Many of the companies we invest in produce something that we can experience to some extent in our everyday lives. If we want to get a taste for the quality of a Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) automobile, for example, we can go drive one. We can walk into an Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) store, drink a Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) coffee, or open a brokerage account at E TRADE Financial Corporation (NASDAQ:ETFC). But the vast majority of us cannot go stand next to a pipeline or inspect a natural gas liquids fractionation facility. When it comes to our energy investments — especially our midstream investments — we need to find another way to complete our investment picture.
Enter our federal filings.
Most investors are familiar with the SEC’s EDGAR database, so we won’t focus on that today; instead, I’ll take a look at three other online databases that can provide meaningful information for energy investors.
Lobbying Disclosure Act database
For once, the Senate has made something easy on us. The companies and associations behind our investments are required to file Lobbying Disclosure Act forms on a quarterly basis, if and when representatives have lobbied on their behalf. The resulting database is online here and easily searchable.
You can make your search as complicated as you’d like, but for most purposes merely checking the “Client Name” box, and searching for your company will yield useful results. Let’s investigate Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (NYSE:KMP). After keying in the partnership name, our search yields a scant six results dating back to 2007.
However, three of those results are from the first quarter of this year and thereby warrant a closer look. In the two registration filings submitted for the first quarter of this year, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (NYSE:KMP) has shown us that it will likely engage in lobbying for “Federal funding for the remediation of uranium contaminated property near Tuba City, Arizona.”
Unit holders are free to speculate on what Kinder Morgan may intend to do near Tuba City, but the partnership does not currently have any assets that far north in Arizona. The existence of this filing and others like it should not alter your investment thesis, but it may jump-start your research in a way a news article or income statement would not.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Moving on to another federal agency, the one known colloquially as FERC, but often described in legal documents as “the” FERC.
FERC filings can actually be exciting, especially in the wild world of pipeline approval, construction, reversals, and the like. The trick here is that midstream outfits like Energy Transfer Partners LP (NYSE:ETP) and Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (NYSE:EPD) often have LLCs that manage certain systems, or individual pipelines. Most times you can still search by the name of the partnership, but it can also be beneficial to search terms like “Trunkline” or “Seaway”, in the case of the aforementioned entities.