sites which are part of a divestiture program. As of December 31, 2016, the divestiture program included approximately 80 sites, 29 of which we have sold and 30 of which met the criteria to be presented as held for sale (see Note 5 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements). Through February 2017, the criteria to be presented as held for sale was met for an additional 9 sites with a net book value of $4.8 million at December 31, 2016. Assets held for sale are expected to be sold within the next 12 months (see Note 24 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements).
Sale Leaseback Transaction—On June 29, 2016, we sold real property assets, including the buildings, improvements and appurtenances thereto, at 30 gasoline stations and convenience stores located in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island for a purchase price of approximately $63.5 million. In connection with the sale, we entered into a master unitary lease agreement with the buyer to lease back the real property assets sold with respect to these sites. Please read Note 6 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Expanded Retail Network—In April 2016, we expanded our gasoline station and convenience-store network in Western Massachusetts with the addition of 22 leased retail sites. Located in the Pittsfield and Springfield areas, these sites were added through long-term leases.
We purchase refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane primarily from domestic and foreign refiners and ethanol producers, crude oil producers, major and independent oil companies and trading companies. We operate our business under three segments: (i) Wholesale, (ii) GDSO and (iii) Commercial. In
2016, our Wholesale, GDSO and Commercial sales accounted for approximately 50%, 42% and 8% of our total sales, respectively.
In our Wholesale segment, we engage in the logistics of selling, gathering, storage and transportation of refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil and propane. We transport these products by railcars, barges and/or pipelines pursuant to spot or long‑term contracts. We aggregate crude oil by truck or pipeline in the mid‑continent region of the United States and Canada, transport it by rail and ship it by barge to refiners. We sell home heating oil, branded and unbranded gasoline and gasoline blendstocks, diesel, kerosene, residual oil and propane to home heating oil and propane retailers and wholesale distributors. Generally, customers use their own vehicles or contract carriers to take delivery of the gasoline and distillates at bulk terminals and inland storage facilities that we own or control or at which we have throughput or exchange arrangements. Ethanol is shipped primarily by rail and by barge.
Gasoline Distribution and Station Operations
In our GDSO segment, gasoline distribution includes sales of branded and unbranded gasoline to gasoline station operators and sub-jobbers. Station operations include (i) convenience stores, (ii) rental income from gasoline stations leased to dealers, from commissioned agents and from cobranding arrangements and (iii) sundries (such as car wash sales, lottery and ATM commissions).
As of December 31, 2016, we had a portfolio of owned, leased and/or supplied gasoline stations, primarily in the Northeast, that consisted of the following:
In our Commercial segment, we include sales and deliveries to end user customers in the public sector and to large commercial and industrial end users of unbranded gasoline, home heating oil, diesel, kerosene, residual oil, bunker fuel and natural gas. In the case of public sector commercial and industrial end user customers, we sell products primarily either through a competitive bidding process or through contracts of various terms. We generally arrange for the delivery of the product to the customer’s designated location, and we respond to publicly issued requests for product proposals and quotes. Our Commercial segment also includes sales of custom blended fuels delivered by barges or from a terminal dock to ships through bunkering activity.
The following table presents our product sales and other revenues as a percentage of our consolidated sales for the years ended December 31:
Gasoline. We sell all grades of branded and unbranded gasoline and we sell gasoline blendstocks, such as ethanol, that comply with seasonal and geographical requirements in the areas in which we market.
Crude Oil. We engage in the purchasing, selling, storing and logistics of transporting domestic and Canadian crude oil and other products via rail and barge from the mid‑continent region of the United States and Canada for distribution to refiners and other customers.
Distillates. Distillates are primarily divided into home heating oil, diesel and kerosene. In 2016, sales of home heating oil, diesel and kerosene accounted for approximately 53%, 46% and 1%, respectively, of our total volume of distillates sold. The distillates we sell are used primarily for fuel for trucks and off‑road construction equipment and for space heating of residential and commercial buildings.
We sell generic home heating oil and Heating Oil Plus™, our proprietary premium branded heating oil. Heating Oil Plus™ is electronically blended at the delivery facility. In 2016, approximately 8% of the volume of home heating oil we sold to wholesale distributors was Heating Oil Plus™. In addition, we sell the additive used to create Heating Oil Plus™ to some wholesale distributors, make injection systems available to them and provide technical support to assist them with blending. We also educate the sales force of our customers to better prepare them for marketing our products to their customers.
In 2016, we sold home heating oil, including Heating Oil Plus™, to approximately 790 wholesale distributors and retailers. We have a fixed price sales program that we market primarily to wholesale distributors and retailers which uses the New York Mercantile Exchange (“NYMEX”) heating oil contract as the pricing benchmark and as the vehicle to manage the commodity risk. Please read “—Commodity Risk Management.” In 2016, approximately 33% of our home heating oil volume was sold using forward fixed price contracts. A forward fixed price contract requires our customer to purchase a specific volume at a specific price during a specific period. The remaining home heating oil volume was sold on either a posted price or a price based on various indices which, in both instances, reflect current market conditions.
We sell generic diesel and Diesel One®, our proprietary premium diesel fuel product. We offer marketing and technical support for those customers who purchase Diesel One®.
Residual Oil. We supply residual oil to industrial, commercial and marine customers. We specially blend product for users in accordance with their individual power specifications and for marine transport.
Natural Gas. We supply natural gas to industrial and commercial customers.
Propane. We sell propane to home heating oil and propane retailers and wholesale distributors primarily from our rail‑fed propane storage and distribution facility near our Church Street terminal in Albany, New York.
Convenience Store Items and Sundries. We sell a broad selection of food, beverages, snacks, grocery and non‑food merchandise at our convenience store locations and generate sundry sales, such as car wash sales, lottery and ATM commissions at our convenience store locations.
None of our customers accounted for greater than 10% of total sales for years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015. We had one significant customer, ExxonMobil Corporation (“ExxonMobil”), that accounted for approximately 17% of our total sales for the year ended December 31, 2014.
As of December 31, 2016, we owned, leased or maintained dedicated storage facilities at 25 bulk terminals, each with the capacity of more than 50,000 barrels, with a collective storage capacity of 12.2 million barrels. Twenty‑two of these bulk terminals are located throughout the Northeast. Some of our storage tankage is versatile, allowing us to switch tankage from one product to another.
In addition to refined products, we also own or operate two rail facilities in New York and Oregon capable of handling crude oil and ethanol and two rail facilities in North Dakota capable of handling crude oil. We also maintain dedicated storage at one marine terminal in New York capable of handling crude oil. At select locations, we have capacity to store renewable fuels, and in Albany, New York, we also have an additional rail‑fed propane storage terminal.
The bulk terminals and inland storage facilities from which we distribute product are supplied by ship, barge, truck, pipeline and/or rail. The inland storage facilities, which we use primarily to store distillates, are supplied with product delivered by truck from bulk terminals. Our customers receive product from our network of bulk terminals and inland storage facilities via truck, barge, rail and/or pipeline.
As of December 31, 2016, we supported our rail activity with a fleet of approximately 1,400 leased railcars, which reflects our early termination of a sublease for 1,610 railcars from a third party. Please read “—Recent Developments and 2016 Transactions—Early Termination of Railcar Sublease.” The makeup of this fleet is split between general‑purpose cars, typically used for light crude oil, ethanol and refined products, and coiled, insulated cars, typically used for heavy crude oil and residual oil.
In connection with our business, we may lease or otherwise secure the right to use certain third-party assets (such as railcars, pipelines and barges). We lease railcars through various lease arrangements with various expiration dates, and we lease barges through various time charter lease arrangement also with various expiration dates. We also have various pipeline connection agreements that extend for five to seven years. Please read Note 9, “Commitments and Contingencies,” for additional information on our railcar leases, barge leases and pipeline commitments.
Many of our bulk terminals operate 24 hours a day and consist of multiple storage tanks and automated truck loading equipment. These automated systems monitor terminal access, volumetric allocations, credit control and carrier certification through the remote identification of customers. In addition, some of the bulk terminals from which we market are equipped with truck loading racks capable of providing automated blending and additive packages which meet our customers’ specific requirements.
Throughput arrangements allow storage of product at terminals owned by others. Our customers can load product at these terminals, and we pay the owners of these terminals fees for services rendered in connection with the receipt, storage and handling of such product. Compensation to the terminal owners may be fixed or based upon the volume of our product that is delivered and sold at the terminal.
We have exchange agreements with customers and suppliers. An exchange is a contractual agreement where the parties exchange product at their respective terminals or facilities. For example, we (or our customers) receive product that is owned by our exchange partner from such party’s facility or terminal, and we deliver the same volume of our product to such party (or to such party’s customers) out of one of the terminals in our terminal network. Generally, both sides of an exchange transaction pay a handling fee (similar to a throughput fee), and often one party also pays a location differential that covers any excess transportation costs incurred by the other party in supplying product to the location at which the first party receives product. Other differentials that may occur in exchanges (and result in additional payments) include product value differentials and timing differentials.
As of December 31, 2016, we had a portfolio of 1,458 owned, leased and/or supplied gasoline stations, including 248 convenience stores, primarily in the Northeast.
At our company‑operated stores, we operate the gasoline stations and convenience stores with our employees, and we set the retail price of gasoline at the station. At commissioned agent locations, we own the gasoline inventory, and we set the retail price of gasoline at the station and pay the commissioned agent a fee related to the gallons sold. We receive rental income from commissioned agent leased gasoline stations for the leasing of the convenience store premises, repair bays and other businesses that may be conducted by the commissioned agent. At dealer‑leased locations, the dealer purchases gasoline from us, and the dealer sets the retail price of gasoline at the dealer’s station. We also receive rental income from (i) dealer‑leased gasoline stations and (ii) cobranding arrangements. We also supply gasoline to locations owned and/or leased by independent contract dealers. Additionally, we have contractual relationships with distributors in certain New England states pursuant to which we source and supply these distributors’ gasoline stations with ExxonMobil‑branded gasoline.
Our products come from some of the major energy companies in the world as well as North American crude oil producers. Products can be sourced from the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, Russia and occasionally from Asia. Most of our products are delivered by water, pipeline, rail or truck. During 2016, we purchased an average of approximately 335,000 barrels per day of refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane. We enter into supply agreements with these suppliers on a term basis or a spot basis. With respect to trade terms, our supply purchases vary depending on the particular contract from prompt payment (usually two days) to net 30 days. Please read “—Commodity Risk Management.” We obtain our convenience store inventory from traditional suppliers.
Due to the nature of our business and our reliance, in part, on consumer travel and spending patterns, we may experience more demand for gasoline during the late spring and summer months than during the fall and winter. Travel and recreational activities are typically higher in these months in the geographic areas in which we operate, increasing the demand for gasoline. Therefore, our volumes in gasoline are typically higher in the second and third quarters of the calendar year. As demand for some of our refined petroleum products, specifically home heating oil and residual oil for space heating purposes, is generally greater during the winter months, heating oil and residual oil volumes are generally higher during the first and fourth quarters of the calendar year. These factors may result in fluctuations in our quarterly operating results.
Commodity Risk Management
When we take title to the products that we sell, we are exposed to commodity risk. Commodity risk is the risk of unfavorable market fluctuations in the price of commodities such as refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane. We endeavor to minimize commodity risk in connection with our daily operations through hedging by selling exchange‑traded futures contracts on regulated exchanges or using other over‑the‑counter derivatives, and then lift hedges as we sell the product for physical delivery to third parties. Products are generally
purchased and sold at spot market prices, fixed prices or indexed prices. While we use these transactions to seek to maintain a position that is substantially balanced within our commodity product purchase and sales activities, we may experience net unbalanced positions for short periods of time as a result of variances in daily purchases and sales and transportation and delivery schedules as well as other logistical issues inherent in the business, such as weather conditions. In connection with managing these positions, we are aided by maintaining a constant presence in the marketplace. We also engage in a controlled trading program for up to an aggregate of 250,000 barrels of commodity products at any one point in time. Our policy is generally to purchase only products for which we have a market and to structure our sales contracts so that price fluctuations do not materially affect our profit. While our policies are designed to minimize market risk, as well as inherent basis risk, exposure to fluctuations in market conditions remains.
In addition, because a portion of our crude oil business may be conducted in Canadian dollars, we may use foreign currency derivatives to minimize the risks of unfavorable exchange rates. These instruments may include foreign currency exchange contracts and forwards. In conjunction with entering into the commodity derivative, we may enter into a foreign currency derivative to hedge the resulting foreign currency risk. These foreign currency derivatives are generally short‑term in nature and not designated for hedge accounting.
Operating results are sensitive to a number of factors. Such factors include commodity location, grades of product, individual customer demand for grades or location of product, localized market price structures, availability of transportation facilities, daily delivery volumes that vary from expected quantities and timing and costs to deliver the commodity to the customer. Basis risk is the inherent market price risk created when a commodity of a certain grade or location is purchased, sold or exchanged as compared to a purchase, sale or exchange of commodity at a different time or place, including transportation costs and timing differentials. We attempt to reduce our exposure to basis risk by grouping our purchase and sale activities by geographical region and commodity quality in order to stay balanced within such designated region. However, basis risk cannot be entirely eliminated, and basis exposure, particularly in backward markets (when prices for future deliveries are lower than current prices) or other adverse market conditions, can adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
With respect to the pricing of commodities, we utilize exchange-traded futures contracts and other derivative instruments to minimize or hedge the impact of commodity price changes on our inventories and forward fixed price commitments. Any hedge ineffectiveness is reflected in our results of operations. We utilize regulated exchanges, including the NYMEX, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (“CME”) and the Intercontinental‑Exchange (“ICE”), which are exchanges for the respective commodities that each trades, thereby reducing potential delivery and supply risks. Generally, our practice is to close all exchange positions rather than to make or receive physical deliveries. With respect to other products such as ethanol, which may not have a correlated exchange contract, we enter into derivative agreements with counterparties that we believe have a strong credit profile, in order to hedge market fluctuations and/or lock‑in margins relative to our commitments.
We monitor processes and procedures to prevent unauthorized trading by our personnel and to maintain substantial balance between purchases and sales or future delivery obligations. We can provide no assurance, however, that these steps will eliminate commodity risk or detect and prevent all violations of such trading processes and procedures, particularly if deception or other intentional misconduct is involved.
In our Wholesale segment, we obtain Renewable Identification Numbers (“RINs”) in connection with our purchase of ethanol which is used for our bulk supply requirements or for blending with gasoline through our terminal system. A RIN is a renewable identification number associated with government‑mandated renewable fuel standards. To evidence that the required volume of renewable fuel is blended with gasoline and diesel motor vehicle fuels, obligated parties must retire sufficient RINs to cover their Renewable Volume Obligation (“RVO”). Our U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) obligations relative to renewable fuel reporting are largely limited to the foreign gasoline and diesel that we may import and a small amount of blending operations at certain facilities. As a wholesaler of transportation fuels through our terminals, we separate RINs from renewable fuel through blending with gasoline and can use those separated RINs to settle our RVO. While the annual compliance period for the RVO is a calendar year and the settlement of the RVO typically occurs by March 31 of the following year, the settlement of the RVO can occur, upon certain EPA deferral actions, more than one year after the close of the compliance period. Operating results are sensitive to the timing associated with our RIN position relative to our RVO at a point in time, and we may recognize a
mark‑to‑market liability for a shortfall in RINs at the end of each reporting period. To the extent that we do not have a sufficient number of RINs to satisfy our RVO as of the balance sheet date, we charge cost of sales for such deficiency based on the market price of the RINs as of the balance sheet date and record a liability representing our obligation to purchase RINs.
For more information about our policies and procedures to minimize our exposure to market risk, including commodity market risk, please read Item 7A, “Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.”
In each of our operating segments, we encounter varying degrees of competition based on product and geographic locations and available logistics. Our competitors include terminal companies, major integrated oil companies and their marketing affiliates, wholesalers, producers and independent marketers of varying sizes, financial resources and experience. In our Northeast market, we compete in various product lines and for all customers. In the residual oil markets, however, where product is heated when stored and cannot be delivered long distances, we face less competition because of the strategic locations of our residual oil storage facilities. We supply oil to industrial, commercial and marine customers. We compete with other transloaders in our logistics activities including, in part, storage and transportation of crude oil, renewable fuels and gasoline and the movement of product by alternative means (e.g., pipelines). We also compete with natural gas suppliers and marketers in our home heating oil, residual oil and propane product lines. Bunkering requires facilities at ports to service vessels. In various other geographic markets, particularly with respect to unbranded gasoline and distillates markets, we compete with integrated refiners, merchant refiners and regional marketing companies. Our retail gasoline stations compete with unbranded and branded retail gasoline stations as well as supermarket and warehouse stores that sell gasoline.
To carry out our operations, our general partner and certain of our operating subsidiaries employed approximately 1,770 full‑time employees as of December 31, 2016, of which approximately 100 employees were represented by labor unions under collective bargaining agreements with various expiration dates. We may not be able to renegotiate the collective bargaining agreements when they expire on satisfactory terms or at all. A failure to do so may increase our costs. In addition, existing labor agreements may not prevent a future strike or work stoppage, and any work stoppage could negatively affect our results of operations and financial condition. We believe we have good relations with our employees.
We have a shared services agreement with GPC. The services provided among these entities by any employees shared pursuant to these agreements do not limit the ability of such employees to provide all services necessary to properly run our business. Please read Item 13, “Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence—Shared Services Agreements.”
Title to Properties, Permits and Licenses
We believe we have all of the assets needed, including leases, permits and licenses, to operate our business in all material respects. With respect to any consents, permits or authorizations that have not been obtained, we believe that the failure to obtain these consents, permits or authorizations will have no material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations or cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
We believe we have satisfactory title to all of our assets. Title to property, including certain sites within our GDSO segment, may be subject to encumbrances, including repurchase rights and use, operating and environmental covenants and restrictions. We believe that none of these encumbrances will materially detract from the value of our properties or from our interest in these properties, nor will they materially interfere with the use of these properties in the operation of our business.
The name GLOBAL, our logos and the name Global Petroleum Corp. are our trademarks. In addition, we have trademarks for our premium fuels and additives, Diesel One®, Heating Oil Plus™ and SubZero®. We also have the
following trademarks for our convenience store business: ALLTOWN®, YOUR TOWN.MYTOWN.ALLTOWN!®, CENTRE ST. KITCHEN®, Buck Stop®, Fast Freddie’s® and Mr. Mike’s®, and the pending trademark, ALLTOWN MARKET™. In connection with the January 7, 2015 acquisition of Warren, we acquired the following trademarks: Deli Joe’s®, Deli Joe’s logo, Diamond Fuels®, Xtra®, XtraCafé logo, Xtra Mart® and the Xtramart logo.
We lease office space for our principal executive office in Waltham, Massachusetts. This lease expires on July 31, 2026 with extension options through July 31, 2036. In addition, we lease office space in Branford, Connecticut. This lease expires on July 31, 2024 with extension options through July 31, 2034.
Our business of supplying refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil and propane, and other business activities, involves a number of activities that are subject to extensive and stringent environmental laws. As part of our business, we own and operate various petroleum storage and distribution facilities and gasoline stations and must comply with environmental laws at the federal, state and local levels, which increases the cost of operating terminals and gasoline stations and our business generally. In addition, these laws are frequently modified or revised to impose new obligations.
Our operations also utilize a number of petroleum storage facilities and distribution facilities, including rail transloading facilities and gasoline stations that we do not own or operate, but at which refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil and propane are stored. We utilize these facilities through several different contractual arrangements, including leases and throughput and terminalling services agreements. If facilities with which we contract that are owned and operated by third parties fail to comply with environmental laws, they could be shut down, requiring us to incur costs to use alternative facilities.
Environmental laws and regulations can restrict or impact our business activities in many ways, such as:
Failure to comply with environmental laws and regulations may trigger a variety of administrative, civil and criminal enforcement measures, including the assessment of monetary penalties, the imposition of remedial requirements and the issuance of orders enjoining future operations. Certain environmental statutes impose strict, joint and several liability for costs required to clean up and restore sites where hydrocarbons, hazardous substances or wastes have been released or disposed of. Moreover, neighboring landowners and other third parties may file claims for personal injury and property damage allegedly caused by the release of hydrocarbons, hazardous substances or other wastes into the environment.
Environmental operating permits are, or may be, required for our operations under applicable environmental laws and regulations. These operating permits are subject to modification, renewal and revocation. We regularly monitor and review our operations, procedures and policies for compliance with permits, laws and regulations. Risk of
noncompliance, permit interpretation, permit modification, renewal of permits on less favorable terms, judicial or administrative challenges of permits or permit revocation are inherent in the operation of our business, as it is with other companies engaged in similar businesses.
The trend in environmental regulation has been to place more restrictions and limitations on activities that may affect the environment over time. As a result, there can be no assurance as to the amount or timing of future expenditures for environmental compliance or remediation, and actual future expenditures may be different from the amounts we currently anticipate. We try to anticipate future regulatory requirements that might be imposed and plan accordingly to remain in compliance with changing environmental laws and regulations and minimize the costs of such compliance.
We do not believe that compliance with federal, state or local environmental laws and regulations will have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations or cash available for distribution to our unitholders. We can provide no assurance, however, that future events, such as changes in existing laws (including changes in the interpretation of existing laws), the promulgation of new laws, or the development or discovery of new facts or conditions will not cause us to incur significant costs or will not have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations or cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
For additional information concerning certain environmental proceedings, please read Item 3. “Legal Proceedings.”
Hazardous Material Releases and Waste Handling
Our business is subject to laws relating to the release of hazardous substances into the water or soils and include measures to control pollution of the environment. For instance, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, as amended, also known as CERCLA or the Superfund law, and comparable state laws impose liability, without regard to fault or the legality of the original conduct, on certain classes of persons who are considered to be responsible for the release of hazardous substances into the environment. Under the Superfund law, these persons may be subject to joint and several liability for the costs of cleaning up hazardous substances that have been released into the environment, for damages to natural resources and for the costs of certain health studies. In the course of our ordinary operations, we may generate, store or otherwise handle materials and wastes that fall within the Superfund law’s definition of a hazardous substance and, as a result, we may be jointly and severally liable under the Superfund law for all or part of the costs required to clean up sites at which those hazardous substances have been released into the environment. Under these laws, we could be required to remove or remediate previously disposed wastes, including wastes disposed of or released by prior owners or operators, clean up contaminated property, including groundwater contaminated by prior owners or operators, or make capital improvements to prevent future contamination.
Our operations generate a variety of wastes, including some hazardous wastes that are subject to the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as amended (“RCRA”) and comparable state laws. These regulations impose detailed requirements for the handling, storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous waste. Our operations also generate solid wastes which are regulated under state law or the less stringent solid waste requirements of the federal Solid Waste Disposal Act. We believe that our operations are in substantial compliance with the existing requirements of RCRA, the Solid Waste Disposal Act and similar state and local laws, and the cost involved in complying with these requirements is not material. We also incur ongoing costs for monitoring groundwater and/or remediation of contamination at several facilities that we operate.
Above Ground Storage Tanks
Above ground tanks that contain petroleum and other hazardous substances are subject to comprehensive regulation under environmental laws. Generally, these laws impose liability for releases and require secondary containment systems for tanks or that the operators take alternative precautions to ensure that no contamination results from tank leaks or spills. We believe we are in substantial compliance with environmental laws and regulations applicable to above ground storage tanks.
Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”) and comparable state laws, responsible parties for a regulated facility from which oil products so regulated are discharged may be subject to strict, joint and several liability for removal costs and certain other consequences of an oil spill such as natural resource damages, where the spill is into navigable waters or along shorelines.
Under the authority of the federal Clean Water Act, the EPA imposes specific requirements for Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure plans that are designed to prevent, and minimize the impacts of, releases of oil and other products from above ground storage tanks. We believe we are in substantial compliance with regulations pursuant to OPA, the Clean Water Act and similar state laws. We follow the American Petroleum Institute’s inspection, maintenance and repair standard applicable to our above ground storage tanks.
Underground Storage Tanks
We are required to make financial expenditures to comply with regulations governing underground storage tanks (“USTs”) which store gasoline or other regulated substances adopted by federal, state and local regulatory agencies. Pursuant to RCRA, the EPA has established a comprehensive regulatory program for the detection, prevention, investigation and cleanup of leaking USTs. State or local agencies are often delegated the responsibility for implementing the federal program or developing and implementing equivalent or stricter state or local regulations. We have a comprehensive program in place for performing routine tank testing and other compliance activities which are intended to promptly detect and investigate any potential releases. We believe we are in substantial compliance with applicable environmental requirements, including those applicable to our USTs. Compliance with existing and future environmental laws regulating UST systems of the kind we use may require significant capital expenditures in the future. These expenditures may include upgrades, modifications, and the replacement of USTs and related piping to comply with current and future regulatory requirements designed to ensure the detection, prevention, investigation and remediation of leaks and spills.
The federal Clean Water Act imposes restrictions regarding the discharge of pollutants, including oil and refined petroleum products, renewable fuels and crude oil, into navigable waters. This law and comparable state laws may require permits for discharging pollutants into state and federal waters and impose substantial liabilities and remedial obligations for noncompliance. The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) released a rule to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) for all Clean Water Act programs, which went into effect in August 2015. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has stayed the WOTUS rule nationwide pending further action of the court. In response to this decision, the EPA and the Corps resumed nationwide use of the agencies’ prior regulations defining the term “waters of the United States.” Those regulations will be implemented as they were prior to the effective date of the new WOTUS rule. In January 2017, the Supreme Court agreed to review the Sixth Circuit’s finding that it has jurisdiction to hear challenges to the rule. The WOTUS rule could significantly expand federal control of land and water resources across the United States, triggering substantial additional permitting and regulatory requirements. If the WOTUS rule survives judicial review in its current form, it could restrict exploration and production efforts by producers whose crude oil and other materials we transport. That restriction of supply could adversely affect our financial position, results of operations or cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
EPA regulations also may require us to obtain permits to discharge certain storm water runoff. Storm water discharge permits also may be required by certain states in which we operate. We believe that we hold the required permits and operate in material compliance with those permits. While we have experienced permit discharge exceedences at some of our terminals, we do not expect any noncompliance with existing permits and foreseeable new permit requirements to have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations or cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Under the federal Clean Air Act (the “CAA”) and comparable state and local laws, permits are typically required to emit regulated air pollutants into the atmosphere above certain thresholds. We believe that we currently hold
or have applied for all necessary air permits and that we are in substantial compliance with applicable air laws and regulations. Although we can give no assurances, we are aware of no changes to air quality regulations that will have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations or cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Various federal, state and local agencies have the authority to prescribe product quality specifications for the petroleum products and renewable fuels that we sell, largely in an effort to reduce air pollution. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in substantial penalties. Although we can give no assurances, we believe we are currently in substantial compliance with these regulations.
Changes in product quality specifications could require us to incur additional handling costs or reduce our throughput volume. For instance, different product specifications for different markets could require the construction of additional storage. Also, states in which we operate have considered limiting the sulfur content of home heating oil. If such regulations are enacted, this could restrict the supply of available heating oil, which could increase our costs to purchase such oil or limit our ability to sell heating oil.
In addition, the CAA and similar state laws impose requirements on emissions to the air from motor fueling activities in certain areas of the country, including those that do not meet state or national ambient air quality standards. These laws may require the installation of vapor recovery systems to control emissions of volatile organic compounds to the air during the motor fueling process.
In November 2015, the EPA also revised the existing National Ambient Air Quality Standards (“NAAQS”) for ground‑level ozone, which made the standard more stringent. Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds are recognized as pre‑cursors of ozone, and emissions of those materials are associated with mobile sources and the petroleum industry. The EPA has not yet designated which areas of the country are out of attainment with the new ground level ozone standard, and it will take the states several years to develop compliance plans for their non‑attainment areas. Several states have filed legal challenges to the new standard. If these challenges are unsuccessful, certain areas of the country previously in compliance with the various NAAQS, including areas where we operate, may be reclassified as non‑attainment. Such reclassification may make it more difficult to construct new or modified sources of air pollution in newly designated non‑attainment areas, or subject our existing operations to additional permitting requirements. While we are not able to determine the extent to which this new standard will impact our business at this time, it does have the potential to have a material impact on our operations and cost‑structure.
Federal climate change legislation in the United States appears unlikely in the near‑term. As a result, domestic efforts to curb greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions continue be led by the EPA GHG regulations and the efforts of states. To the extent that our operations are subject to the EPA’s GHG regulations, we may face increased capital and operating costs associated with new or expanded facilities. Significant expansions of our existing facilities or construction of new facilities may be subject to the CAA’s requirements for pollutants regulated under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V programs. Some of our facilities are also subject to the EPA’s Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases rule, and any further regulation may increase our operational costs.
Under a consent decree with states and environmental groups, the EPA is due to propose new source performance standards for GHG emissions from refineries. These standards could significantly increase the costs of constructing or adding capacity to refineries and may ultimately increase the costs or decrease the supply of refined products. Either of these events could have an adverse effect on our business. In May 2016, the EPA finalized New Source Performance Standards for methane and volatile organic compound emissions from certain activities in the oil and gas sector. This rule is currently subject to a pending judicial challenge in the D.C. Circuit. EPA also released a new definition of oil and gas sources, and new control guidance for reducing volatile organic compound emissions from existing oil and gas sources in certain ozone non‑attainment areas. Collectively, these rules could impose new compliance costs and additional permitting burdens on oil and gas operations, which could in turn affect the companies that produce the crude oil that we transport. Currently, however, it is not possible to estimate the likely financial impact of potential future regulation on our operations.
Under Subpart MM of the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule (“MRR”), importers of petroleum products, including distillates, must report the GHG emissions that would result from the complete combustion of all imported products if such combustion would result in the emission of at least 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. We currently report under Subpart MM because of the volume of petroleum products we typically import. Compliance with the MRR does not substantially impact our operations. However, any change in regulations based on GHG emissions reported in compliance with MRR may limit our ability to import petroleum products or increase our costs to import such products.
Overall, there has been a trend towards increased regulation of GHGs and initiatives, both domestically and internationally, to limit GHG emissions. Future efforts to limit emissions associated with transportation fuels and heating fuels could reduce the market for, or pricing of, our products, and thus adversely impact our business. For example, at the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, the United States and nearly 200 other nations entered into an international climate agreement. Although this agreement does not create any binding obligations for nations to limit their GHG emissions, it does include pledges to voluntarily limit or reduce future emissions. The Paris Agreement became effective in November 2016, and the United States is one of over 100 nations that have indicated an intent to comply with the agreement. In addition, it should be noted that some scientists have concluded that increasing concentrations of GHG in the earth’s atmosphere may produce climate changes that have significant physical effects, such as increased frequency and severity of storms, droughts, and floods and other climatic events. If any of those effects were to occur, they could have an adverse effect on our assets and operations.
Convenience Store Regulations
Our convenience store operations are subject to extensive governmental laws and regulations that include legal restrictions on the sale of alcohol, tobacco and lottery products, food labelling, safety and health requirements and public accessibility, as well as sanitation, safety and fire standards. State and local regulatory agencies have the authority to approve, revoke, suspend or deny applications for, and renewals of, permits and licenses. Our operations are also subject to federal and state laws governing matters such as wage rates, overtime, working conditions and citizenship requirements. At the federal level, there are proposals under consideration from time to time to increase minimum wage rates and to introduce a system of mandated health insurance, each of which could adversely affect our results of operations. In June 2009, Congress gave the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) broad authority to regulate tobacco products through passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (“FSPTCA”). Under the FSPTCA, the FDA has passed regulations that, among other things, prohibit the sale of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco to anyone under the age of 18 years (state laws are permitted to set a higher minimum age); prohibit the sale of single cigarettes or packs with less than 20 cigarettes; and prohibit the sale or distribution of non‑tobacco items such as hats and t‑shirts with tobacco brands, names or logos. Governmental actions and regulations, such as these, could materially impact our retail price of cigarettes, cigarette unit volume and revenues, merchandise gross profit and overall customer traffic, which could in turn have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
The market for ethanol is dependent on several economic incentives and regulatory mandates for blending ethanol into gasoline, including the availability of federal tax incentives, ethanol use mandates and oxygenate blending requirements. For instance, the Renewable Fuels Standard (“RFS”) requires that a certain amount of renewable fuels, such as ethanol, be utilized in transportation fuels, including gasoline, in the United States each year. Additionally, the EPA imposes oxygenate blending requirements for reformulated gasoline that are best met with ethanol blending. Gasoline marketers may also choose to discretionally blend ethanol into conventional gasoline for economic reasons. A change or waiver of the RFS mandate or the reformulated gasoline oxygenate blending requirements could adversely affect the availability and pricing of ethanol. Any change in the RFS mandate could also result in reduced discretionary blending of ethanol into conventional gasoline. Discretionary blending is when gasoline blenders use ethanol to reduce the cost of blended gasoline.
We maintain insurance which may cover, in whole or in part, certain costs relating to environmental matters associated with the releases of the products we store, sell and/or ship. We maintain insurance policies with insurers in amounts and with coverage and deductibles as we believe are reasonable and prudent. These policies may not cover all environmental risks and costs and may not provide sufficient coverage in the event an environmental claim is made against us.
Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the U.S. government has issued warnings that energy infrastructure assets may be future targets of terrorist organizations. These developments have subjected our operations to increased risks. Increased security measures taken by us as a precaution against possible terrorist attacks have resulted in increased costs to our business. Where required by federal or local laws, we have prepared security plans for the storage and distribution facilities we operate. Terrorist attacks aimed at our facilities and any global and domestic economic repercussions from terrorist activities could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders. For instance, terrorist activity could lead to increased volatility in prices for home heating oil, gasoline and other products we sell.
Insurance carriers are currently required to offer coverage for terrorist activities as a result of the federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (“TRIA”). We purchased this coverage with respect to our property and casualty insurance programs, which resulted in additional insurance premiums. Pursuant to the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2015, TRIA has been extended through December 31, 2020. Although we cannot determine the future availability and cost of insurance coverage for terrorist acts, we do not expect the availability and cost of such insurance to have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations or cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Hazardous Materials Transportation
Our operations include the preparation and shipment of some hazardous materials by truck, rail and marine vessel. We are subject to regulations promulgated under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (and subsequent amendments) and administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) under the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”), the United States Coast Guard and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”).
We conduct loading and unloading of refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil and propane to and from cargo transports, including tanker trucks, railcars and marine vessels. In large part, the cargo transports are owned and operated by third parties. However, we lease a fleet of railcars and charter barges associated with the shipment of refined petroleum products, renewable fuels and crude oil. We conduct ongoing training programs to help ensure that our operations are in compliance with applicable regulations.
The trend in hazardous material transportation is to increase oversight and regulation of these operations. Several derailments of freight trains, including the tragic events in July 2013 in Lac Mégantic and other events, have led federal and state regulators to examine whether the hazardous nature of crude oil from the Bakken Shale is being assessed properly prior to its shipment. In particular, there are concerns that the testing and ensuing designations of the crude oil on the shipping documentation do not in all cases accurately capture the flammability of the Bakken crude oil. These events have spurred efforts to improve the safety of tank cars that are used in transporting crude oil and other flammable or petroleum type liquids by rail. Since 2011, PHMSA has introduced a number of new requirements for railroad tank cars, including requirements that all new railroad tank cars used to transport crude oil or other petroleum type fluids (e.g., ethanol) be built to more stringent safety standards. PHMSA has also additional requirements to enhance tank car standards, a classification and testing program for crude oil, and a requirement that certain older DOT‑111 tank cars be phased out.
The rules also include braking standards for certain trains, designates new operational protocols for trains transporting large volumes of flammable liquids, such as routing requirements, speed restrictions and information for local government agencies, and provides new sampling and testing requirements to improve classification of energy products placed into transport. In July 2016, PHMSA also proposed a new rule that would expand the applicability of comprehensive oil spill response plans so that any railroad that transports a single train carrying 20 or more loaded tank cars of liquid petroleum oil in a continuous block or a single train carrying 35 or more loaded tank cars of liquid petroleum oil throughout the train must have a current, comprehensive, written plan. In addition to action taken or proposed by federal agencies, a number of states proposed or enacted laws in recent years that encourage safer rail operations or urge the federal government to strengthen requirements for these operations.
Efforts are likewise underway in Canada to assess and address risks from the transport of crude oil by rail. For example, in April 2014, Transport Canada issued a protective order prohibiting oil shippers from using 5,000 of the DOT‑111 tank cars and imposing a three‑year phase‑out period for approximately 65,000 tank cars that do not meet certain safety requirements. Transport Canada also imposed a 50 mile‑per‑hour speed limit on trains carrying hazardous materials and required all crude oil shipments in Canada to have an emergency response plan. At the same time that PHMSA released its 2015 rule, Canada’s Minister of Transport announced Canada’s new tank car standards, which largely align with the requirements in the PHMSA rule. Likewise, Transport Canada’s railcar retrofitting and phase out timeline largely aligns with the timeline introduced under the 2015 and 2016 PHMSA rules. Transport Canada has also introduced new requirements that railways carry minimum levels of insurance depending on the quantity of crude oil or dangerous goods that they transport as well as a final report recommending additional practices for the transportation of dangerous goods.
We believe we are in substantial compliance with applicable hazardous materials transportation requirements related to our operations. We do not believe that compliance with federal, state or local hazardous materials transportation regulations will have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations or cash available for distribution to our unitholders. However, these and future statutes, regulatory changes or initiatives regarding hazardous material transportation, could directly and indirectly increase our operation, compliance and transportation costs and lead to shortages in availability of tank cars. We cannot assure that costs incurred to comply with standards and regulations emerging from these and future rulemakings will not be material to our business, financial condition or results of operations. Furthermore, we can provide no assurance that future events, such as changes in existing laws (including changes in the interpretation of existing laws), the promulgation of new laws and regulations, including any voluntary measures by the rail industry, that result in new requirements for the design, construction or operation of tank cars used to transport crude oil, or, or the development or discovery of new facts or conditions will not cause us to incur significant costs. Any such requirements would apply to the industry as a whole.
We are subject to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”) and comparable state statutes that regulate the protection of the health and safety of workers. In addition, OSHA’s hazard communication standards require that information be maintained about hazardous materials used or produced in operations and that this information be provided to employees, state and local government authorities and citizens. We believe that we are in substantial compliance with the applicable OSHA requirements.
Risks Related to Our Business
We may not have sufficient cash from operations to enable us to maintain distributions at current levels following establishment of cash reserves and payment of fees and expenses, including payments to our general partner.
We may not have sufficient available cash each quarter to maintain distributions at current levels. The amount of cash we can distribute on our units principally depends upon the amount of cash we generate from our operations, which will fluctuate from quarter to quarter based on, among other things:
In addition, the actual amount of cash we have available for distribution will depend on other factors such as:
With respect to each of the quarters in 2016, we announced a quarterly distribution of $0.4625 per unit. On January 28, 2016, we announced a reduction in the quarterly distribution for the fourth quarter of 2015 on all outstanding common units to $0.4625. This distribution represented a decrease of 33.7% from the distribution of $0.6975 per unit paid in November 2015 and a decrease of 30.5% from the distribution of $0.6650 per unit paid in February 2015. That reduction in the distribution primarily reflected the continuing weakness in the crude oil market. The significant decline in the price of crude oil and tight crude oil differentials negatively impacted our fiscal 2015 and 2016 results.
The amount of cash we have available for distribution to unitholders depends on our cash flow and not solely on profitability.
The amount of cash we have available for distribution depends primarily on our cash flow, including borrowings, and not solely on profitability, which will be affected by non‑cash items. As a result, we may make cash distributions during periods when we record losses and may not make cash distributions during periods when we record net income.
We may not be able to fully implement or capitalize upon planned growth projects.
We could have a number of organic growth projects that may require the expenditure of significant amounts of capital in the aggregate. Many of these projects involve numerous regulatory, environmental, commercial and legal uncertainties beyond our control. As these projects are undertaken, required approvals, permits and licenses may not be obtained, may be delayed or may be obtained with conditions that materially alter the expected return associated with the underlying projects. Moreover, revenues associated with these organic growth projects would not increase immediately upon the expenditures of funds with respect to a particular project and these projects may be completed behind schedule or in excess of budgeted cost. We may pursue and complete projects in anticipation of market demand that dissipates or market growth that never materializes. As a result of these uncertainties, the anticipated benefits associated with our capital projects may not be achieved.
We commit substantial resources to pursuing acquisitions and expending capital for growth projects, although there is no certainty that we will successfully complete any acquisitions or growth projects or receive the economic results we anticipate from completed acquisitions or growth projects.
We are continuously engaged in discussions with potential sellers and lessors of existing (or suitable for development) terminalling, storage, logistics and/or marketing assets, including gasoline stations, and related businesses. Our growth largely depends on our ability to make accretive acquisitions and/or accretive development projects. We may be unable to execute such accretive transactions for a number of reasons, including the following: (1) we are unable to identify attractive transaction candidates or negotiate acceptable terms; (2) we are unable to obtain financing for such transactions on economically acceptable terms; or (3) we are outbid by competitors. In addition, we may consummate transactions that at the time of consummation we believe will be accretive but that ultimately may not be accretive. If any of these events were to occur, our future growth and ability to increase or maintain distributions could be limited. We can give no assurance that our transaction efforts will be successful or that any such efforts will be completed on terms that are favorable to us.
Even if we consummate acquisitions that we believe will be accretive, they may in fact result in no increase or even a decrease in cash available for distribution to our unitholders. Any acquisition involves potential risks, including:
If any acquisitions we ultimately consummate do not generate expected increases in cash available for distribution to our unitholders, our ability to increase or maintain distributions may be reduced.
Our gasoline financial results are seasonal and can be lower in the first and fourth quarters of the calendar year.
Due to the nature of our business and our reliance, in part, on consumer travel and spending patterns, we may experience more demand for gasoline during the late spring and summer months than during the fall and winter. Travel and recreational activities are typically higher in these months in the geographic areas in which we operate, increasing the demand for gasoline. Therefore, our results of operations in gasoline can be lower in the first and fourth quarters of the calendar year.
Our heating oil and residual oil financial results are seasonal and can be lower in the second and third quarters of the calendar year.
Demand for some refined petroleum products, specifically home heating oil and residual oil for space heating purposes, is generally higher during November through March than during April through October. We obtain a significant portion of these sales during the winter months. Therefore, our results of operations in heating oil and residual oil for the first and fourth calendar quarters can be better than for the second and third quarters.
Warmer weather conditions could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Weather conditions generally have an impact on the demand for both home heating oil and residual oil. Because we supply distributors whose customers depend on home heating oil and residual oil for space heating purposes during the winter, warmer‑than‑normal temperatures during the first and fourth calendar quarters in the Northeast can decrease the total volume we sell and the gross profit realized on those sales.
A significant decrease in price or demand for the products we sell or a significant decrease in demand for our logistics activities could reduce our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
A significant decrease in price or demand for the products we sell or a significant decrease in demand for our logistics activities could reduce our revenues and, therefore, reduce our ability to make or increase distributions to our unitholders. Factors that could lead to a decrease in market demand for refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane include:
Certain of our operating costs and expenses are fixed and do not vary with the volumes we store and distribute. Should we experience a reduction in our volumes stored, distributed and sold and in our related logistics activities, such costs and expenses may not decrease ratably or at all. As a result, we may experience declines in our margin if our volumes decrease.
Our business is influenced by the overall markets for refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil and propane and increases and/or decreases in the prices of these products may adversely impact our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders and the amount of borrowing available for working capital under our credit agreement.
Results from our purchasing, storing, terminalling, transporting and selling operations are influenced by prices for refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil and propane, price volatility and the market for such products. Prices in the overall markets for these products may affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders. Our margins can be significantly impacted by the forward product pricing curve, often referred to as the futures market. We typically hedge our exposure to petroleum product and renewable fuel price moves with futures contracts and, to a lesser extent, swaps. In markets where future prices are higher than current prices, referred to as contango, we may use our storage capacity to improve our margins by storing products we have purchased at lower prices in the current market for delivery to customers at higher prices in the future. In markets where future prices are lower than current prices, referred to as backwardation, inventories can depreciate in value and hedging costs are more expensive. For this reason, in these backward markets, we attempt to reduce our inventories in order to minimize these effects.
When prices for the products we sell rise, some of our customers may have insufficient credit to purchase supply from us at their historical purchase volumes, and their customers, in turn, may adopt conservation measures which reduce consumption, thereby reducing demand for product. Furthermore, when prices increase rapidly and dramatically, we may be unable to promptly pass our additional costs on to our customers, resulting in lower margins which could adversely affect our results of operations. Higher prices for the products we sell may (1) diminish our access to trade credit support and/or cause it to become more expensive and (2) decrease the amount of borrowings available for working capital under our credit agreement as a result of total available commitments, borrowing base limitations and advance rates thereunder.
When prices for the products we sell decline, our exposure to risk of loss in the event of nonperformance by our customers of our forward contracts may be increased as they and/or their customers may breach their contracts and purchase the products we sell at the then lower market price from a competitor. A significant decrease in the price for crude oil has adversely affected the economics of domestic crude oil production which, in turn, has had an adverse effect on our crude oil logistics activities and sales. A significant decrease in crude oil differentials has also had an adverse effect on our crude oil logistics activities and sales. In addition, the prolonged decline in crude oil prices and crude oil differentials has indicated an impairment of our long-lived assets used at our terminals in North Dakota. As a result of these events, we recognized a goodwill and long-lived asset impairment of $149.9 million for year ended December 31, 2016.
We have contractual obligations for certain transportation assets such as railcars, barges and pipelines.
A decline in demand for (i) the products we sell, including crude oil and ethanol, or (ii) our logistics activities has resulted and could continue to result in a decrease in the utilization of our transportation assets, which could negatively impact our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders. For example, during 2015 and 2016, we experienced adverse market conditions in crude oil caused by an over-supplied
crude oil market which resulted in tighter price differentials, and we experienced a reduction in our railcar movements but remained obligated to pay the applicable fixed charges for railcar leases.
The condition of credit markets may adversely affect our liquidity.
In the past, world financial markets experienced a severe reduction in the availability of credit. Possible negative impacts in the future could include a decrease in the availability of borrowings under our credit agreement, increased counterparty credit risk on our derivatives contracts and our contractual counterparties requiring us to provide collateral. In addition, we could experience a tightening of trade credit from our suppliers.
Our debt levels may limit our flexibility in obtaining additional financing and in pursuing other business opportunities.
As of December 31, 2016, our total debt, including amounts outstanding under our credit agreement and senior notes, was approximately $1.3 billion. We have the ability to incur additional debt, including the capacity to borrow up to $1.475 billion under our credit agreement, subject to limitations in our credit agreement. Our level of indebtedness could have important consequences to us, including the following:
Our ability to service our indebtedness depends upon, among other things, our financial and operating performance, which will be affected by prevailing economic conditions and financial, business, regulatory and other factors, some of which are beyond our control. If our operating results are not sufficient to service our current or future indebtedness, we will be forced to take actions, such as reducing or eliminating distributions, reducing or delaying our business activities, acquisitions, investments and/or capital expenditures, selling assets, restructuring or refinancing our indebtedness, or seeking additional equity capital or bankruptcy protection. We may not be able to effect any of these remedies on satisfactory terms or at all.
A significant increase in interest rates could adversely affect our ability to service our indebtedness.
The interest rates on our credit agreement are variable; therefore, we have exposure to movements in interest rates. A significant increase in interest rates could adversely affect our ability to service our indebtedness. The increased cost could make the financing of our business activities more expensive. These added expenses could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
We may not be able to obtain funding on acceptable terms or obtain additional requested funding in excess of total commitments under our credit agreement, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
In the past, global financial markets and economic conditions were disrupted and volatile. The debt and equity capital markets were exceedingly distressed. These issues, along with significant write‑offs in the financial services sector, the re‑pricing of credit risk and the economic conditions, had made and, along with any other potential future economic or market uncertainties, could make it difficult to obtain funding.
As a result, the cost of raising money in the debt and equity capital markets could increase while the availability of funds from those markets could diminish. The cost of obtaining money from the credit markets could increase as many lenders and institutional investors increase interest rates, enact tighter lending standards and reduce and, in some cases, cease to provide funding to borrowers.
In addition, we may be unable to obtain adequate funding under our credit agreement because (i) one or more of our lenders may be unable to meet its funding obligations or (ii) our borrowing base under our credit agreement, as redetermined from time to time, may decrease as a result of price fluctuations, counterparty risk, advance rates and borrowing base limitations and customer nonpayment or nonperformance.
Due to these factors, we cannot be certain that funding will be available if needed and to the extent required or requested on acceptable terms. If funding is not available when needed, or is available only on unfavorable terms, we may be unable to maintain our business as currently conducted, enhance our existing business, complete acquisitions or otherwise take advantage of business opportunities or respond to competitive pressures, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Operating and financial restrictions and covenants in our credit agreement and the indentures governing our senior notes and borrowing base requirements in our credit agreement may restrict our business and financing activities.
The operating and financial restrictions and covenants in our credit agreement and the indentures governing our senior notes and any future financing agreements could restrict our ability to finance future operations or capital needs or to engage, expand or pursue our business activities. For example, our credit agreement restricts our ability to:
In addition, the indentures governing our senior notes limit our ability to, among other things:
Our ability to comply with the covenants and restrictions contained in our credit agreement and the indentures may be affected by events beyond our control, including prevailing economic, financial and industry conditions. If market or other economic conditions deteriorate, our ability to comply with these covenants may be impaired. If we violate any of the restrictions, covenants, ratios or tests in our credit agreement or the indentures, a significant portion of our indebtedness may become immediately due and payable, and our lenders’ commitment to make further loans to us may terminate. We might not have, or be able to obtain, sufficient funds to make these accelerated payments. In addition, our obligations under our credit agreement are secured by substantially all of our assets, and if we are unable to repay our indebtedness under our credit agreement, the lenders could seek to foreclose on such assets.
Restrictions in our credit agreement and the indentures limit our ability to pay distributions upon the occurrence of certain events.
Our credit agreement and the indentures limit our ability to pay distributions upon the occurrence of certain events. For example, each of our credit agreement and the indentures limits our ability to pay distributions upon the occurrence of the following events, among others:
Any subsequent refinancing of our current debt or any new debt could have similar restrictions. For more information regarding our credit agreement and the indentures, please read Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources—Credit Agreement” and Note 6 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.
We can borrow money under our credit agreement to pay distributions, which would reduce the amount of credit available to operate our business.
Our partnership agreement allows us to borrow under our credit agreement to pay distributions. Accordingly, we can make distributions on our units even though cash generated by our operations may not be sufficient to pay such distributions. For more information, please read Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources” and Note 6 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.
The enactment of derivatives legislation could have an adverse effect on our ability to use derivative instruments to reduce the effect of commodity price, interest rate and other risks associated with our business.
On July 21, 2010, new comprehensive financial reform legislation, known as the Dodd‑Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Act”), was enacted that establishes federal oversight and regulation of the over‑the‑counter derivatives market and entities, such as us, that participate in that market. The Act requires the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”), the SEC and other regulators to promulgate rules and regulations implementing the new legislation. Although the CFTC has finalized certain regulations, others remain to be finalized or implemented and it is not possible at this time to predict when this will be accomplished.
In October 2010, pursuant to its rulemaking under the Act, the CFTC issued rules to set position limits for certain futures and option contracts in the major energy markets and for swaps that are their economic equivalents. The initial position limits rule was vacated by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in September of 2012. However, in November 2013, the CFTC proposed new rules that would place limits on positions in certain core futures and equivalent swaps contracts for, or linked to, certain physical commodities, subject to exceptions for certain bona fide hedging transactions. As these new position limit rules are not yet final, the impact of those provisions on us is uncertain at this time.
The CFTC has designated certain interest rate swaps and credit default swaps for mandatory clearing and exchange trading. To the extent we engage in such transactions or transactions that become subject to such rules in the future, we will be required to comply or take steps to qualify for an exemption to such requirements. Although we expect to qualify for the end‑user exception to the mandatory clearing requirements for swaps entered to hedge our commercial risks, the application of the mandatory clearing and trade execution requirements to other market participants, such as swap dealers, may change the cost and availability of the swaps that we use for hedging. If our swaps do not qualify for the commercial end‑user exception, or the cost of entering into uncleared swaps becomes prohibitive, we may be required to clear such transactions. The ultimate effect of the rules and any additional regulations on our business is uncertain at this time.
In addition, the Act requires that regulators establish margin rules for uncleared swaps. Banking regulators and the CFTC have adopted final rules establishing minimum margin requirements for uncleared swaps. Although we expect to qualify for the end‑user exception from such margin requirements for swaps entered into to hedge our commercial risks, the application of such requirements to other market participants, such as swap dealers, may change the cost and availability of the swaps that we use for hedging. If any of our swaps do not qualify for the commercial end‑user exception, posting of initial or variation margin could impact our liquidity and reduce cash available for capital expenditures, therefore reducing our ability to execute hedges to reduce risk and protect cash flows.
The full impact of the Act and related regulatory requirements upon our business will not be known until the regulations are implemented and the market for derivative contracts has adjusted. The Act and any new regulations could significantly increase the cost of derivative contracts (including from swap recordkeeping and reporting requirements and through requirements to post collateral which could adversely affect our available liquidity), materially alter the terms of derivative contracts, reduce the availability of some derivatives to protect against risks we encounter and reduce our ability to monetize or restructure our existing derivative contracts. If we reduce our use of derivatives as a result of the Act and regulations, our results of operations may become more volatile and our cash flows may be less predictable, which could adversely affect our ability to plan for and fund capital expenditures. Any of these consequences could have material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distributions to our unitholders.
In addition, the European Union and other non‑U.S. jurisdictions are implementing regulations with respect to the derivatives market. To the extent we transact with counterparties in foreign jurisdictions, we may become subject to such regulations. At this time, the impact of such regulations is not clear.
Our risk management policies cannot eliminate all commodity risk, basis risk or the impact of unfavorable market conditions which can adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders. In addition, any noncompliance with our risk management policies could result in significant financial losses.
While our hedging policies are designed to minimize commodity risk, some degree of exposure to unforeseen fluctuations in market conditions remains. For example, we change our hedged position daily in response to movements in our inventory. If we overestimate or underestimate our sales from inventory, we may be unhedged for the amount of the overestimate or underestimate. Also, significant increases in the costs of the products we sell can materially increase our costs to carry inventory. We use our credit facility as our primary source of financing to carry inventory and may be limited on the amounts we can borrow to carry inventory.
Basis risk is the inherent market price risk created when a commodity of certain grade or location is purchased, sold or exchanged as compared to a purchase, sale or exchange of a like commodity at a different time or place. Transportation costs and timing differentials are components of basis risk. For example, we use the NYMEX to hedge our commodity risk with respect to pricing of energy products traded on the NYMEX. Physical deliveries under NYMEX contracts are made in New York Harbor. To the extent we take deliveries in other ports, such as Boston Harbor, we may have basis risk. In a backward market (when prices for future deliveries are lower than current prices), basis risk is created with respect to timing. In these instances, physical inventory generally loses value as basis declines over time. Basis risk cannot be entirely eliminated, and basis exposure, particularly in backward or other adverse market conditions, can adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
We monitor processes and procedures to prevent unauthorized trading and to maintain substantial balance between purchases and sales or future delivery obligations. We can provide no assurance, however, that these steps will detect and/or prevent all violations of such risk management policies and procedures, particularly if deception or other intentional misconduct is involved.
We are exposed to trade credit risk and risk associated with our trade credit support in the ordinary course of our business activities.
We are exposed to risks of loss in the event of nonperformance by our customers, by counterparties of our forward and futures contracts, options and swap agreements and by our suppliers. Some of our customers, counterparties and suppliers may be highly leveraged and subject to their own operating and regulatory risks. The tightening of credit in the financial markets may make it more difficult for customers and counterparties to obtain financing and, depending on the degree to which it occurs, there may be a material increase in the nonpayment and nonperformance of our customers and counterparties. Even if our credit review and analysis mechanisms work properly, we may experience financial losses in our dealings with other parties. Any increase in the nonpayment or nonperformance by our customers and/or counterparties and the nonperformance by our suppliers could reduce our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
Additionally, our access to trade credit support could diminish and/or become more expensive. Our ability to continue to receive sufficient trade credit on commercially acceptable terms could be adversely affected by fluctuations in petroleum product and renewable fuel prices or disruptions in the credit markets or for any other reason. Any of these events could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
We are exposed to performance risk in our supply chain.
We rely upon our suppliers to timely produce the volumes and types of refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane for which they contract with us. In the event one or more of our suppliers does not perform in accordance with its contractual obligations, we may be required to purchase product on the open market to satisfy forward contracts we have entered into with our customers in reliance upon such supply arrangements. We may purchase refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane from a variety of suppliers under term contracts and on the spot market. In times of extreme market demand, we may be unable to satisfy our supply
requirements. Furthermore, a portion of our supply comes from other countries, which could be disrupted by political events. In the event such supply becomes scarce, whether as a result of political events, natural disaster, logistical issues associated with delivery schedules or otherwise, we may not be able to satisfy our supply requirements. If any of these events were to occur, we may be required to pay more for product that we purchase on the open market, which could result in financial losses and adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Historical prices for certain products we sell have been volatile and significant changes in such prices in the future may adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Historical prices for certain products we sell have been volatile. General political conditions, acts of war, terrorism and instability in oil producing regions, particularly in the United States, Canada, Middle East, Russia, Africa and South America, could significantly impact crude oil supplies and crude oil and refined petroleum product costs. Significant increases and volatility in wholesale gasoline costs could result in significant increases in the retail price of motor fuel products and in lower margins per gallon. Increases in the retail price of motor fuel products could impact consumer demand for motor fuel. This volatility makes it extremely difficult to predict the impact future wholesale cost fluctuations will have on our operating results and financial condition. Dramatic increases in crude oil prices squeeze fuel margins because fuel costs typically increase faster than can pass along such increases to customers. Higher fuel prices trigger higher credit card expenses, because credit card fees are calculated as a percentage of the transaction amount, not as a percentage of gallons sold. A significant change in any of these factors could materially impact our customers’ needs, motor fuel gallon volumes, gross profit and overall customer traffic, which in turn could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Our gasoline sales could be significantly reduced by a reduction in demand due to higher prices and to new technologies and alternative fuel sources, such as electric, hybrid or battery powered motor vehicles.
Technological advances and alternative fuel sources, such as electric, hybrid or battery powered motor vehicles, may adversely affect the demand for gasoline. We could face additional competition from alternative energy sources as a result of future government‑mandated controls or regulations which promote the use of alternative fuel sources. A number of new legal incentives and regulatory requirements, and executive initiatives, including the Clean Power Plan and various government subsidies including the extension of certain tax credits for renewable energy, have made these alternative forms of energy more competitive. A reduction in demand for our gasoline products could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distributions to our unitholders. In addition, higher prices could reduce the demand for gasoline and adversely impact our gasoline sales. A reduction in gasoline sales could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Energy efficiency, higher prices, new technology and alternative fuels could reduce demand for our products.
Increased conservation and technological advances have adversely affected the demand for home heating oil and residual oil. Consumption of residual oil has steadily declined over the last several decades. We face additional competition from alternative energy sources as a result of future government‑mandated controls or regulation further promoting the use of cleaner fuels. End users who are dual‑fuel users have the ability to switch between residual oil and natural gas. Other end users may elect to convert to natural gas. During a period of increasing residual oil prices relative to the prices of natural gas, dual‑fuel customers may switch and other end users may convert to natural gas. During periods of increasing home heating oil prices relative to the price of natural gas, residential users of home heating oil may also convert to natural gas. Such switching or conversion could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders. In addition, higher prices and new technologies and alternative fuel sources, such as electric, hybrid or battery powered motor vehicles, could reduce the demand for gasoline and adversely impact our gasoline sales. A reduction in gasoline sales could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Erosion of the value of major gasoline brands could adversely affect our gasoline sales and customer traffic.
As a significant number of our retail gasoline stations and convenience stores are branded Mobil or other major gasoline brands, they may be dependent, in part, upon the continuing favorable reputation of such brands. Erosion of the value of major gasoline brands could have a negative impact on our gasoline sales, which in turn may cause our acquisition to be less profitable.
We depend upon marine, pipeline, rail and truck transportation services for a substantial portion of our logistics business in transporting the products we sell. A disruption in these transportation services could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Hurricanes, flooding and other severe weather conditions could cause a disruption in the transportation services we depend upon which could affect the flow of service. In addition, accidents, labor disputes between providers and their employees and labor renegotiations, including strikes, lockouts or a work stoppage, shortage of railcars, mechanical difficulties or bottlenecks and disruptions in transportation logistics could also disrupt our businesses. These events could result in service disruptions and increased cost which could also adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders. Other disruptions, such as those due to an act of terrorism or war, could also adversely affect our business.
Changes in government usage mandates and tax credits could adversely affect the availability and pricing of ethanol, which could negatively impact our sales.
The EPA has implemented a RFS pursuant to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The RFS program sets annual quotas for the quantity of renewable fuels (such as ethanol) that must be blended into transportation fuels consumed in the United States. A RIN is assigned to each gallon of renewable fuel produced in or imported into the United States.
We are exposed to the volatility in the market price of RINs. We cannot predict the future prices of RINs. RIN prices are dependent upon a variety of factors, including EPA regulations, the availability of RINs for purchase, the price at which RINs can be purchased, and levels of transportation fuels produced, all of which can vary significantly from quarter to quarter. If sufficient RINs are unavailable for purchase or if we have to pay a significantly higher price for RINs, or if we are otherwise unable to meet the EPA’s RFS mandates, our results of operations and cash flows could be adversely affected.
Future demand for ethanol will be largely dependent upon the economic incentives to blend based upon the relative value of gasoline and ethanol, taking into consideration the EPA’s regulations on the RFS program and oxygenate blending requirements. A reduction or waiver of the RFS mandate or oxygenate blending requirements could adversely affect the availability and pricing of ethanol, which in turn could adversely affect our future gasoline and ethanol sales. In addition, changes in blending requirements could affect the price of RINs which could impact the magnitude of the mark‑to‑market liability recorded for the deficiency, if any, in our RIN position relative to our RVO at a point in time.
We may not be able to obtain state fund or insurance reimbursement of our environmental remediation costs.
Where releases of refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane have occurred, federal and state laws and regulations require that contamination caused by such releases be assessed and remediated to meet applicable standards. Our obligation to remediate this type of contamination varies, depending upon applicable laws and regulations and the extent of, and the facts relating to, the release. A portion of the remediation costs for certain petroleum products may be recoverable from the reimbursement fund of the applicable state and/or from third party insurance after any deductible has been met, but there are no assurances that such reimbursement funds or insurance proceeds will be available to us.
Future consumer or other litigation could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Our retail gasoline and convenience store operations are characterized by a high volume of customer traffic and by transactions involving an array of products.
These operations carry a higher exposure to consumer litigation risk when compared to the operations of companies operating in many other industries. Consequently, we may become a party to individual personal injury or products liability and other legal actions in the ordinary course of our retail gasoline and convenience store business. Any such action could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. Additionally, we are occasionally exposed to industry‑wide or class action claims arising from the products we carry or industry‑specific business practices. Our defense costs and any resulting damage awards or settlement amounts may not be fully covered by our insurance policies. An unfavorable outcome or settlement of one or more of these lawsuits could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distributions.
We may incur costs or liabilities as a result of litigation or adverse publicity resulting from concerns over food quality, health or other issues that could cause customers to avoid our convenience stores.
We may be the subject of complaints or litigation arising from food-related illness or injury in general which could have a negative impact on our business. Additionally, negative publicity, regardless of whether the allegations are valid, concerning food quality, food safety or other health concerns, employee relations or other matters related to our prepared food operations may materially adversely affect demand for our offerings and could result in a decrease in customer traffic to our convenience stores.
We depend upon a small number of suppliers for a substantial portion of our convenience store merchandise inventory. A disruption in supply or an unexpected change in our relationships with our principal merchandise suppliers could have an adverse effect on our convenience store results of operations.
We purchase convenience store merchandise inventory from a small number of suppliers for our directly operated convenience stores. A change of merchandise suppliers, a disruption in supply or a significant change in our relationships with our principal merchandise suppliers could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Governmental action and campaigns to discourage smoking may have a material adverse effect on our revenues and gross profit.
Congress has given the FDA broad authority to regulate tobacco products, and the FDA has enacted numerous regulations restricting the sale of such products. These governmental actions, as well as national, state and local campaigns to discourage smoking and other factors, may result in reduced volume and consumption levels, and could materially affect the retail price of cigarettes, unit volume and revenues, gross profit and overall customer traffic, which in turn could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We face intense competition in our purchasing, terminalling, transporting, storage and logistics activities. Competition from other providers of refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane that are able to supply our customers with those products and services at a lower price and have capital resources many times greater than ours could reduce our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
We are subject to competition from distributors and suppliers of refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane that may be able to supply our customers with the same or comparable products and terminalling, transporting and storage services and logistics on a more competitive basis. We compete with terminal companies, major integrated oil companies and their marketing affiliates, wholesalers, producers and independent marketers of varying sizes, financial resources and experience. In our Northeast market, we compete in various product lines and for all customers. In the residual oil markets, however, where product is heated when stored and cannot be delivered long distances, we face less competition because of the strategic locations of our residual oil storage facilities.
We compete with other transloaders in our logistics activities including, in part, storage and transportation of crude oil, and the movement of product by alternative means (e.g., pipelines). We also compete with natural gas suppliers and marketers in our home heating oil, residual oil and propane product lines. Bunkering requires facilities at ports to service vessels. In various other geographic markets, particularly the unbranded gasoline and distillates markets, we compete with integrated refiners, merchant refiners and regional marketing companies. Our retail gasoline stations compete with unbranded and branded retail gas stations as well as supermarket and warehouse stores that sell gasoline.
Some of our competitors are substantially larger than us, have greater financial resources and control greater supplies of refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane than we do. If we are unable to compete effectively, we may lose existing customers or fail to acquire new customers, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders. For example, if a competitor attempts to increase market share by reducing prices, our operating results and cash available for distribution to our unitholders could be adversely affected. We may not be able to compete successfully with these companies, and our ability to compete could be harmed by factors including price competition and the availability of alternative and less expensive fuels.
New entrants or increased competition in the convenience store industry could result in reduced gross profits.
We compete with numerous other convenience store chains, independent convenience stores, supermarkets, drugstores, discount warehouse clubs, motor fuel service stations, mass merchants, fast food operations and other similar retail outlets. Several non-traditional retailers, including supermarkets and club stores, compete directly with convenience stores.
We may not be able to renew our leases or our agreements for dedicated storage when they expire.
The bulk terminals we own or lease or at which we maintain dedicated storage facilities play a key role in moving product to our customers. As of December 31, 2016, we leased the entirety of two bulk terminals that we operated exclusively for our business and operated and maintained dedicated storage facilities at another 18 bulk terminals. The lease agreements governing these arrangements are subject to expiration at various dates through 2019. These arrangements may not be renewed when they expire or, if renewed, may not be renewed at rates and on terms at least as favorable. If these agreements are not renewed or we are unable to renew these agreements at rates and on terms at least as favorable, it could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
We may not be able to lease sites we own or sub‑lease sites we lease with respect to the sale of gasoline on favorable terms and any such failure could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
If we are unable to obtain tenants on favorable terms for sites we own or lease, the lease payments we receive may not be adequate to cover our rent expense for leased sites and may not be adequate to ensure that we meet our debt service requirements. We may lease certain sites where the rent expense we pay is more than the lease payments we collect. We cannot provide any assurance that our gross margin from the sale of transportation fuels and related convenience store items at sites will be adequate to offset unfavorable lease terms. The occurrence of these events could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Some of our sales are generated under contracts that must be renegotiated or replaced periodically. If we are unable to successfully renegotiate or replace these contracts, our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders could be adversely affected.
Most of our arrangements with our customers are renegotiated or replaced periodically. As these contracts expire, they must be renegotiated or replaced. We may be unable to renegotiate or replace these contracts when they expire, and the terms of any renegotiated contracts may not be as favorable as the contracts they replace. Whether these contracts are successfully renegotiated or replaced is often subject to factors beyond our control. Such factors include fluctuations in refined petroleum product, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane prices, counterparty ability
to pay for or accept the contracted volumes and a competitive marketplace for the services offered by us. If we cannot successfully renegotiate or replace our contracts or renegotiate or replace them on less favorable terms, sales from these arrangements could decline, and our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders could be adversely affected.
Due to our lack of asset and geographic diversification, adverse developments in the terminals we use or in our operating areas would reduce our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
We rely primarily on sales generated from products distributed from the terminals we own or control or to which we have access. Furthermore, the majority of our assets and operations are located in the Northeast. Due to our lack of diversification in asset type and location, an adverse development in these businesses or areas, including adverse developments due to catastrophic events or weather and decreases in demand for refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane, could have a significantly greater impact on our results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders than if we maintained more diverse assets and locations.
Our operations are subject to operational hazards and unforeseen interruptions for which we may not be adequately insured.
We are not fully insured against all risks incident to our business. Our operations are subject to operational hazards and unforeseen interruptions such as natural disasters, adverse weather, accidents, fires, explosions, hazardous materials releases, mechanical failures, disruptions in supply infrastructure or logistics and other events beyond our control. If any of these events were to occur, we could incur substantial losses because of personal injury or loss of life, severe damage to and destruction of property and equipment, and pollution or other environmental damage resulting in curtailment or suspension of our related operations.
We store gasoline, renewable fuels, crude oil and propane in underground and above ground storage tanks. Our operations are also subject to significant hazards and risks inherent in storing gasoline. These hazards and risks include fires, explosions, spills, discharges and other releases, any of which could result in distribution difficulties and disruptions, environmental pollution, governmentally‑imposed fines or clean‑up obligations, personal injury or wrongful death claims and other damage to our properties and the properties of others.
Furthermore, we may be unable to maintain or obtain insurance of the type and amount we desire at reasonable rates. As a result of market conditions, premiums and deductibles for certain of our insurance policies have increased and could escalate further. In some instances, certain insurance could become unavailable or available only for reduced amounts of coverage. If we were to incur a significant liability for which we are not fully insured, it could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to unitholders.
New, stricter environmental laws and other industry-related regulations or environmental litigation could significantly impact our operations and/or increase our costs, which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Our operations are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations regulating, among other matters, logistics activities, product quality specifications and other environmental matters. The trend in environmental regulation has been towards more restrictions and limitations on activities that may affect the environment over time. Our business may be adversely affected by increased costs and liabilities resulting from such stricter laws and regulations. We try to anticipate future regulatory requirements that might be imposed and plan accordingly to remain in compliance with changing environmental laws and regulations and to minimize the costs of such compliance. Risks related to our environmental permits, including the risk of noncompliance, permit interpretation, permit modification, renewal of permits on less favorable terms, judicial or administrative challenges to permits by citizens groups or federal, state or local entities or permit revocation are inherent in the operation of our business, as it is with other companies engaged in similar businesses. We may not be able to renew the permits necessary for our operations, or we may be forced to accept terms in future permits that limit our operations or result in additional compliance costs.
In recent years, the transport of crude oil and ethanol has become subject to additional regulation. The establishment of more stringent design or construction, or other requirements for railroad tank cars that are used to transport crude oil and ethanol with too short of a timeframe for compliance may lead to shortages of compliant railcars available to transport crude oil and ethanol, which could adversely affect our business. Likewise, in recent years, efforts have commenced to seek to use federal, state and local laws to contest issuance of permits, contest renewal of permits and restrict the types of railroad tanks cars that can be used to deliver products to bulk storage terminals. Were such laws to come into effect and were they to survive appeals and judicial review, they would potentially expose our operations to duplicative and possibly inconsistent regulation.
There can be no assurances as to the timing and type of such changes in existing laws or the promulgation of new laws or the amount of any required expenditures associated therewith.
Climate change continues to attract considerable public and scientific attention. In recent years environmental interest groups have filed suit against companies in the energy industry related to climate change. Should such suits succeed, we could face additional compliance costs or litigation risks.
Our terminalling operations are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations relating to environmental protection and operational safety that could require us to incur substantial costs.
The risk of substantial environmental costs and liabilities is inherent in terminal operations, and we may incur substantial environmental costs and liabilities. Our terminalling operations involving the receipt, storage and redelivery of refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil and propane are subject to stringent federal, state and local laws and regulations governing the discharge of materials into the environment, or otherwise relating to the protection of the environment, operational safety and related matters. Compliance with these laws and regulations increases our overall cost of business, including our capital costs to maintain and upgrade equipment and facilities. We utilize a number of terminals that are owned and operated by third parties who are also subject to these stringent federal, state and local environmental laws in their operations. Their compliance with these requirements could increase the cost of doing business with these facilities. Please read “Items 1. and 2. Business and Properties—Environmental.”
In addition, our operations could be adversely affected if shippers of refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil and propane incur additional costs or liabilities associated with environmental regulations. These shippers could increase their charges to us or discontinue service altogether. Similarly, many of our suppliers face a trend of increasing environmental regulations, which could likewise restrict their ability to produce crude oil or fuels, or increase their costs of production, and thus impact the price of, and/or their ability to deliver, these products.
Various governmental authorities, including the EPA, have the power to enforce compliance with these regulations and the permits issued under them, and violators are subject to administrative, civil and criminal penalties, including fines, injunctions or both. Joint and several liability may be incurred, without regard to fault or the legality of the original conduct, under federal and state environmental laws for the remediation of contaminated areas at our facilities and those where we do business. Private parties, including the owners of properties located near our terminal facilities and those with whom we do business, also may have the right to pursue legal actions against us to enforce compliance with environmental laws, as well as seek damages for personal injury or property damage. We may also be held liable for damages to natural resources.
The possibility exists that new, stricter laws, regulations or enforcement policies could significantly increase our compliance costs and the cost of any remediation that may become necessary, some of which may be material. Our insurance may not cover all environmental risks and costs or may not provide sufficient coverage in the event an environmental claim is made against us. We may incur increased costs because of stricter pollution control requirements or liabilities resulting from noncompliance with required operating or other regulatory permits. New environmental regulations, such as those related to the emissions of GHGs, might adversely affect our products and activities, including the storage of refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil and propane, as well as our waste management practices and our control of air emissions. Enactment of laws and passage of regulations regarding GHG emissions, or other actions to limit GHG emissions may reduce demand for fossil fuels and impact our business. Federal and state agencies also could impose additional safety regulations to which we would be subject. Because the laws and regulations
applicable to our operations are subject to change, we cannot provide any assurance that compliance with future laws and regulations will not have a material effect on our results of operations.
Additionally, the construction of new terminals or the expansion of an existing terminal involves numerous regulatory, environmental, political and legal uncertainties, most of which are not in our control. Delays, litigation, local concerns and difficulty in obtaining approvals for projects requiring federal, state or local permits could impact our ability to build, expand and operate strategic facilities and infrastructure, which could adversely impact growth and operational efficiency.
Increased regulation of GHG emissions could result in increased operating costs and reduced demand for refined petroleum products as a fuel source, which could reduce demand for our products, decrease our revenues and reduce our profitability.
Combustion of fossil fuels, such as the refined petroleum products we sell, results in the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. On December 15, 2009, the EPA published its findings that emissions of carbon dioxide and other GHGs present an endangerment to public health and the environment because emissions of such gases are, according to the EPA, contributing to warming of the earth’s atmosphere and other climatic changes, and the EPA has begun to regulate GHG emissions pursuant to the CAA. In addition, it is possible federal legislation could be adopted in the future to restrict GHG, as Congress has considered various proposals to reduce GHG emissions from time to time. Many states and regions have adopted GHG initiatives. Please read “Items 1. and 2. Business and Properties—Environmental—Air Emissions.”
There are many regulatory approaches currently in effect or being considered to address GHGs, including possible future U.S. treaty commitments, new federal or state legislation that may impose a carbon emissions tax or establish a cap‑and‑trade program and regulation by the EPA. Please read “Items 1. and 2. Business and Properties—Environmental—Air Emissions.” Future international, federal and state initiatives to control GHG emissions, or an unfavorable outcome in the methane judicial challenges, could result in increased costs associated with refined petroleum products consumption, such as costs to install additional controls to reduce GHG emissions or costs to purchase emissions reduction credits to comply with future emissions trading programs. Such increased costs could result in reduced demand for refined petroleum products and some customers switching to alternative sources of fuel which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distributions to our unitholders.
Our business involves the buying, selling and shipping by rail of crude oil from the Bakken Shale, which involves risks of derailment, accidents and liabilities associated with cleanup and damages, as well as potential regulatory changes that may adversely impact our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Our operations involve the buying and selling of crude oil including from the Bakken Shale and shipping it by rail to various markets including on railcars that we lease. The derailments of trains transporting crude oil in North America have caused various regulatory agencies and industry organizations, as well as federal, state and municipal governments, to focus attention on transportation by rail of flammable materials. Additional measures have been taken in both the United States. and Canada to regulate the transportation of these products. Please read “Items 1. and 2. Business and Properties—Environmental— Hazardous Materials Transportation.”
Any changes to the existing laws and regulations, or promulgation of new laws and regulations, including any voluntary measures by the rail industry, that result in new requirements for the design, construction or operation of tank cars used to transport crude oil may require us to make expenditures to comply with new standards that are material to our operations, and, to the extent that new regulations require design changes or other modifications of tank cars, we may incur significant constraints on transportation capacity during the period while tank cars are being retrofitted or newly constructed to comply with the new regulations. We cannot assure that the totality of costs incurred to comply with any new standards and regulations and any impacts on our operations will not be material to our business, financial condition or results of operations. In addition, any derailment of crude oil from the Bakken Shale involving crude oil that we have purchased or are shipping may result in claims being brought against us that may involve significant liabilities. Although
we believe that we are adequately insured against such events, we cannot assure you that our policies will cover the entirety of any damages that may arise from such an event.
We are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations that govern the product quality specifications of the refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane we purchase, store, transport and sell.
Various federal, state and local government agencies have the authority to prescribe specific product quality specifications to the sale of commodities. Our business includes such commodities. Changes in product quality specifications, such as reduced sulfur content in refined petroleum products, or other more stringent requirements for fuels, could reduce our ability to procure product and our sales volume, require us to incur additional handling costs and/or require the expenditure of capital. For instance, different product specifications for different markets could require additional storage. If we are unable to procure product or recover these costs through increased sales, we may not be able to meet our financial obligations. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in substantial penalties.
We are subject to federal and state environmental regulations which could have a material adverse effect on our retail operations business.
Our retail operations are subject to extensive federal and state laws and regulations, including those relating to the protection of the environment, waste management, discharge of hazardous materials, pollution prevention, as well as laws and regulations relating to public safety and health. Certain of these laws and regulations may require assessment or remediation efforts. Retail operations with USTs are subject to federal and state regulations and legislation. Compliance with existing and future environmental laws regulating USTs may require significant capital expenditures and increased operating and maintenance costs. The operation of USTs also poses certain other risks, including damages associated with soil and groundwater contamination. Leaks from USTs which may occur at one or more of our gas stations may impact soil or groundwater and could result in fines or civil liability for us. We may be required to make material expenditures to modify operations, perform site cleanups or curtail operations.
We are subject to federal and state non‑environmental regulations which could have an adverse effect on our convenience store business and results of operations.
Our convenience store business is subject to extensive governmental laws and regulations that include legal restrictions on the sale of alcohol, tobacco and lottery products, food labelling, safety and health requirements and public accessibility. Furthermore, state and local regulatory agencies have the power to approve, revoke, suspend, or deny applications for and renewals of permits and licenses relating to the sale of alcohol, tobacco and lottery products or to seek other remedies. A violation of or change in such laws and/or regulations could have an adverse effect on our convenience store business and results of operations.
Regulations related to wages also affect our business. Any appreciable increase in the statutory minimum wage would result in an increase in our labor costs and such cost increase could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Any terrorist attacks aimed at our facilities and any global and domestic economic repercussions from terrorist activities and the government’s response could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the U.S. government has issued warnings that energy assets may be future targets of terrorist organizations. In addition to the threat of terrorist attacks, we face various other security threats, including cyber security threats to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information or systems or to render data or systems unusable; threats to the safety of our employees; threats to the security of our facilities, such as terminals and pipelines, and infrastructure or third‑party facilities and infrastructure. These developments have subjected our operations to increased risks.
Although we utilize various procedures and controls to monitor these threats and mitigate our exposure to security threats, there can be no assurance that these procedures and controls will be sufficient in preventing security threats from materializing. If any of these events were to materialize, they could lead to losses of sensitive information, critical infrastructure, personnel or capabilities, essential to our operations and could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, financial position, results of operations, or cash flows. Cyber security attacks in particular are evolving and include malicious software, attempts to gain unauthorized access to, or otherwise disrupt, our pipeline control systems, attempts to gain unauthorized access to data, and other electronic security breaches that could lead to disruptions in critical systems, including our pipeline control systems, unauthorized release of confidential or otherwise protected information and corruption of data. These events could damage our reputation and lead to financial losses from remedial actions, loss of business or potential liability.
We incur costs for providing facility security and may incur additional costs in the future with respect to the receipt, storage and distribution of our products. Additional security measures could also restrict our ability to distribute refined petroleum products, renewable fuels, crude oil, natural gas and propane. Any future terrorist attack on our facilities, or those of our customers, could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Terrorist activity could lead to increased volatility in prices for home heating oil, gasoline and other products we sell, which could decrease our customers’ demand for these products. Insurance carriers are required to offer coverage for terrorist activities as a result of federal legislation. We purchase this coverage with respect to our property and casualty insurance programs. This additional coverage resulted in additional insurance premiums which could increase further in the future.
We depend on key personnel for the success of our business.
We depend on the services of our senior management team and other key personnel. The loss of the services of any member of senior management or key employee could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders. We may not be able to locate or employ on acceptable terms qualified replacements for senior management or other key employees if their services were no longer available.
Certain executive officers of our general partner perform services for certain of our affiliates pursuant to shared services agreements. Please read Item 13, “Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence—Relationship of Management with Global Petroleum Corp. and AE Holdings Corp.”
We depend on unionized labor for the operation of certain of our terminals. Any work stoppages or labor disturbances at these terminals could disrupt our business.
Any work stoppages or labor disturbances by our unionized labor force at our facilities could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders. In addition, employees who are not currently represented by labor unions may seek representation in the future, and any renegotiation of collective bargaining agreements may result in terms that are less favorable to us.
We rely on our information technology systems to manage numerous aspects of our business, and a disruption of these systems could adversely affect our business.
We depend on our information technology (“IT”) systems to manage numerous aspects of our business and to provide analytical information to management. Our IT systems are an essential component of our business and growth strategies, and a serious disruption to our IT systems could significantly limit our ability to manage and operate our business effectively. These systems are vulnerable to, among other things, damage and interruption from power loss or natural disasters, computer system and network failures, loss of telecommunication services, physical and electronic loss of data, security breaches and computer viruses. We have a disaster recovery plan in place, but this plan may not entirely prevent delays or other complications that could arise from an IT systems failure. Any failure or interruption in our IT systems could have a negative impact on our operating results, cause our business and competitive position to suffer and damage our reputation.
In the normal course of our business, we may obtain personal data, including credit card information. While we believe we have adequate security controls over individually identifiable customer, employee and vendor data provided to us, a breakdown or a breach in our systems that results in the unauthorized release of individually identifiable customer or other sensitive data could nonetheless occur and have a material adverse effect on our reputation, operating results and financial condition.
If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal controls, then we may not be able to accurately report our financial results or prevent fraud. As a result, current and potential unitholders could lose confidence in our financial reporting, which would harm our business and the trading price of our common units.
Effective internal controls are necessary for us to provide reliable financial reports, prevent fraud and operate successfully as a public company. If our efforts to maintain internal controls are not successful or if we are unable to maintain adequate controls over our financial processes and reporting in the future or if we are unable to comply with our obligations under Section 404 of the Sarbanes‑Oxley Act of 2002, our operating results could be harmed or we may fail to meet our reporting obligations. Ineffective internal controls also could cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information, which would likely have a negative effect on the trading price of our common units.
Risks Related to our Structure
Our general partner and its affiliates have conflicts of interest and limited fiduciary duties, which could permit them to favor their own interests to the detriment of our unitholders.
As of March 7, 2017, affiliates of our general partner, including directors and executive officers and their affiliates, owned 21.9% of our common units and the entire general partner interest. Although our general partner has a fiduciary duty to manage us in a manner beneficial to us and our unitholders, the directors and officers of our general partner have a fiduciary duty to manage our general partner in a manner beneficial to its owners. Furthermore, certain directors and officers of our general partner are directors or officers of affiliates of our general partner. Conflicts of interest may arise between our general partner and its affiliates, on the one hand, and us and our unitholders, on the other hand. As a result of these conflicts, our general partner may favor its own interests and the interests of its affiliates over the interests of our unitholders. Please read “—Our partnership agreement limits our general partner’s fiduciary duties to unitholders and restricts the remedies available to unitholders for actions taken by our general partner that might otherwise constitute breaches of fiduciary duty.” These conflicts include, among others, the following situations:
Please read Item 13, “Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence—Omnibus Agreement and Business Opportunity Agreement.”
Our partnership agreement limits our general partner’s fiduciary duties to unitholders and restricts the remedies available to unitholders for actions taken by our general partner that might otherwise constitute breaches of fiduciary duty.
Our partnership agreement contains provisions that reduce the standards to which our general partner would otherwise be held by state fiduciary duty law. For example, our partnership agreement:
By purchasing a common unit, a common unitholder will become bound by the provisions of the partnership agreement, including the provisions described above.
Unitholders have limited voting rights and are not entitled to elect our general partner or its directors or remove our general partner without the consent of the holders of at least 66 2/3% of the outstanding units (including units held by our general partner and its affiliates), which could lower the trading price of our common units.
Unlike the holders of common stock in a corporation, unitholders have only limited voting rights on matters affecting our business and, therefore, limited ability to influence management’s decisions regarding our business. Unitholders have no right to elect our general partner or its board of directors on an annual or other continuing basis. The board of directors of our general partner is chosen entirely by its members and not by the unitholders. Furthermore, if the unitholders are dissatisfied with the performance of our general partner, they have limited ability to remove our general partner. The vote of the holders of at least 66 2/3% of all outstanding common units (including units held by our general partner and its affiliates) is required to remove our general partner. As a result of these limitations, the price at which the common units trade could diminish because of the absence or reduction of a takeover premium in the trading price.
We may issue additional units without unitholder approval, which would dilute unitholders’ ownership interests.
At any time, we may issue an unlimited number of limited partner interests of any type without the approval of our unitholders. The issuance by us of additional common units or other equity securities of equal or senior rank will have the following effects:
The market price of our common units could be adversely affected by sales of substantial amounts of our common units, including sales by our existing unitholders.
A substantial number of our securities may be sold in the future either pursuant to Rule 144 under the Securities Act or pursuant to a registration statement filed with the SEC. Rule 144 under the Securities Act provides that after a holding period of six months, non‑ affiliates may resell restricted securities of reporting companies, provided that current public information for the reporting company is available. After a holding period of one year, non‑affiliates may resell without restriction, and affiliates may resell in compliance with the volume, current public information and manner of sale requirements of Rule 144. Pursuant to our partnership agreement, members of the Slifka family have registration rights with respect to the common units owned by them.
Sales by any of our existing unitholders of a substantial number of our common units, or the perception that such sales might occur, could have a material adverse effect on the price of our common units or could impair our ability to obtain capital through an offering of equity securities.
Future market fluctuations may result in a lower price of our common units.
An increase in interest rates may cause the market price of our common units to decline.
Like all equity investments, an investment in our common units is subject to certain risks. In exchange for accepting these risks, investors may expect to receive a higher rate of return than would otherwise be obtainable from lower‑risk investments. Accordingly, as interest rates rise, the ability of investors to obtain higher risk‑adjusted rates of return by purchasing government‑backed debt securities may cause a corresponding decline in demand for riskier investments generally, including yield‑based equity investments such as publicly‑traded limited partnership interests. Reduced demand for our common units resulting from investors seeking other more favorable investment opportunities may cause the trading price of our common units to decline.
Our general partner has a limited call right that may require unitholders to sell their common units at an undesirable time or price.
If at any time our general partner and its affiliates own more than 80% of the common units, our general partner will have the right, but not the obligation, which it may assign to any of its affiliates or to us, to acquire all, but not less than all, of the common units held by unaffiliated persons at a price not less than their then‑current market price. As a result, unitholders may be required to sell their common units at an undesirable time or price and may not receive any return on their investment. Unitholders may also incur a tax liability upon a sale of their units. Our general partner is not obligated to obtain a fairness opinion regarding the value of the common units to be repurchased by it upon exercise of the limited call right. There is no restriction in our partnership agreement that prevents our general partner from issuing additional common units and exercising its call right. If our general partner exercises its limited call right, the effect would be to take us private and, if the units were subsequently deregistered, we would no longer be subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
Our partnership agreement restricts the voting rights of unitholders owning 20% or more of our common units.
Our partnership agreement restricts unitholders’ voting rights by providing that any units held by a person that owns 20% or more of any class of units then outstanding, other than our general partner, its affiliates, their transferees and persons who acquired such units with the prior approval of the board of directors of our general partner, cannot vote on any matter. Our partnership agreement also contains provisions limiting the ability of unitholders to call meetings or acquire information about our operations, as well as other provisions limiting the unitholders’ ability to influence the manner or direction of management.
Cost reimbursements due to our general partner and its affiliates will reduce cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Prior to making any distribution on the common units, we reimburse our general partner and its affiliates for all expenses they incur on our behalf, which is determined by our general partner in its sole discretion. These expenses include all costs incurred by the general partner and its affiliates in managing and operating us, including costs for rendering corporate staff and support services to us. We are managed and operated by directors and executive officers of our general partner. In addition, the majority of our operating personnel are employees of our general partner. Please read Item 13, “Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence.” The reimbursement of expenses and payment of fees, if any, to our general partner and its affiliates could adversely affect our ability to pay cash distributions to our unitholders.
Unitholders may not have limited liability if a court finds that unitholder action constitutes control of our business.
A general partner of a partnership generally has unlimited liability for the obligations of the partnership, except for those contractual obligations of the partnership that are expressly made without recourse to the general partner. Our partnership is organized under Delaware law, and we conduct business in a number of other states. The limitations on the liability of holders of limited partner interests for the obligations of a limited partnership have not been clearly established in some of the other states in which we do business. A unitholder could be liable for our obligations as if he were a general partner if:
Unitholders may have liability to repay distributions.
Under certain circumstances, unitholders may have to repay amounts wrongfully returned or distributed to them. Under Delaware law, we may not make a distribution to unitholders if the distribution would cause our liabilities to exceed the fair value of our assets. Delaware law provides that for a period of three years from the date of the impermissible distribution, limited partners who received the distribution and who knew at the time of the distribution that it violated Delaware law will be liable to the limited partnership for the distribution amount. Purchasers of units who become limited partners are liable for the obligations of the transferring limited partner to make contributions to us that are known to the purchaser of units at the time it became a limited partner and for unknown obligations if the liabilities could be determined from the partnership agreement. Liabilities to partners on account of their partnership interests and liabilities that are non‑recourse to us are not counted for purposes of determining whether a distribution is permitted.
The control of our general partner may be transferred to a third party without unitholder consent.
Our general partner may transfer its general partner interest to a third party in a merger or in a sale of all or substantially all of its assets without the consent of the unitholders. Furthermore, there is no restriction in the partnership agreement on the ability of the members of our general partner from transferring their respective membership interests in our general partner to a third party. The new members of our general partner would then be in a position to replace the board of directors and officers of our general partner with their own choices and control the decisions taken by the board of directors and officers of our general partner.
Certain members of the Slifka family and their affiliates may engage in activities that compete directly with us.
Mr. Richard Slifka and his affiliates (other than us) are subject to noncompetition provisions in the omnibus agreement and business opportunity agreement. In addition Mr. Eric Slifka’s and Mr. Andrew Slifka’s employment agreements contain noncompetition provisions. These agreements do not prohibit Messrs. Richard Slifka, Eric Slifka and Andrew Slifka and certain affiliates of our general partner from owning certain assets or engaging in certain businesses that compete directly or indirectly with us. Please read Item 13, “Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence—Omnibus Agreement and Business Opportunity Agreement.”
Our tax treatment depends on our status as a partnership for federal income tax purposes, as well as us not being subject to a material amount of entity-level taxation by individual states. If the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, were to treat us as a corporation for federal income tax purposes, which would subject us to entity level taxation, then our cash available for distribution to our unitholders would be substantially reduced.
The anticipated after‑tax economic benefit of an investment in the common units depends largely on our being treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes. We have not requested a ruling from the IRS on this or any other tax matter affecting us.
Despite the fact that we are a limited partnership under Delaware law, it is possible in certain circumstances for a partnership such as ours to be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes. Although we do not believe based upon our current operations that we are or will be so treated, a change in our business or a change in current law could cause us to be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes or otherwise subject us to taxation as an entity.
If we were treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes, we would pay federal income tax on our taxable income at the corporate tax rate. Distributions would generally be taxed again as corporate distributions, and no income, gains, losses, deductions or credits would flow through to you. Because a tax would be imposed upon us as a corporation, our cash available for distribution to our unitholders would be substantially reduced. Therefore, if we were treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes, there would be a material reduction in the anticipated cash flow and after‑tax return to our unitholders, likely causing a substantial reduction in the value of our common units.
Our partnership agreement provides that if a law is enacted or existing law is modified or interpreted in a manner that subjects us to taxation as a corporation or otherwise subjects us to additional amounts of entity level taxation for federal, state, local or foreign income tax purposes, the minimum quarterly distribution amount and the target distribution amounts may be adjusted to reflect the impact of that law or interpretation on us. At the state level, several states have been evaluating ways to independently subject partnerships to entity level taxation through the imposition of state income, franchise and other forms of taxation. Specifically, we currently own assets and conduct business in several states, some of which imposes a margin or franchise tax. In the future, we may expand our operations. Imposition of a similar tax on us in other jurisdictions that we may expand to or an increase in the existing tax rates would reduce the cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
The tax treatment of publicly traded partnerships or an investment in our common units could be subject to potential legislative, judicial or administrative changes or differing interpretations, possibly applied on a retroactive basis.
The present U.S. federal income tax treatment of publicly traded partnerships, including us, or an investment in our common units may be modified by administrative, legislative or judicial changes or differing interpretations at any time. From time to time, members of Congress propose and consider substantive changes to the existing federal income tax laws that affect publicly traded partnerships. Although there is no current legislative proposal, a prior legislative proposal would have eliminated the qualifying income exception to the treatment of all publicly traded partnerships as corporations upon which we rely for our treatment as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes.
Any modification to the U.S. federal income tax laws may be applied retroactively and could make it more difficult or impossible for us to meet the exception for certain publicly traded partnerships to be treated as partnerships for U.S. federal income tax purposes. We are unable to predict whether any of these changes or other proposals will ultimately be enacted. Any similar or future legislative changes could negatively impact the value of an investment in our common units.
On January 24, 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS published final regulations regarding which activities give rise to qualifying income (the “Final Regulations”) in the Federal Register. We do not believe the Final Regulations affect our ability to be treated as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes.
We have subsidiaries that are treated as corporations for federal income tax purposes and subject to corporate‑level income taxes.
As of December 31, 2016, we conducted substantially all of our operations of our end‑user business through six subsidiaries that are treated as corporations for federal income tax purposes. These corporations engage in the retail sale of gasoline and/or operates convenience stores and collect rents on personal property leased to dealers and commissioned agents at other stations. We may elect to conduct additional operations through these corporate subsidiaries in the future. These corporate subsidiaries are subject to corporate‑level taxes, which reduce the cash available for distribution to us and, in turn, to unitholders. If the IRS were to successfully assert that these corporations have more tax liability than we anticipate or legislation were enacted that increased the corporate tax rate, our cash available for distribution to unitholders would be further reduced.
If the IRS contests the federal income tax positions we take, the market for our common units may be adversely impacted, and the costs of any IRS contest will reduce our cash available for distribution to unitholders.
We have not requested a ruling from the IRS with respect to our treatment as a partnership for federal income tax purposes. The IRS may adopt positions that differ from the tax positions we take. It may be necessary to resort to administrative or court proceedings to sustain some or all of the positions we take. A court may not agree with some or all of the positions we take. Any contest with the IRS may materially and adversely impact the market for our common units and the price at which they trade. In addition, because the costs will be borne indirectly by our unitholders and our general partner, the costs of any contest with the IRS will result in a reduction in cash available for distribution.
If the IRS makes audit adjustments to our income tax returns for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, it (and some states) may assess and collect any taxes (including any applicable penalties and interest) resulting from such audit adjustment directly from us, in which case our cash available for distribution to our unitholders might be substantially reduced.
Pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, if the IRS makes audit adjustments to our income tax returns, it (and some states) may assess and collect any taxes (including any applicable penalties and interest) resulting from such audit adjustment directly from us. Under our partnership agreement, our general partner is permitted to make elections under the new rules to either pay the taxes (including any applicable penalties and interest) directly to the IRS or, if we are eligible, issue a revised Schedule K-1 to each unitholder with respect to an audited and adjusted return. Although our general partner may elect to have our unitholders take such audit adjustment into account in accordance with their interests in us during the tax year under audit, there can be no assurance that such election will be practical, permissible or effective in all circumstances. As a result, our current unitholders may bear some or all of the tax liability resulting from such audit adjustment, even if such unitholders did not own units in us during the tax year under audit. If, as a result of any such audit adjustment, we are required to make payments of taxes, penalties and interest, our cash available for distribution to our unitholders might be substantially reduced. These rules are not applicable for tax years beginning on or prior to December 31, 2017.
Even if our unitholders do not receive any cash distributions from us, they will be required to pay taxes on their share of our taxable income.
Because unitholders are treated as partners to whom we allocate taxable income, which could be different in amount than the cash we distribute, unitholders are required to pay any federal income taxes and, in some cases, state and local income taxes on their share of our taxable income even if they do not receive any cash distributions from us. For example, if we sell assets and use the proceeds to repay existing debt or fund capital expenditures, you may be allocated taxable income and gain resulting from the sale and our cash available for distribution would not increase. Similarly, taking advantage of opportunities to reduce our existing debt, such as debt exchanges, debt repurchases, or modifications of our existing debt could result in “cancellation of indebtedness income” being allocated to our unitholders as taxable income without any increase in our cash available for distribution. Our unitholders may not receive cash distributions from us equal to their share of our taxable income or even equal to the tax liability that results from that income.
Tax gain or loss on the disposition of our common units could be more or less than expected.
If a unitholder sells his common units, he will recognize a gain or loss equal to the difference between the amount realized and his tax basis in those common units. Because distributions to a unitholder in excess of the unitholder’s allocable share of our net taxable income decreases the unitholder’s tax basis in his common units, the amount, if any, of such prior excess distributions with respect to the units sold will, in effect, become taxable income to him if the common units are sold at a price greater than his tax basis in the common units, even if the price he receives is less than his original cost. In addition, because the amount realized includes a unitholder’s share of our non‑recourse liabilities, if a unitholder sells his units, he may incur a tax liability in excess of the amount of cash he receives from the sale.
A substantial portion of the amount realized from the sale of units by an investor, whether or not representing gain, may be taxed as ordinary income to the holder due to potential recapture items, including depreciation recapture. Thus, a unitholder may recognize both ordinary income and capital loss from the sale of his units if the amount realized on a sale of such units is less than such unitholder’s adjusted basis in the units. Net capital loss may only offset capital gains and, in the case of individuals, up to $3,000 of ordinary income per year. In the taxable period in which a unitholder sells his units, the unitholder may recognize ordinary income from our allocations of income and gain to him prior to the sale and from recapture items that generally cannot be offset by any capital loss recognized upon the sale of units.
Tax‑exempt entities and non‑U.S. persons face unique tax issues from owning our common units that may result in adverse tax consequences to them.
Investment in common units by tax‑exempt entities, such as employee benefit plans, individual retirement accounts (known as IRAs), and non‑U.S. persons raises issues unique to them. For example, virtually all of our income allocated to organizations exempt from federal income tax, including IRAs and other retirement plans, will be unrelated business taxable income and will be taxable to them. Allocations and/or distributions to non‑U.S. persons will be subject to withholding taxes imposed at the highest effective tax rate applicable to such non‑U.S. persons, and each non‑U.S. person will be required to file U.S. federal tax returns and pay tax on their share of our taxable income. If you are a tax exempt entity or a non‑U.S. person, you should consult your tax advisor before investing in our common units.
We treat each purchaser of our common units as having the same tax benefits without regard to the actual common units purchased. The IRS may challenge this treatment, which could adversely affect the value of the common units.
To maintain the uniformity of the economic and tax characteristics of our common units, we have adopted certain depreciation and amortization positions that may not conform to all aspects of existing Treasury Regulations. A successful IRS challenge to those positions could adversely affect the amount of taxable income or loss allocated to our unitholders. It also could affect the gain from a unitholder’s sale of common units or result in audit adjustments to our unitholders’ tax returns without the benefit of additional deductions. Consequently, a successful IRS challenge could have a negative impact on the value of our common units.
We generally prorate our items of income, gain, loss and deduction between transferors and transferees of our common units each month based upon the ownership of our common units on the first day of each month, instead of on the basis of the date a particular common unit is transferred. The IRS may challenge this treatment, which could change the allocation of items of income, gain, loss and deduction among our unitholders.
We generally prorate our items of income, gain, loss and deduction between transferors and transferees of our common units each month based upon the ownership of our common units on the first day of each month (the “Allocation Date”), instead of on the basis of the date a particular common unit is transferred. Similarly, we generally allocate certain deductions for depreciation of capital additions, gain or loss realized on a sale or other disposition of our assets and, in the discretion of the general partner, any other extraordinary item of income, gain, loss or deduction based upon ownership on the Allocation Date. The U.S. Department of the Treasury adopted final Treasury Regulations allowing a similar monthly simplifying convention for taxable years beginning on or after August 3, 2015. However, such regulations do not specifically authorize the use of the proration method we have adopted and may not specifically
authorize all aspects of our proration method thereafter. If the IRS were to challenge our proration method, we may be required to change the allocation of items of income, gain, loss and deduction among our unitholders.
A unitholder whose common units are the subject of a securities loan (e.g., a loan to a “short seller” to cover a short sale of common units may be considered as having disposed of those common units. If so, the unitholder would no longer be treated for tax purposes as a partner with respect to those common units during the period of the loan and may recognize gain or loss from the disposition.
Because there are no specific rules governing the federal income tax consequences of loaning a partnership interest, a unitholder whose common units are the subject of a securities loan may be considered to have disposed of the loaned units. In that case, the unitholder may no longer be treated for tax purposes as a partner with respect to those common units during the period of the loan, and the unitholder may recognize gain or loss from such disposition. Moreover, during the period of the loan, any of our income, gain, loss or deduction with respect to those common units may not be reportable by the unitholder and any cash distributions received by the unitholder as to those common units could be fully taxable as ordinary income. Unitholders desiring to assure their status as partners and avoid the risk of gain recognition from a loan of their common units should modify any applicable brokerage account agreements to prohibit their brokers from borrowing their common units.
We have adopted certain valuation methodologies in determining a unitholder’s allocations of income, gain, loss and deduction. The IRS may challenge these methodologies or the resulting allocations, which could adversely affect the value of our common units.
In determining the items of income, gain, loss and deduction allocable to our unitholders, we must routinely determine the fair market value of our assets. Although we may, from time, to time consult with professional appraisers regarding valuation matters, including the valuation of our assets, we make many fair market value estimates ourselves using a methodology based on the market value of our common units as a means to measure the fair market value of our assets. The IRS may challenge our valuation methods and the resulting allocations of income, gain, loss and deduction.
A successful IRS challenge to these methods or allocations could adversely affect the timing or amount of taxable income or loss being allocated to our unitholders. It also could affect the amount of gain from our unitholders’ sale of common units and could have a negative impact on the value of the common units or result in audit adjustments to our unitholders’ tax returns without the benefit of additional deductions.
The sale or exchange of 50% or more of our capital and profits interests during any twelve‑month period will result in the constructive termination of our partnership for federal income tax purposes.
We will be considered to have terminated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes if there is a sale or exchange of 50% or more of the total interests in our capital and profits within a twelve‑month period. For purposes of determining whether the 50% threshold has been met, multiple sales of the same interest will be counted only once. Our termination would, among other things, result in the closing of our taxable year for all unitholders, which would result in us filing two tax returns for one calendar year and could result in a significant deferral of depreciation deductions allowable in computing our taxable income. In the case of a unitholder reporting on a taxable year other than a calendar year, the closing of our taxable year may also result in more than twelve months of our taxable income or loss being includable in his taxable income for the year of termination. Our termination would not affect our classification as a partnership for federal income tax purposes but instead, we would be treated as a new partnership for federal income tax purposes. If we were treated as a new partnership, we would be required to make new tax elections and could be subject to penalties if we were unable to determine that a termination occurred. The IRS has announced a relief procedure whereby if a publicly traded partnership that has technically terminated requests and the IRS grants special relief, among other things, the partnership may be permitted to provide only a single Schedule K-1 to unitholders for the two short tax periods included in the year in which the termination occurs.
Unitholders may be subject to state and local taxes and return filing requirements in jurisdictions where they do not live as a result of investing in our common units.
In addition to federal income taxes, unitholders will likely be subject to other taxes, including state, local and non‑U.S. taxes, unincorporated business taxes and estate, inheritance or intangible taxes that are imposed by the various jurisdictions in which we conduct business or own property now or in the future, even if they do not live in any of those jurisdictions. Unitholders will likely be required to file state and local income tax returns and pay state and local income taxes in some or all of these various jurisdictions. Further, unitholders may be subject to penalties for failure to comply with those requirements. As of December 31, 2016, we owned assets and conducted business in several states, some of which impose a personal income tax as well as an income tax on corporations and other entities. As we make acquisitions or expand our business, we may own property or conduct business in other states or non‑U.S. countries in the future. It is the unitholder’s responsibility to file all U.S. federal, state, local and non‑U.S. tax returns.
Although we may, from time to time, be involved in litigation and claims arising out of our operations in the normal course of business, we do not believe that we are a party to any litigation that will have a material adverse impact on our financial condition or results of operations. Except as described below, we are not aware of any significant legal or governmental proceedings against us, or contemplated to be brought against us. We maintain insurance policies with insurers in amounts and with coverage and deductibles as our general partner believes are reasonable and prudent. However, we can provide no assurance that this insurance will be adequate to protect us from all material expenses related to potential future claims or that these levels of insurance will be available in the future at economically acceptable prices.
In connection with the June 2015 acquisition of retail gasoline stations from Capitol Petroleum Group (“Capitol”), we assumed certain environmental liabilities, including future remediation activities required by applicable federal, state or local law or regulation at certain of the retail gasoline stations owned by Capitol. Certain environmental remediation obligations at most of the acquired retail gasoline station assets from Capitol are being funded by third parties who assumed certain liabilities in connection with Capitol’s acquisition of these assets from ExxonMobil in 2009 and 2010 and, therefore, cost estimates for such obligations at these stations are not included in this estimate of liability to us. As a result, we initially recorded, on an undiscounted basis, a total environmental liability of approximately $0.3 million for those locations not covered by third parties.
In connection with the January 2015 acquisition of the Revere terminal (the “Revere Terminal”) located in Boston Harbor in Revere, Massachusetts from Global Petroleum Corp. (“GPC”), we assumed certain environmental liabilities, including certain ongoing environmental remediation efforts. As a result, we initially recorded, on an undiscounted basis, a total environmental liability of approximately $3.1 million.
In connection with the January 2015 acquisition of Warren, we assumed certain environmental liabilities, including certain ongoing environmental remediation efforts at certain of the retail gasoline stations owned or leased by Warren and future remediation activities required by applicable federal, state or local law or regulation. As a result, we initially recorded, on an undiscounted basis, a total environmental liability of approximately $36.5 million.
In connection with the December 2012 acquisition of six New England retail gasoline stations from Mutual Oil Company, we assumed certain environmental liabilities, including certain ongoing remediation efforts. As a result, we initially recorded, on an undiscounted basis, a total environmental liability of approximately $0.6 million.
In connection with the March 2012 acquisition of Alliance Energy LLC (“Alliance”), we assumed Alliance’s environmental liabilities, including ongoing environmental remediation at certain of the retail gasoline stations owned by Alliance and future remediation activities required by applicable federal, state or local law or regulation. Remedial action plans are in place, as may be applicable with the state agencies regulating such ongoing remediation. Based on reports from environmental consultants, our estimated cost of the ongoing environmental remediation for which Alliance was responsible and future remediation activities required by applicable federal, state or local law or regulation is estimated to be approximately $16.1 million to be expended over an extended period of time. Certain environmental remediation obligations at the retail stations acquired by Alliance from ExxonMobil in 2011 are being funded by a third‑party who assumed the liability in connection with the Alliance/ExxonMobil transaction in 2011 and, therefore, cost estimates for such obligations at these stations are not included in this estimate. As a result, we initially recorded, on an undiscounted basis, total environmental liabilities of approximately $16.1 million.
In connection with the September 2010 acquisition of retail gasoline stations from ExxonMobil, we assumed certain environmental liabilities, including ongoing environmental remediation at and monitoring activities at certain of the acquired sites and future remediation activities required by applicable federal, state or local law or regulation. Remedial action plans are in place with the applicable state regulatory agencies for the majority of these locations, including plans for soil and groundwater treatment systems at certain sites. Based on consultations with environmental consultants, our estimated cost of the remediation is expected to be approximately $30.0 million to be expended over an extended period of time. As a result, we initially recorded, on an undiscounted basis, total environmental liabilities of approximately $30.0 million.
In connection with the June 2010 acquisition of three refined petroleum products terminals in Newburgh, New York, we assumed certain environmental liabilities, including certain ongoing remediation efforts. As a result, we initially recorded, on an undiscounted basis, a total environmental liability of approximately $1.5 million.
In addition to the above-mentioned environmental liabilities related to our retail gasoline stations, we retain some of the environmental obligations associated with certain gasoline stations that we have sold.
For additional information regarding our environmental liabilities, see Note 12 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included elsewhere in this report.
We determined that gasoline loaded from certain loading bays at one of our terminals did not contain the necessary additives as a result of an IT-related configuration error. The error was corrected and all gasoline being sold at the terminal now contains the appropriate additives. Based upon current information, we believe approximately 14 million gallons of gasoline were impacted. We have notified the EPA of this error. As a result of this error, we could be subject to fines, penalties and other related claims, including customer claims.
In February 2016, we received a request for information from the EPA seeking certain information regarding our Albany terminal in order to assess its compliance with the CAA. The information requested generally related to crude oil received by, stored at and shipped from our petroleum product transloading facility in Albany, New York (the “Albany Terminal”), including its composition, control devices for emissions and various permitting-related considerations. The Albany Terminal is a 63-acre licensed, permitted and operational stationary bulk petroleum storage and transfer terminal that currently consists of petroleum product storage tanks, along with truck, rail and marine loading facilities, for the storage, blending and distribution of various petroleum and related products, including gasoline, ethanol, distillates, heating and crude oils. No violations were alleged in the request for information. We submitted responses and documentation, in March and April 2016, to the EPA in accordance with the EPA request. On August 2, 2016, we received a Notice of Violation (“NOV”) from the EPA, alleging that permits for the Albany Terminal, issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“NYSDEC”) between August 9, 2011 and November 7, 2012, violated the CAA and the federally enforceable New York State Implementation Plan (“SIP”) by increasing throughput of crude oil at the Albany Terminal without complying with the New Source Review (“NSR”) requirements of the SIP. The applicable permits issued by the NYSDEC to us in 2011 and 2012 specifically authorize us to increase the throughput of crude oil at the Albany Terminal. According to the allegations in the NOV, the NYSDEC
permits should have been regulated as a major modification under the NSR program, requiring additional emission control measures and compliance with other NSR requirements. The NYSDEC has not alleged that our permits were subject to the NSR program. The CAA authorizes the EPA to take enforcement action in response to violations of the New York SIP seeking compliance and penalties. We believe that the permits issued by the NYSDEC comply with the CAA and applicable State air permitting requirements and that no material violation of law has occurred. We dispute the claims alleged in the NOV and responded to the EPA in September, 2016. We have met with the EPA and provided additional information at the agency’s request. On December 16, 2016, the EPA proposed a Settlement Agreement in a letter to us relating to the allegations in the NOV. On January 17, 2017, we responded to the EPA indicating that the EPA had failed to explain or provide support for its allegations and that the EPA should better explain its positions and the evidence on which it was relying. To-date, the EPA has not responded to our response and has not taken any further action with respect to the NOV.
By letter dated October 5, 2015, we received a notice of intent to sue (“October NOI”), which supersedes and replaces a prior notice of intent to sue that we received on September 1, 2015 (the “September NOI”) from Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy organization on behalf of the County of Albany, New York, a public housing development owned and operated by the Albany Housing Authority and certain environmental organizations, related to alleged violations of the CAA, particularly with respect to crude oil operations at the Albany Terminal. The October NOI revises the superseded and replaced September NOI to add two additional environmental advocacy organizations and to revise the relief sought and the description of the alleged CAA violations.
On February 3, 2016, Earthjustice and the other entities identified in the October NOI filed suit against us in federal court in Albany under the citizen suit provisions of the CAA. In summary, this lawsuit alleges that certain of our operations at the Albany Terminal are in violation of the CAA. The plaintiffs seek, among other things, relief that would compel us both to apply for what the plaintiffs contend is the applicable permit under the CAA, and to install additional pollution controls. In addition, the plaintiffs seek to prohibit the Albany Terminal from receiving, storing, handling, and marine loading certain types of Bakken crude oil and to require payment of a civil penalty of $37,500 for each day we operated the Albany Terminal in violation of the CAA. We believe that we have meritorious defenses against all allegations. On February 26, 2016, we filed a motion to dismiss the CAA action. No decision has yet been issued by the Court and all discovery and other litigation activity is stayed pending a decision by the Court on the motion to dismiss.
By letter dated January 25, 2017, we received a notice of intent to sue (the “2017 NOI”) from Earthjustice related to alleged violations of the CAA; specifically alleging that we were operating the Albany Terminal without a valid CAA Title V Permit. On February 9, 2017, we responded to Earthjustice advising that the 2017 NOI was without factual or legal merit and that we would move to dismiss any action commenced by Earthjustice. At this time, there has been no further action taken by Earthjustice. Neither the EPA nor the NYSDEC has followed up on the NOI. The Albany Terminal is currently operating pursuant to its Title V Permit. We believe that we have meritorious defenses against all allegations.
On May 29, 2015 and in connection with a commercial dispute with Tethys Trading Company LLC (“Tethys”), we received a notice from Tethys alleging a default under, and purporting to terminate, our contract with Tethys for crude oil services at our Oregon facility. However, we do not believe Tethys had the right to terminate the contract, and we will continue to investigate and determine the appropriate action to take to enforce our rights under the agreement.
On March 26, 2015, we received a Notice of Non-Compliance (“NON”) from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) with respect to the Revere Terminal, alleging certain violations of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (“NPDES Permit”) related to storm water discharges. The NON required us to submit a plan to remedy the reported violations of the NPDES Permit. We have responded to the NON with a plan and have implemented modifications to the storm water management system at the Revere Terminal in accordance with the plan. We have requested that the DEP acknowledge completion of the required modifications to the storm water management system in satisfaction of the NON. While no response has yet been received, we believe that compliance with the NON has been achieved, and implementation of the plan will have no material impact on our operations.
We had a dispute with Lansing Ethanol Services, LLC (“Lansing”) for damages in excess of $12.0 million. The dispute involved Lansing’s failure to transfer RINs to us in connection with certain agreements for the purchase and sale
of ethanol. The parties had agreed to arbitrate under the rules of the American Arbitration Association. We filed for arbitration on March 24, 2015 and the hearing was conducted in March 2016. A decision was rendered on June 10, 2016, which netted us $1.5 million. Neither party appealed the decision and the appeal period expired on July 14, 2016. The parties executed a Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release on August 2, 2016, and payment was made by Lansing and received by us on that date.
On May 16, 2014, we received a subpoena from the SEC requesting information for relevant time periods primarily relating to our accounting for RINs and the restatement of our consolidated financial statements as of and for the quarters ended March 31, 2013, June 30, 2013 and September 30, 2013. We have cooperated fully with the SEC and believe we have provided the SEC with all requested materials. On October 26, 2016, we were informed that the SEC has concluded its investigation and does not intend to recommend that an enforcement action by the SEC be taken against us.
We received letters from the EPA dated November 2, 2011 and March 29, 2012, containing requirements and testing orders (collectively, the “Requests for Information”) for information under the CAA. The Requests for Information were part of an EPA investigation to determine whether we have violated sections of the CAA at certain of our terminal locations in New England with respect to residual oil and asphalt. On June 6, 2014, a NOV was received from the EPA, alleging certain violations of its Air Emissions License issued by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, based upon the test results at the South Portland, Maine terminal. We met with and provided additional information to the EPA with respect to the alleged violations. On April 7, 2015, the EPA issued a Supplemental Notice of Violation (the “Supplemental NOV”) modifying the allegations of violations of the terminal’s Air Emissions License. We have responded to the Supplemental NOV and engaged in further negotiations with the EPA. A tolling agreement was executed with the United States on December 1, 2015, which has currently been extended through March 31, 2017. While we do not believe that a material violation has occurred, and we contest the allegations presented in the NOV and Supplemental NOV, we do not believe any adverse determination in connection with the NOV would have a material impact on our operations.
Our common units trade on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) under the symbol “GLP.” The closing sale price per common unit on March 7, 2017 was $18.50. At the close of business on March 7, 2017, based upon information received from our transfer agent and brokers and nominees, we had 10,967 common unitholders, including beneficial owners of common units held in street name. The following table sets forth the range of the daily high and low sales prices per common unit as quoted on the NYSE and the cash distributions per common unit for the periods indicated.
We intend to make cash distributions to unitholders on a quarterly basis, although there is no assurance as to the future cash distributions since they are dependent upon future earnings, capital requirements, financial condition and other factors. Our credit agreement prohibits us from making cash distributions if any potential default or event of default, as defined in the credit agreement, occurs or would result from the cash distribution. The indentures governing our outstanding senior notes also limit our ability to make distributions to our unitholders in certain circumstances.
Within 45 days after the end of each quarter, we will distribute all of our Available Cash (as defined in our partnership agreement) to unitholders of record on the applicable record date. The amount of Available Cash is all cash on hand on the date of determination of Available Cash for the quarter, less the amount of cash reserves established by our general partner to provide for the proper conduct of our business, to comply with applicable law, any of our debt instruments or other agreements, or to provide funds for distributions to unitholders and our general partner for any one or more of the next four quarters.
We will make distributions of Available Cash from distributable cash flow for any quarter in the following manner: 99.33% to the common unitholders, pro rata, and 0.67% to the general partner, until we distribute for each outstanding common unit an amount equal to the minimum quarterly distribution for that quarter; and thereafter, cash in excess of the minimum quarterly distribution is distributed to the unitholders and the general partner based on the percentages as provided below.
As holder of the incentive distribution rights, the general partner is entitled to incentive distributions if the amount we distribute with respect to any quarter exceeds specified target levels shown below:
The equity compensation plan information required by Item 201(d) of Regulation S‑K in response to this item is incorporated by reference from Item 12, “Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters—Equity Compensation Plan Table.”
Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
We did not repurchase any of our common units during the quarter ended December 31, 2016.
The following table presents selected historical financial and operating data of Global Partners LP for the years and as of the dates indicated. The selected historical financial data is derived from the historical consolidated financial statements of Global Partners LP.
This table should be read in conjunction with Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and the historical consolidated financial statements of Global Partners LP and the notes thereto included elsewhere in this report. In addition, this table presents non‑GAAP financial measures which we use in our business. These measures are not calculated or presented in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States (“GAAP”). We explain these measures and present reconciliations to the most directly
comparable financial measures calculated in accordance with GAAP in Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Results of Operations—Key Performance Indicators.”