☑ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended September 30, 2023
☐TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
Commission file number 1-10042
Atmos Energy Corporation
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Texas and Virginia 75-1743247
(State or other jurisdiction of (IRS employer
incorporation or organization) identification no.)
1800 Three Lincoln Centre
5430 LBJ Freeway
(Address of principal executive offices) (Zip code)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Table of each class
Name of each exchange on which registered
No Par Value
New York Stock Exchange
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. Yesþ 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 ¨Noþ
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. Yesþ No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yesþ No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company or an emerging growth company. See definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
Large accelerated filer
Smaller reporting company
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. ☑
If securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act, indicate by check mark whether the financial statements of the registrant included in the filing reflect the correction of an error to previously issued financial statements. ¨
Indicate by check mark whether any of those error corrections are restatements that required a recovery analysis of incentive-based compensation received by any of the registrant's executive officers during the relevant recovery period pursuant to §240.10D-1(b). ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ☐ No þ
The aggregate market value of the common voting stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant as of the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter, March 31, 2023, was $16,116,913,880.
As of November 6, 2023, the registrant had 148,496,108 shares of common stock outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s Definitive Proxy Statement to be filed for the Annual Meeting of Shareholders on February 7, 2024 are incorporated by reference into Part III of this report.
The terms “we,” “our,” “us,” “Atmos Energy” and the “Company” refer to Atmos Energy Corporation and its subsidiaries, unless the context suggests otherwise.
Overview and Strategy
Atmos Energy Corporation, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and incorporated in Texas and Virginia, is the country’s largest natural-gas-only distributor based on number of customers. We safely deliver reliable, efficient and abundant natural gas through regulated sales and transportation arrangements to over 3.3 million residential, commercial, public authority and industrial customers in eight states located primarily in the South. We also operate one of the largest intrastate pipelines in Texas based on miles of pipe.
Atmos Energy's vision is to be the safest provider of natural gas services. We will be recognized for exceptional customer service, for being a great employer and for achieving superior financial results.
Since 2011, our operating strategy has focused on modernizing our business and infrastructure while reducing regulatory lag. This operating strategy supports continued investment in safety, innovation, environmental sustainability and our communities.
As of September 30, 2023, we manage and review our consolidated operations through the following reportable segments:
•The distribution segment is primarily comprised of our regulated natural gas distribution and related sales operations in eight states.
•The pipeline and storage segment is comprised primarily of the pipeline and storage operations of our Atmos Pipeline-Texas division and our natural gas transmission operations in Louisiana.
Distribution Segment Overview
The following table summarizes key information about our six regulated natural gas distribution divisions, presented in order of total rate base.
Texas, including the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex
Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland
We operate in our service areas under terms of non-exclusive franchise agreements granted by the various cities and towns that we serve. At September 30, 2023, we held 1,021 franchises having terms generally ranging from five to 35 years. A significant number of our franchises expire each year, which require renewal prior to the end of their terms. Historically, we have successfully renewed these franchises and believe that we will continue to be able to renew our franchises as they expire.
Revenues in this operating segment are established by regulatory authorities in the states in which we operate. These rates are intended to be sufficient to cover the costs of conducting business, including a reasonable return on invested capital. In addition, we transport natural gas for others through our distribution systems.
Rates established by regulatory authorities often include cost adjustment mechanisms for costs that (i) are subject to significant price fluctuations compared to our other costs, (ii) represent a large component of our cost of service and (iii) are generally outside our control.
Purchased gas cost adjustment mechanisms represent a traditional and common form of cost adjustment mechanism. Purchased gas cost adjustment mechanisms provide a method of recovering purchased gas costs on an ongoing basis without filing a rate case because they provide a dollar-for-dollar offset to increases or decreases in the cost of natural gas. Therefore, although substantially all of our distribution operating revenues fluctuate with the cost of gas that we purchase, distribution operating income is generally not affected by fluctuations in the cost of gas.
Additionally, some jurisdictions have performance-based ratemaking adjustments to provide incentives to minimize purchased gas costs through improved storage management and use of financial instruments to reduce volatility in gas costs. Under the performance-based ratemaking adjustments, purchased gas costs savings are shared between the Company and its customers.
Our supply of natural gas is provided by a variety of suppliers, including independent producers and marketers. The gas is delivered into our systems by various pipeline companies, withdrawals of gas from proprietary and contracted storage assets and base load and peaking arrangements, as needed.
Supply arrangements consist of both base load and peaking quantities and are contracted from our suppliers on a firm basis with various terms at market prices. Base load quantities are those that flow at a constant level throughout the month and peaking quantities provide the flexibility to change daily quantities to match increases or decreases in requirements related to weather conditions.
Except for local production purchases, we select our natural gas suppliers through a competitive bidding process by periodically requesting proposals from suppliers. We select these suppliers based on their ability to reliably deliver gas supply to our designated firm pipeline receipt points at the lowest reasonable cost. Major suppliers during fiscal 2023 were Cima Energy, LP, ConocoPhillips Company, EnLink Gas Marketing LP, Enterprise Navitas Midstream Midland Basin LLC, Hartree Partners, L.P., Sequent Energy Management LLC, Symmetry Energy Solutions, LLC, Targa Gas Marketing LLC, Texla Energy Management, Inc. and Twin Eagle Resource Management, LLC.
The combination of base load and peaking agreements, coupled with the withdrawal of gas held in storage, allows us the flexibility to adjust to changes in weather, which minimizes our need to enter into long-term firm commitments. We estimate our peak-day availability of natural gas supply to be approximately 5.3 Bcf. The peak-day demand for our distribution operations in fiscal 2023 was on December 23, 2022, when sales to customers reached approximately 4.2 Bcf.
Currently, our distribution divisions utilize 35 pipeline transportation companies, both interstate and intrastate, to transport our natural gas. The pipeline transportation agreements are firm and many of them have “pipeline no-notice” storage service, which provides for daily balancing between system requirements and nominated flowing supplies. These agreements have been negotiated with the shortest term necessary while still maintaining our right of first refusal. The natural gas supply for our Mid-Tex Division is delivered primarily by our APT Division.
To maintain our deliveries to high priority customers, we have the ability, and have exercised our right, to interrupt or curtail service to certain customers pursuant to contracts and applicable state regulations or statutes. Our customers’ demand on our system is not necessarily indicative of our ability to meet current or anticipated market demands or immediate delivery requirements because of factors such as the physical limitations of gathering, storage and transmission systems, the duration and severity of cold weather, the availability of gas reserves from our suppliers, the ability to purchase additional supplies on a short-term basis and actions by federal and state regulatory authorities. Interruption and curtailment rights provide us the flexibility to meet the human-needs requirements of our customers on a reliable basis. Priority allocations imposed by federal and state regulatory agencies, as well as other factors beyond our control, may affect our ability to meet the demands of some of our customers.
Pipeline and Storage Segment Overview
Our pipeline and storage segment consists of the pipeline and storage operations of APT and our natural gas transmission operations in Louisiana. APT is one of the largest intrastate pipeline operations in Texas with a heavy concentration in the established natural gas-producing areas of central, northern and eastern Texas, extending into or near the major producing areas of the Barnett Shale, the Texas Gulf Coast and the Permian Basin of West Texas. Through its system, APT provides transportation and storage services to our Mid-Tex Division, other third party local distribution companies, industrial and electric generation customers, marketers and producers. As part of its pipeline operations, APT owns and operates five underground storage facilities in Texas.
Revenues earned from transportation and storage services for APT are subject to traditional ratemaking governed by the RRC. Rates are updated through periodic filings made under Texas’ GRIP. GRIP allows us to include in our rate base annually approved capital costs incurred in the prior calendar year provided that we file a complete rate case at least once every five
years; the most recent of which was filed in May 2023. APT’s existing regulatory mechanisms allow certain transportation and storage services to be provided under market-based rates.
Our natural gas transmission operations in Louisiana are comprised of a 21-mile pipeline located in the New Orleans, Louisiana area that is primarily used to aggregate gas supply for our distribution division in Louisiana under a long-term contract and, on a more limited basis, to third parties. The demand fee charged to our Louisiana distribution division for these services is subject to regulatory approval by the Louisiana Public Service Commission. We also manage two asset management plans that serve distribution affiliates of the Company, which have been approved by applicable state regulatory commissions. Generally, these asset management plans require us to share with our distribution customers a significant portion of the cost savings earned from these arrangements.
The method of determining regulated rates varies among the states in which our regulated businesses operate. The regulatory authorities have the responsibility of ensuring that utilities in their jurisdictions operate in the best interests of customers while providing utility companies the opportunity to earn a reasonable return on their investment. Generally, each regulatory authority reviews rate requests and establishes a rate structure intended to generate revenue sufficient to cover the costs of conducting business, including a reasonable return on invested capital.
Our rate strategy focuses on reducing or eliminating regulatory lag, obtaining adequate returns and providing stable, predictable margins, which benefit both our customers and the Company. As a result of our ratemaking efforts in recent years, Atmos Energy has:
•Formula rate mechanisms in place in four states that provide for an annual rate review and adjustment to rates.
•Infrastructure programs in place in all of our states that provide for an annual adjustment to rates for qualifying capital expenditures. Through our annual formula rate mechanisms and infrastructure programs, we have the ability to recover approximately 90 percent of our capital expenditures within six months and substantially all of our capital expenditures within twelve months.
•Authorization in tariffs, statute or commission rules that allows us to defer certain elements of our cost of service such as depreciation, ad valorem taxes and pension costs, until they are included in rates.
•WNA mechanisms in seven states that serve to minimize the effects of weather on approximately 96 percent of our distribution residential and commercial revenues.
•The ability to recover the gas cost portion of bad debts in five states which represents approximately 80 percent of our distribution residential and commercial revenues.
The following tables provides a jurisdictional rate summary for our regulated operations as of September 30, 2023. This information is for regulatory purposes only and may not be representative of our actual financial position.
(1)The rate base, authorized rate of return, authorized debt/equity ratio and authorized return on equity presented in this table are those from the most recent approved regulatory filing for each jurisdiction. These rate bases, rates of return, debt/equity ratios and returns on equity are not necessarily indicative of current or future rate bases, rates of return or returns on equity.
(2)The bad debt rider allows us to recover from customers the gas cost portion of customer accounts that have been written off.
(3)The performance-based rate program provides incentives to distribution companies to minimize purchased gas costs by allowing the companies and their customers to share the purchased gas costs savings.
(4)A rate base, rate of return, return on equity or debt/equity ratio was not included in the respective state commission’s final decision.
(5)On October 24, 2023, APT and the intervening parties in its general rate case filed a Joint Notice of Settlement and Proposed Order. The settlement proposes a rate base of $4.3 billion, an authorized return of 8.49%, a debt/equity ratio of 40/60 and an authorized ROE of 11.45%. We anticipate the settlement agreement will be on the RRC's agenda for its December 13, 2023 meeting.
(6)The Mid-Tex rate base represents a “system-wide,” or 100 percent, of the Mid-Tex Division’s rate base.
(7)The Mid-Tex Cities approved the Formula Rate Mechanism filing with rates effective October 1, 2023, which included a rate base of $6.1 billion, an authorized return of 7.35%, a debt/equity ratio of 42/58 and an authorized ROE of 9.80%.
(8)The West Texas Cities includes all West Texas Division cities except Amarillo, Lubbock, Dalhart and Channing (ALDC).
(9)The West Texas rate base represents a "system-wide," or 100 percent, of the West Texas Division's rate base.
(10)The West Texas Cities approved the Formula Rate Mechanism filing with rates effective October 1, 2023, which included a rate base of $965.3 million, an authorized return of 7.35%, a debt/equity ratio of 42/58 and an authorized ROE of 9.80%.
Although substantial progress has been made in recent years to improve rate design and recovery of investment across our service areas, we are continuing to seek improvements in rate design to address cost variations and pursue tariffs that reduce regulatory lag associated with investments. Further, potential changes in federal energy policy, federal safety regulations and changingeconomic conditions will necessitate continued vigilance by the Company and our regulators in meeting the challenges presented by these external factors.
Recent Ratemaking Activity
The amounts described in the following sections represent the annual operating income that was requested or received in each rate filing, which may not necessarily reflect the stated amount referenced in the final order, as certain operating costs may have changed as a result of the commission's or other governmental authority's final ruling. Our ratemaking outcomes include the refund (return) of excess deferred income taxes (EDIT) resulting from previously enacted tax reform legislation and do not reflect the true economic benefit of the outcomes because they do not include the corresponding income tax benefit. The following tables summarize the annualized ratemaking outcomes we implemented in each of the last three fiscal years.
Annual Increase (Decrease) in Operating Income
Annual Increase (Decrease) in Operating Income Excluding EDIT
Annual formula rate mechanisms
Rate case filings
Other ratemaking activity
Total 2023 Filings
Annual formula rate mechanisms
Rate case filings
Other ratemaking activity
Total 2022 Filings
Annual formula rate mechanisms
Rate case filings
Other ratemaking activity
Total 2021 Filings
The following ratemaking efforts seeking $264.6 million in annual operating income were initiated during fiscal 2023 but had not been completed or implemented as of September 30, 2023:
(1) On October 24, 2023, APT and the intervening parties in its general rate case filed a Joint Notice of Settlement and Proposed Order. We anticipate the settlement agreement will be on the RRC's agenda for its December 13, 2023 meeting. If approved, the settlement would result in a $27.0 million increase in annual operating income, exclusive of the impact of the cessation of $36.9 million in excess deferred income tax refunds, which are substantially offset by a corresponding increase in income taxes. New rates are anticipated to be implemented on January 1, 2024.
(2) The Kansas Corporation Commission approved the GSRS filing on November 2, 2023, with rates effective November 2, 2023.
(3) On September 11, 2023, the State Corporation Commission of Virginia approved a rate increase of $0.6 million effective October 1, 2023.
(4) On September 29, 2023, the Kentucky Public Service Commission approved a rate increase of $2.9 million effective October 1, 2023.
(5) The Mid-Tex Cities approved a rate increase of $98.6 million. New rates were implemented on October 1, 2023.
(6) The West Texas Cities approved a rate increase of $8.6 million. New rates were implemented on October 1, 2023.
Our recent ratemaking activity is discussed in greater detail below.
Annual Formula Rate Mechanisms
As an instrument to reduce regulatory lag, formula rate mechanisms allow us to refresh our rates on an annual basis without filing a formal rate case. However, these filings still involve discovery by the appropriate regulatory authorities prior to the final determination of rates under these mechanisms. We currently have specific infrastructure programs in all of our distribution divisions with tariffs in place to permit the investment associated with these programs to have their surcharge rate adjusted annually to recover approved capital costs incurred in a prior test-year period. The following table summarizes our annual formula rate mechanisms by state.
Annual Formula Rate Mechanisms
Formula Rate Mechanisms
System Safety and Integrity Rider (SSIR)
Gas System Reliability Surcharge (GSRS), System Integrity Program (SIP)
Pipeline Replacement Program (PRP)
Rate Stabilization Clause (RSC)
System Integrity Rider (SIR)
Stable Rate Filing (SRF)
Annual Rate Mechanism (ARM)
Gas Reliability Infrastructure Program (GRIP), (1)
(1) Infrastructure mechanisms in Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee allow for the deferral of all expenses associated with capital expenditures incurred pursuant to these rules, which primarily consists of interest, depreciation and other taxes (Texas only), until the next rate proceeding (rate case or annual rate filing), at which time investment and costs would be recoverable through base rates.
(1) The rate increase for this filing was approved based on the effective date herein; however, the new rates were implemented beginning September 1, 2023.
(2) The rate increase for this filing was approved based on the effective date herein; however, the new rates were implemented beginning September 1, 2022.
(3) The rate increases for these filings were approved based on the effective dates herein; however, the new rates were implemented beginning September 1, 2021.
Rate Case Filings
A rate case is a formal request from Atmos Energy to a regulatory authority to increase rates that are charged to customers. Rate cases may also be initiated when the regulatory authorities request us to justify our rates. This process is referred to as a “show cause” action. Adequate rates are intended to provide for recovery of the Company’s costs as well as a reasonable rate of return to our shareholders and ensure that we continue to safely deliver reliable, reasonably priced natural gas service to our customers.
The following table summarizes our recent rate case activity during the fiscal years ended September 30, 2023, 2022 and 2021:
Increase in Annual Operating Income
Increase in Annual Operating Income Excluding EDIT
2023 Rate Case Filings:
Total 2023 Rate Case Filings
2022 Rate Case Filings:
Total 2022 Rate Case Filings
2021 Rate Case Filings:
West Texas (ALDC)
Total 2021 Rate Case Filings
(1) The rate case outcome for Kentucky is inclusive of the fiscal 2022 pipeline replacement program.
The following table summarizes other ratemaking activity during the fiscal years ended September 30, 2023, 2022 and 2021:
Increase (Decrease) in Annual Operating Income
2023 Other Rate Activity:
Ad Valorem (1)
Total 2023 Other Rate Activity
2022 Other Rate Activity:
Ad Valorem (1)
Total 2022 Other Rate Activity
2021 Other Rate Activity:
Total 2021 Other Rate Activity
(1)The Ad Valorem filing relates to property taxes that are either over or undercollected compared to the amount included in our Kansas service area's base rates.
We are regulated by various state or local public utility authorities. We are also subject to regulation by the United States Department of Transportation with respect to safety requirements in the operation and maintenance of our transmission and distribution facilities. In addition, our operations are also subject to various state and federal laws regulating environmental matters. From time to time, we receive inquiries regarding various environmental matters. We believe that our properties and operations comply with, and are operated in conformity with, applicable safety and environmental statutes and regulations. There are no administrative or judicial proceedings arising under environmental quality statutes pending or known to be contemplated by governmental agencies which would have a material adverse effect on us or our operations. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), within the U.S. Department of Transportation, develops and enforces regulations for the safe, reliable and environmentally sound operation of the pipeline transportation system. The PHMSA pipeline safety statutes provide for states to assume safety authority over intrastate natural transmission and distribution gas pipelines. State pipeline safety programs are responsible for adopting and enforcing the federal and state pipeline safety regulations for intrastate natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allows, pursuant to Section 311 of the Natural Gas Policy Act (NGPA), gas transportation services through our APT assets “on behalf of” interstate pipelines or local distribution companies served by interstate pipelines, without subjecting these assets to the jurisdiction of the FERC under the NGPA. Additionally, the FERC has regulatory authority over the use and release of interstate pipeline and storage capacity. The FERC also has authority to detect and prevent market manipulation and to enforce compliance with FERC’s other rules, policies and orders by companies engaged in the sale, purchase, transportation or storage of natural gas in interstate commerce. We have taken what we believe are the necessary and appropriate steps to comply with these regulations.
The SEC and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, pursuant to the Dodd–Frank Act, established numerous regulations relating to U.S. financial markets. We enacted procedures and modified existing business practices and contractual arrangements to comply with such regulations.
Although our regulated distribution operations are not currently in significant direct competition with any other distributors of natural gas to residential and commercial customers within our service areas, we do compete with other natural gas suppliers and suppliers of alternative fuels for sales to industrial customers. We compete in all aspects of our business with alternative energy sources, including, in particular, electricity. Electric utilities offer electricity as a rival energy source and compete for the space heating, water heating and cooking markets. Promotional incentives, improved equipment efficiencies and promotional rates all contribute to the acceptability of electrical equipment. The principal means to compete against alternative fuels is lower prices, and natural gas historically has maintained its price advantage in the residential, commercial and industrial markets.
Our pipeline and storage operations have historically faced competition from other existing intrastate pipelines seeking to provide or arrange transportation, storage and other services for customers. In the last few years, several new pipelines have been completed, which has increased the level of competition in this segment of our business.
The Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability, and Safety Committee of the Board of Directors oversees matters relating to equal employment opportunities, diversity, and inclusion; human workplace rights; employee health and safety; and the Company’s vision, values, and culture. It oversees the Company's policies, practices and procedures relating to sustainability to support the alignment of the Company's sustainability strategy with the Company's corporate strategy.
Part of our vision is to create a culture that respects and appreciates diversity. For this reason, we strive to have a workforce that reflects the communities we serve. At September 30, 2023, we had 5,019 employees. We monitor our workforce data on a calendar year basis. As of December 31, 2022, the last date for which information is available, 61 percent of our employees worked in field roles and 39 percent worked in support/shared services roles. No employees are subject to a collective bargaining agreement.
To recruit and hire individuals with a variety of skills, talents, backgrounds and experiences, we value and cultivate our strong relationships with various community and diversity outreach sources. We also target jobs fairs including those focused on minority, veteran and women candidates and partner with local colleges and universities to identify and recruit qualified applicants in each of the cities and towns we serve. Finally, we believe we offer a competitive benefits program to help retain our employees.
We perform succession planning annually to ensure that we develop and sustain a strong bench of talent capable of performing at the highest levels. Not only is talent identified, but potential paths of development are discussed to ensure that employees have an opportunity to build their skills and are well-prepared for future roles. The strength of our succession planning process is evident through our long history of promoting our leaders from within the organization.
Our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and other reports, and amendments to those reports, and other forms that we file with or furnish to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) at their website, www.sec.gov, are also available free of charge at our website, www.atmosenergy.com/company/publications-and-sec-filings, as soon as reasonably practicable, after we electronically file these reports with, or furnish these reports to, the SEC. We will also provide copies of these reports free of charge upon request to Shareholder Relations at the address and telephone number appearing below:
In accordance with and pursuant to relevant related rules and regulations of the SEC as well as corporate governance-related listing standards of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the Board of Directors of the Company has established and periodically updated our Corporate Governance Guidelines and Code of Conduct, which is applicable to all directors, officers and employees of the Company. In addition, in accordance with and pursuant to such NYSE listing standards, our Chief Executive Officer during fiscal 2023, John K. Akers, certified to the New York Stock Exchange that he was not aware of any violations by the Company of NYSE corporate governance listing standards. The Board of Directors also annually reviews and updates, if necessary, the charters for each of its Audit, Human Resources, Nominating and Corporate Governance and Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability and Safety Committees. All of the foregoing documents are posted on our website at www.atmosenergy.com/company/corporate-responsiblity-reports. We will also provide copies of all corporate governance documents free of charge upon request to Shareholder Relations at the address listed above.
Our financial and operating results are subject to a number of risk factors, many of which are not within our control. Investors should carefully consider the following discussion of risk factors as well as other information appearing in this report. These factors include the following, which are organized by category:
Regulatory and Legislative Risks
We are subject to federal, state and local regulations that affect our operations and financial results.
We are subject to regulatory oversight from various federal, state and local regulatory authorities in the eight states that we serve. Therefore, our returns are continuously monitored and are subject to challenge for their reasonableness by the appropriate regulatory authorities or other third-party intervenors. In the normal course of business, as a regulated entity, we often need to place assets in service and establish historical test periods before rate cases that seek to adjust our allowed returns to recover that investment can be filed. Further, the regulatory review process can be lengthy in the context of traditional ratemaking. Because of this process, we suffer the negative financial effects of having placed assets in service without the benefit of rate relief, which is commonly referred to as “regulatory lag.”
Regulatory authorities in the states we serve have approved various infrastructure and annual rate adjustment mechanisms to effectively reduce the regulatory lag inherent in the ratemaking process. Regulatory lag could significantly increase if the regulatory authorities modify or terminate these rate mechanisms. The regulatory process also involves the risk that regulatory authorities may (i) review our purchases of natural gas and adjust the amount of our gas costs that we pass through to our customers or (ii) limit or disallow the costs we may have incurred from our cost of service that can be recovered from customers.
We are also subject to laws, regulations and other legal requirements enacted or adopted by federal, state and local governmental authorities relating to protection of the environment and health and safety matters, including those that govern discharges of substances into the air and water, the management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste, the clean-up of contaminated sites, groundwater quality and availability, plant and wildlife protection, as well as work practices related to employee health and safety. Environmental legislation also requires that our facilities, sites and other properties associated with our operations be operated, maintained, abandoned and reclaimed to the satisfaction of applicable regulatory authorities. Failure to comply with these laws, regulations, permits and licenses may expose us to fines, penalties or interruptions in our operations that could be significant to our financial results. In addition, existing environmental regulations may be revised or our operations may become subject to new regulations.
Some of our operations are subject to increased federal regulatory oversight that could affect our operations and financial results.
FERC has regulatory authority over some of our operations, including the use and release of interstate pipeline and storage capacity. FERC has adopted rules designed to prevent market power abuse and market manipulation and to promote compliance with FERC’s other rules, policies and orders by companies engaged in the sale, purchase, transportation or storage of natural gas in interstate commerce. These rules carry increased penalties for violations. Although we have taken steps to structure current and future transactions to comply with applicable current FERC regulations, changes in FERC regulations or their
interpretation by FERC or additional regulations issued by FERC in the future could also adversely affect our business, financial condition or financial results.
We may experience increased federal, state and local regulation of the safety of our operations.
The safety and protection of the public, our customers and our employees is our top priority. We constantly monitor and maintain our pipeline and distribution systems to ensure that natural gas is delivered safely, reliably and efficiently through our network of more than 75,000 miles of distribution and transmission lines. As in recent years, natural gas distribution and pipeline companies are continuing to encounter increasing federal, state and local oversight of the safety of their operations. Although we believe these are costs ultimately recoverable through our rates, the costs of complying with new laws and regulations may have at least a short-term adverse impact on our operating costs and financial results.
We may incur significant costs and liabilities resulting from pipeline integrity and other similar programs and related repairs.
PHMSA requires pipeline operators to develop integrity management programs to comprehensively evaluate certain areas along their pipelines and to take additional measures to protect pipeline segments located in “high consequence areas” where a leak or rupture could potentially do the most harm. As a pipeline operator, the Company is required to:
•perform ongoing assessments of pipeline integrity;
•identify and characterize applicable threats to pipeline segments that could impact a “high consequence area”;
•improve data collection, integration and analysis;
•repair and remediate the pipeline as necessary; and
•implement preventative and mitigating actions.
The Company incurs significant costs associated with its compliance with existing PHMSA and comparable state regulations. Although we believe these are costs ultimately recoverable through our rates, the costs of complying with new laws and regulations may have at least a short-term adverse impact on our operating costs and financial results. For example, the adoption of new regulations requiring more comprehensive or stringent safety standards could require installation of new or modified safety controls, new capital projects, or accelerated maintenance programs, all of which could require a potentially significant increase in operating costs.
Distributing, transporting and storing natural gas involve risks that may result in accidents and additional operating costs.
Our operations involve a number of hazards and operating risks inherent in storing and transporting natural gas that could affect the public safety and reliability of our distribution system. While Atmos Energy, with the support from each of its regulatory commissions, is accelerating the replacement of pipeline infrastructure, operating issues such as leaks, accidents, equipment problems and incidents, including explosions and fire, could result in legal liability, repair and remediation costs, increased operating costs, significant increased capital expenditures, regulatory fines and penalties and other costs and a loss of customer confidence. We maintain liability and property insurance coverage in place for many of these hazards and risks. However, because some of our transmission pipeline and storage facilities are near or are in populated areas, any loss of human life or adverse financial results resulting from such events could be large. If these events were not fully covered by our general liability and property insurance, which policies are subject to certain limits and deductibles, our operations or financial results could be adversely affected.
If contracted gas supplies, interstate pipeline and/or storage services are not available or delivered in a timely manner, our ability to meet our customers’ natural gas requirements may be impaired and our financial condition may be adversely affected.
In order to meet our customers’ annual and seasonal natural gas demands, we must obtain a sufficient supply of natural gas, interstate pipeline capacity and storage capacity. If we are unable to obtain these, either from our suppliers’ inability to deliver the contracted commodity or the inability to secure replacement quantities, our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected. If a substantial disruption to or reduction in interstate natural gas pipelines’ transmission and storage capacity occurred due to operational failures or disruptions, legislative or regulatory actions, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, extreme cold weather, terrorist or cyber-attacks or acts of war, our operations or financial results could be adversely affected.
Our operations are subject to increased competition.
In residential and commercial customer markets, our distribution operations compete with other energy products, such as electricity and propane. Our primary product competition is with electricity for heating, water heating and cooking. If customer
growth slows or existing customers choose to conserve their use of gas or choose another energy product, reduced gas purchases and customer billings could adversely impact our business.
In the case of industrial customers, such as manufacturing plants, adverse economic conditions, including higher gas costs, could cause these customers to use alternative sources of energy, such as electricity, or bypass our systems in favor of special competitive contracts with lower per-unit costs. Our pipeline and storage operations historically have faced limited competition from other existing intrastate pipelines and gas marketers seeking to provide or arrange transportation, storage and other services for customers. The completion of new pipelines in our service area may increase the competition in this segment of our business.
Failure to attract and retain a qualified workforce could adversely affect our results of operations.
The competition for talent has become increasingly intense and we may experience increased employee turnover due to a tightening labor market. If we are unable to recruit and retain an appropriately qualified workforce, the Company could encounter operating challenges primarily due to a loss of institutional knowledge and expertise, errors due to inexperience, or the lengthy time period typically required to adequately train replacement personnel. In addition, higher costs could result from loss of productivity, increased safety compliance issues, or cost of contract labor.
Additionally, our ability to operate is contingent on maintaining a healthy workforce and a safe working environment. As a provider of essential services, we have an obligation to provide natural gas services to customers. Incidents that impact the health and availability of our workforce could threaten the continuity of our business operations.
Natural disasters, terrorist activities or other significant events could adversely affect our operations or financial results.
Natural disasters are always a threat to our assets and operations. In addition, the threat of terrorist activities could lead to increased economic instability and volatility in the price of natural gas that could affect our operations. Also, companies in our industry may face a heightened risk of exposure to actual acts of terrorism, which could subject our operations to increased risks. As a result, the availability of insurance covering such risks may become more limited, which could increase the risk that an event could adversely affect our operations or financial results.
Technology and Cybersecurity Risks
Increased dependence on technology may hinder the Company’s business operations and adversely affect its financial condition and results of operations if such technologies fail.
Over the last several years, the Company has implemented or acquired a variety of technological tools including both Company-owned information technology and technological services provided by outside parties. These tools and systems support critical functions including scheduling and dispatching of service technicians, automated meter reading systems, customer care and billing, operational plant logistics, management reporting and external financial reporting. The failure of these or other similarly important technologies, or the Company’s inability to have these technologies supported, updated, expanded, or integrated into other technologies, could hinder its business operations and adversely impact its financial condition and results of operations.
Although the Company has, when possible, developed alternative sources of technology and built redundancy into its computer networks and tools, there can be no assurance that these efforts would protect against all potential issues related to the loss of any such technologies.
Cyber-attacks or acts of cyber-terrorism could disrupt our business operations and information technology systems or result in the loss or exposure of confidential or sensitive customer, employee or Company information.
Our business operations and information technology systems may be vulnerable to an attack by individuals or organizations intending to disrupt our business operations and information technology systems, even though the Company has implemented policies, procedures and controls to prevent and detect these activities. We use our information technology systems to manage our distribution and intrastate pipeline and storage operations and other business processes. Disruption of those systems could adversely impact our ability to safely deliver natural gas to our customers, operate our pipeline and storage systems or serve our customers timely. Accordingly, if such an attack or act of terrorism were to occur, our operations and financial results could be adversely affected.
In addition, we use our information technology systems to protect confidential or sensitive customer, employee and Company information developed and maintained in the normal course of our business. Any attack on such systems that would result in the unauthorized release of customer, employee or other confidential or sensitive data could have a material adverse effect on our business reputation, increase our costs and expose us to additional material legal claims and liability. Even though we have insurance coverage in place for many of these cyber-related risks, if such an attack or act of terrorism were to occur, our operations and financial results could be adversely affected to the extent not fully covered by such insurance coverage.
Compliance with and changes in cybersecurity requirements have a cost and operational impact on our business, and failure to comply with such laws and regulations could adversely impact our reputation, results of operations, financial condition and/or cash flows.
As cyber-attacks are becoming more sophisticated, U.S. government warnings have indicated that critical infrastructure assets, including pipeline infrastructure, may be specifically targeted by certain groups. In recent years, the U.S. government has issued directives that require critical pipeline owners to comply with mandatory reporting measures, designate a cybersecurity coordinator, provide vulnerability assessments and ensure compliance with certain cybersecurity requirements. Such directives or other requirements may require expenditure of significant additional resources to respond to cyber-attacks, to continue to modify or enhance protective measures, or to assess, investigate and remediate any critical infrastructure security vulnerabilities. Any failure to comply with such government regulations or failure in our cybersecurity protective measures may result in enforcement actions that may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. In addition, there is no certainty that costs incurred related to securing against threats will be recovered through rates.
Adverse weather conditions could affect our operations or financial results.
We have weather-normalized rates for approximately 96 percent of our residential and commercial revenues in our distribution operations, which substantially mitigates the adverse effects of warmer-than-normal weather for meters in those service areas. However, there is no assurance that we will continue to receive such regulatory protection from adverse weather in our rates in the future. The loss of such weather-normalized rates could have an adverse effect on our operations and financial results. In addition, our operating results may continue to vary somewhat with the actual temperatures during the winter heating season. Additionally, sustained cold weather could challenge our ability to adequately meet customer demand in our operations.
Greenhouse gas emissions or other legislation or regulations intended to address climate change could increase our operating costs, adversely affecting our financial results, growth, cash flows and results of operations.
Six of the eight states in which we operate have passed legislation to prevent local governments from limiting the types of energy available to customers. However, federal, regional and/or state legislative and/or regulatory initiatives may attempt to control or limit the causes of climate change, including greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide and methane. Such laws or regulations could impose costs tied to greenhouse gas emissions, operational requirements or restrictions, or additional charges to fund energy efficiency activities. They could also provide a cost advantage to alternative energy sources, impose costs or restrictions on end users of natural gas, or result in other costs or requirements, such as costs associated with the adoption of new infrastructure and technology to respond to new mandates. The focus on climate change could adversely impact the reputation of fossil fuel products or services. The occurrence of the foregoing events could put upward pressure on the cost of natural gas relative to other energy sources, increase our costs and the prices we charge to customers, reduce the demand for natural gas or cause fuel switching to other energy sources, and impact the competitive position of natural gas and the ability to serve new or existing customers, adversely affecting our business, results of operations and cash flows.
The operations and financial results of the Company could be adversely impacted as a result of climate change.
As climate change occurs, our businesses could be adversely impacted. To the extent climate change results in materially increasing temperatures, financial results could be adversely affected through lower gas volumes and revenues. Climate change could also cause shifts in population, including customers moving away from our service territories.
It could also result in more frequent and more severe weather events, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, which could increase our costs to repair damaged facilities and restore service to our customers or impact the cost of gas. If we were unable to deliver natural gas to our customers, our financial results would be impacted by lost revenues, and we generally would have to seek approval from regulators to recover restoration costs. To the extent we would be unable to recover those costs, or if higher rates resulting from our recovery of such costs would result in reduced demand for our services, our future business, financial condition or financial results could be adversely impacted.
Financial, Economic and Market Risks
Our growth in the future may be limited by the nature of our business, which requires extensive capital spending.
Our operations are capital-intensive. We must make significant capital expenditures on a long-term basis to modernize our distribution and transmission system and to comply with the safety rules and regulations issued by the regulatory authorities responsible for the service areas we operate. In addition, we must continually build new capacity to serve the growing needs of the communities we serve. The magnitude of these expenditures may be affected by a number of factors, including new policy and regulations, and the general state of the economy.
The liquidity required to fund our working capital, capital expenditures and other cash needs is provided from a combination of internally generated cash flows and external debt and equity financing. The cost and availability of borrowing funds from third party lenders or issuing equity is dependent on the liquidity of the credit markets, interest rates and other market conditions. This in turn may limit the amount of funds we can invest in our infrastructure.
The Company is dependent on continued access to the credit and capital markets to execute our business strategy.
Our long-term debt is currently rated as “investment grade” by Standard & Poor’s Corporation and Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. Similar to most companies, we rely upon access to both short-term and long-term credit and capital markets to satisfy our liquidity requirements. If adverse credit conditions were to cause a significant limitation on our access to the private credit and public capital markets, we could see a reduction in our liquidity. A significant reduction in our liquidity could in turn trigger a negative change in our ratings outlook or even a reduction in our credit ratings by one or more of the credit rating agencies. Such a downgrade could further limit our access to private credit and/or public capital markets and increase our costs of borrowing.
While we believe we can meet our capital requirements from our operations and the sources of financing available to us, we can provide no assurance that we will continue to be able to do so in the future. The future effects on our business, liquidity and financial results of a deterioration of current conditions in the credit and capital markets could be material and adverse to us, both in the ways described above or in other ways that we do not currently anticipate.
We are exposed to market risks that are beyond our control, which could adversely affect our financial results.
We are subject to market risks beyond our control, including (i) commodity price volatility caused by market supply and demand dynamics, counterparty performance or counterparty creditworthiness and (ii) interest rate risk. We are generally insulated from commodity price risk through our purchased gas cost mechanisms. With respect to interest rate risk, increases in interest rates could adversely affect our future financial results to the extent that we do not recover our actual interest expense in our rates.
The concentration of our operations in the State of Texas exposes our operations and financial results to economic conditions, weather patterns and regulatory decisions in Texas.
Approximately 70 percent of our consolidated operations are located in the State of Texas. This concentration of our business in Texas means that our operations and financial results may be significantly affected by changes in the Texas economy in general, weather patterns and regulatory decisions by state and local regulatory authorities in Texas.
A deterioration in economic conditions could adversely affect our customers and negatively impact our financial results.
Any adverse changes in economic conditions in the states in which we operate could adversely affect the financial resources of many domestic households. As a result, our customers could seek to use less gas and it may be more difficult for them to pay their gas bills. This would likely lead to slower collections and higher than normal levels of accounts receivable. This, in turn, could increase our financing requirements. Additionally, should economic conditions deteriorate, our industrial customers could seek alternative energy sources, which could result in lower transportation volumes.
Increased gas costs could adversely impact our customer base and customer collections and increase our level of indebtedness.
Rapid increases in the costs of purchased gas would cause us to experience a significant increase in short-term or long-term debt. We must pay suppliers for gas when it is purchased, which can be significantly in advance of when these costs may be recovered through the collection of monthly customer bills for gas delivered. Increases in purchased gas costs also slow our natural gas distribution collections as customers may delay the payment of their gas bills, leading to higher than normal accounts receivable. This could result in higher short-term debt levels, greater collection efforts and increased bad debt expense.
Our pension and other postretirement benefit plans are subject to investment and interest rate risk that could negatively impact our financial condition.
We have pension and other postretirement benefit plans that provide benefits to many of our employees and retirees. Costs of providing benefits and related- funding requirements of these plans are subject to changes in the market value of the assets that fund the plans. The funded status of the plans and the related costs reflected in the Company’s financial statements are affected by various factors, which are subject to an inherent degree of uncertainty, including economic conditions, financial market performance, interest rates, life expectancies and demographics. Poor investment returns or lower interest rates may necessitate accelerated funding of the plans to meet minimum federal government requirements, which could have an adverse impact on the Company’s financial condition and results of operations.
In our distribution segment, we owned an aggregate of 73,689 miles of underground distribution and transmission mains throughout our distribution systems. These mains are located on easements or rights-of-way. We maintain our mains through a program of continuous inspection and repair and believe that our system of mains is in good condition. Through our pipeline and storage segment we owned 5,645 miles of gas transmission lines.
We own underground gas storage facilities in several states to supplement the supply of natural gas in periods of peak demand. The following table summarizes certain information regarding our underground gas storage facilities at September 30, 2023:
Working Capacity (Mcf)
Total Capacity (Mcf)
Maximum Daily Delivery Capability (Mcf)
Pipeline and Storage Segment
(1)Base gas represents the volume of gas that must be retained in a facility to maintain reservoir pressure.
Additionally, we contract for storage service in underground storage facilities on many of the interstate and intrastate pipelines serving us to supplement our proprietary storage capacity. The following table summarizes our contracted storage capacity at September 30, 2023:
Maximum Storage Quantity (MMBtu)
West Texas Division
Pipeline and Storage Segment
Trans Louisiana Gas Pipeline, Inc.
Total Contracted Storage Capacity
(1)Maximum daily withdrawal quantity (MDWQ) amounts will fluctuate depending upon the season and the month. Unless otherwise noted, MDWQ amounts represent the MDWQ amounts as of November 1, which is the beginning of the winter heating season.
See Note 14 to the consolidated financial statements, which is incorporated in this Item 3 by reference.
Mine Safety Disclosures.
Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.
Our stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the trading symbol “ATO.” The dividends paid per share of our common stock for fiscal 2023 and 2022 are listed below.
Dividends are payable at the discretion of our Board of Directors out of legally available funds. The Board of Directors typically declares dividends in the same fiscal quarter in which they are paid. As of October 31, 2023, there were 9,543 holders of record of our common stock. Future payments of dividends, and the amounts of these dividends, will depend on our financial condition, results of operations, capital requirements and other factors. We sold no securities during fiscal 2023 that were not registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended.
The performance graph and table below compares the yearly percentage change in our total return to shareholders for the last five fiscal years with the total return of the S&P 500 Stock Index (S&P 500) and the total return of the S&P 500 Utilities Industry Index. The graph and table below assume that $100.00 was invested on September 30, 2018 in our common stock, the S&P 500 and the S&P 500 Utilities Industry Index, as well as a reinvestment of dividends paid on such investments throughout the period.
The following table sets forth the number of securities authorized for issuance under our equity compensation plans at September 30, 2023.
Number of securities to be issued upon exercise of outstanding options, warrants and rights
Weighted-average exercise price of outstanding options, warrants and rights
Number of securities remaining available for future issuance under equity compensation plans (excluding securities reflected in column (a))
Equity compensation plans approved by security holders:
1998 Long-Term Incentive Plan
Total equity compensation plans approved by security holders
Equity compensation plans not approved by security holders
(1)Comprised of a total of 298,748 time-lapse restricted stock units, 206,140 director share units and 249,557 performance-based restricted stock units at the target level of performance granted under our 1998 Long-Term Incentive Plan.
Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.
This section provides management’s discussion of the financial condition, changes in financial condition and results of operations of Atmos Energy Corporation and its consolidated subsidiaries with specific information on results of operations and liquidity and capital resources. It includes management’s interpretation of our financial results, the factors affecting these results, the major factors expected to affect future operating results and future investment and financing plans. This discussion should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and notes thereto.
Several factors exist that could influence our future financial performance, some of which are described in Item 1A above, “Risk Factors”. They should be considered in connection with evaluating forward-looking statements contained in this report or otherwise made by or on behalf of us since these factors could cause actual results and conditions to differ materially from those set out in such forward-looking statements.
Cautionary Statement for the Purposes of the Safe Harbor under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995
The statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K may contain “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. All statements other than statements of historical fact included in this Report are forward-looking statements made in good faith by us and are intended to qualify for the safe harbor from liability established by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. When used in this Report, or any other of our documents or oral presentations, the words “anticipate”, “believe”, “estimate”, “expect”, “forecast”, “goal”, “intend”, “objective”, “plan”, “projection”, “seek”, “strategy” or similar words are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the statements relating to our strategy, operations, markets, services, rates, recovery of costs, availability of gas supply and other factors. These risks and uncertainties include the following: federal, state and local regulatory and political trends and decisions, including the impact of rate proceedings before various state regulatory commissions; increased federal regulatory oversight and potential penalties; possible increased federal, state and local regulation of the safety of our operations; possible significant costs and liabilities resulting from pipeline integrity and other similar programs and related repairs; the inherent hazards and risks involved in distributing, transporting and storing natural gas; the availability and accessibility of contracted gas supplies, interstate pipeline and/or storage services; increased competition from energy suppliers and alternative forms of energy; failure to attract and retain a qualified workforce; natural disasters, terrorist activities or other events and other risks and uncertainties discussed herein, all of which are difficult to predict and many of which are beyond our control; increased dependence on technology that may hinder the Company's business if such technologies fail; the threat of cyber-attacks or acts of cyber-terrorism that could disrupt our business operations and information technology systems or result in the loss or exposure of confidential or sensitive customer, employee
or Company information; the impact of new cybersecurity compliance requirements; adverse weather conditions; the impact of greenhouse gas emissions or other legislation or regulations intended to address climate change; the impact of climate change; the capital-intensive nature of our business; our ability to continue to access the credit and capital markets to execute our business strategy; market risks beyond our control affecting our risk management activities, including commodity price volatility, counterparty performance or creditworthiness and interest rate risk; the concentration of our operations in Texas; the impact of adverse economic conditions on our customers; changes in the availability and price of natural gas; and increased costs of providing health care benefits, along with pension and postretirement health care benefits and increased funding requirements. Accordingly, while we believe these forward-looking statements to be reasonable, there can be no assurance that they will approximate actual experience or that the expectations derived from them will be realized. Further, we undertake no obligation to update or revise any of our forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
CRITICAL ACCOUNTING POLICIES
Our consolidated financial statements were prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States. Preparation of these financial statements requires us to make estimates and judgments that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses and the related disclosures of contingent assets and liabilities. We base our estimates on historical experience and various other assumptions that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances. Actual results may differ from estimates.
Our significant accounting policies are discussed in Note 2 to our consolidated financial statements. The accounting policies discussed below are both important to the presentation of our financial condition and results of operations and require management to make difficult, subjective or complex accounting estimates. Accordingly, these critical accounting policies are reviewed periodically by the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors.
Critical Accounting Policy
Summary of Policy
Factors Influencing Application of the Policy
Our distribution and pipeline operations meet the criteria of a cost-based, rate-regulated entity under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States. Accordingly, the financial results for these operations reflect the effects of the ratemaking and accounting practices and policies of the various regulatory commissions to which we are subject. As a result, certain costs that would normally be expensed under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States are permitted to be capitalized or deferred on the balance sheet because it is probable they can be recovered through rates. Further, regulation may impact the period in which revenues or expenses are recognized. The amounts expected to be recovered or recognized are based upon historical experience and our understanding of the regulations. Discontinuing the application of this method of accounting for regulatory assets and liabilities or changes in the accounting for our various regulatory mechanisms could significantly increase our operating expenses as fewer costs would likely be capitalized or deferred on the balance sheet, which could reduce our net income.
Decisions of regulatory authorities
Issuance of new regulations or regulatory mechanisms
Assessing the probability of the recoverability of deferred costs
Continuing to meet the criteria of a cost-based, rate regulated entity for accounting purposes
Pension and other postretirement plan costs and liabilities are determined on an actuarial basis using a September 30 measurement date and are affected by numerous assumptions and estimates including the market value of plan assets, estimates of the expected return on plan assets, assumed discount rates and current demographic and actuarial mortality data. The assumed discount rate and the expected return are the assumptions that generally have the most significant impact on our pension costs and liabilities. The assumed discount rate, the assumed health care cost trend rate and assumed rates of retirement generally have the most significant impact on our postretirement plan costs and liabilities. The discount rate is utilized principally in calculating the actuarial present value of our pension and postretirement obligations and net periodic pension and postretirement benefit plan costs. When establishing our discount rate, we consider high quality corporate bond rates based on bonds available in the marketplace that are suitable for settling the obligations, changes in those rates from the prior year and the implied discount rate that is derived from matching our projected benefit disbursements with currently available high quality corporate bonds. The expected long-term rate of return on assets is utilized in calculating the expected return on plan assets component of our annual pension and postretirement plan costs. We estimate the expected return on plan assets by evaluating expected bond returns, equity risk premiums, asset allocations, the effects of active plan management, the impact of periodic plan asset rebalancing and historical performance. We also consider the guidance from our investment advisors in making a final determination of our expected rate of return on assets. To the extent the actual rate of return on assets realized over the course of a year is greater than or less than the assumed rate, that year’s annual pension or postretirement plan costs are not affected. Rather, this gain or loss reduces or increases future pension or postretirement plan costs over a period of approximately ten to twelve years. The market-related value of our plan assets represents the fair market value of the plan assets, adjusted to smooth out short-term market fluctuations over a five-year period. The use of this methodology will delay the impact of current market fluctuations on the pension expense for the period. We estimate the assumed health care cost trend rate used in determining our postretirement net expense based upon our actual health care cost experience, the effects of recently enacted legislation and general economic conditions. Our assumed rate of retirement is estimated based upon our annual review of our participant census information as of the measurement date.
General economic and market conditions
Assumed investment returns by asset class
Assumed future salary increases
Assumed discount rate
Projected timing of future cash disbursements
Health care cost experience trends
Participant demographic information
Actuarial mortality assumptions
Impact of legislation
Impact of regulation
We review the carrying value of our long-lived assets, including goodwill and identifiable intangibles, whenever events or changes in circumstance indicate that such carrying values may not be recoverable, and at least annually for goodwill, as required by U.S. accounting standards. The evaluation of our goodwill balances and other long-lived assets or identifiable assets for which uncertainty exists regarding the recoverability of the carrying value of such assets involves the assessment of future cash flows and external market conditions and other subjective factors that could impact the estimation of future cash flows including, but not limited to the commodity prices, the amount and timing of future cash flows, future growth rates and the discount rate. Unforeseen events and changes in circumstances or market conditions could adversely affect these estimates, which could result in an impairment charge.
General economic and market conditions
Projected timing and amount of future discounted cash flows
Atmos Energy strives to operate its businesses safely and reliably while delivering superior financial results. Our commitment to modernizing our natural gas distribution and transmission systems requires a significant level of capital spending. We have the ability to begin recovering a significant portion of these investments timely through rate designs and mechanisms that reduce or eliminate regulatory lag and separate the recovery of our approved rate from customer usage patterns. The execution of our capital spending program, the ability to recover these investments timely and our ability to access the capital markets to satisfy our financing needs are the primary drivers that affect our financial performance.
The following table details our consolidated net income by segment during the last three fiscal years:
For the Fiscal Year Ended September 30
Pipeline and storage segment
During fiscal 2023, we recorded net income of $885.9 million, or $6.10 per diluted share, compared to net income of $774.4 million, or $5.60 per diluted share in the prior year. The year-over-year increase in net income of $111.5 million largely reflects positive rate outcomes driven by safety and reliability spending, partially offset by increased line locating costs, system maintenance activities and an increase in depreciation expense and property taxes associated with increased capital investments.
During the year ended September 30, 2023, we implemented ratemaking regulatory actions which resulted in an increase in annual operating income of $263.1 million. Excluding the impact of the refund of excess deferred income taxes resulting from previously enacted tax reform legislation, our total fiscal 2023 rate outcomes were $268.8 million. Additionally, we had ratemaking efforts in progress at September 30, 2023, seeking a total increase in annual operating income of $264.6 million.
During fiscal year 2023, we refunded $160.3 million in excess deferred tax liabilities to customers. These refunds also reduced our income tax expense, resulting in an immaterial impact to our fiscal 2023 and 2022 results.
Capital expenditures for fiscal 2023 were $2.8 billion. Over 85 percent was invested to improve the safety and reliability of our distribution and transportation systems, with a significant portion of this investment incurred under regulatory mechanisms that reduce regulatory lag to six months or less.
During fiscal 2023, we completed approximately $1.6 billion of long-term debt and equity financing. As of September 30, 2023, our equity capitalization was 61.5 percent. As of September 30, 2023, we had approximately $2.7 billion in total liquidity, consisting of $15.4 million in cash and cash equivalents, $466.8 million in funds available through equity forward sales agreements and $2,252.5 million in undrawn capacity under our credit facilities.
The distribution segment is primarily comprised of our regulated natural gas distribution and related sales operations in eight states. The primary factors that impact the results of our distribution operations are our ability to earn our authorized rates of return, competitive factors in the energy industry and economic conditions in our service areas.
Our ability to earn our authorized rates is based primarily on our ability to improve the rate design in our various ratemaking jurisdictions to minimize regulatory lag and, ultimately, separate the recovery of our approved rates from customer usage patterns. Improving rate design is a long-term process and is further complicated by the fact that we operate in multiple rate jurisdictions. The “Ratemaking Activity” section of this Form 10-K describes our current rate strategy, progress towards implementing that strategy and recent ratemaking initiatives in more detail. During fiscal 2023, we completed regulatory proceedings in our distribution segment resulting in a $178.2 million increase in annual operating income. Excluding the impact of the refund of excess deferred income taxes resulting from previously enacted tax reform legislation, our total fiscal 2023 annualized rate outcomes in our distribution segment were $183.8 million.
Our distribution operations are also affected by the cost of natural gas. We are generally able to pass the cost of gas through to our customers without markup under purchased gas cost adjustment mechanisms; therefore, increases in the cost of gas are offset by a corresponding increase in revenues. Revenues in our Texas and Mississippi service areas include franchise fees and gross receipts taxes, which are calculated as a percentage of revenue (inclusive of gas costs). Therefore, the amount of
these taxes included in revenues is influenced by the cost of gas and the level of gas sales volumes. We record the associated tax expense as a component of taxes, other than income.
The cost of gas typically does not have a direct impact on our operating income because these costs are recovered through our purchased gas cost adjustment mechanisms. However, higher gas costs may adversely impact our accounts receivable collections, resulting in higher bad debt expense. This risk is currently mitigated by rate design that allows us to collect from our customers the gas cost portion of our bad debt expense on approximately 80 percent of our residential and commercial revenues. Additionally, higher gas costs may require us to increase borrowings under our credit facilities, resulting in higher interest expense. Finally, higher gas costs, as well as competitive factors in the industry and general economic conditions may cause customers to conserve or, in the case of industrial consumers, to use alternative energy sources.
Review of Financial and Operating Results
Financial and operational highlights for our distribution segment for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2023, 2022 and 2021 are presented below.
For the Fiscal Year Ended September 30
2023 vs. 2022
2022 vs. 2021
(In thousands, unless otherwise noted)
Purchased gas cost
Other non-operating income (expense)
Income before income taxes
Income tax expense
Consolidated distribution sales volumes — MMcf
Consolidated distribution transportation volumes — MMcf
Total consolidated distribution throughput — MMcf
Consolidated distribution average cost of gas per Mcf sold
Fiscal year ended September 30, 2023 compared with fiscal year ended September 30, 2022
Operating income for our distribution segment increased 14.6 percent. Key drivers for the change in operating income include:
•a $166.4 million increase in rate adjustments, primarily in our Mid-Tex Division.
•an $18.4 million increase related to residential customer growth, primarily in our Mid-Tex Division, and increased industrial load.
•an $11.7 million increase in consumption, net of WNA.
•a $7.5 million decrease in refunds of excess deferred taxes to customers, which is substantially offset in income tax expense.
Partially offset by:
•a $65.4 million increase in depreciation expense and property taxes associated with increased capital investments.
•a $20.2 million increase in line locate spending, primarily in our Mid-Tex Division.
•a $4.9 million increase in bad debt expense primarily due to higher customer bills.
•a $21.6 million increase in other operation and maintenance expense primarily due to increased insurance premiums, travel spending, information technology spending and other administrative costs.
Other non-operating income increased $18.0 million primarily due to a higher allowance for funds used during construction (AFUDC) related to increased capital spending as well as unrealized gains on equity investments in the current
period compared to unrealized losses on equity investments in the prior period. Interest charges increased $27.3 million primarily due to the issuance of long-term debt during the first quarter of fiscal 2023.
The fiscal year ended September 30, 2022 compared with fiscal year ended September 30, 2021 for our distribution segment is described in Item 7 "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2022.
The following table shows our operating income by distribution division, in order of total rate base, for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2023, 2022 and 2021. The presentation of our distribution operating income is included for financial reporting purposes and may not be appropriate for ratemaking purposes.
For the Fiscal Year Ended September 30
2023 vs. 2022
2022 vs. 2021
Pipeline and Storage Segment
Our pipeline and storage segment consists of the pipeline and storage operations of our Atmos Pipeline–Texas Division (APT) and our natural gas transmission operations in Louisiana. APT is one of the largest intrastate pipeline operations in Texas with a heavy concentration in the established natural gas producing areas of central, northern and eastern Texas, extending into or near the major producing areas of the Barnett Shale, the Texas Gulf Coast and the Permian Basin of West Texas. APT provides transportation and storage services to our Mid-Tex Division, other third-party local distribution companies, industrial and electric generation customers, as well as marketers and producers. Over 80 percent of this segment's revenues are derived from these APT services. As part of its pipeline operations, APT owns and operates five underground storage facilities in Texas.
Our natural gas transmission operations in Louisiana are comprised of a 21-mile pipeline located in the New Orleans, Louisiana area that is primarily used to aggregate gas supply for our distribution division in Louisiana under a long-term contract and, on a more limited basis, to third parties. The demand fee charged to our Louisiana distribution division for these services is subject to regulatory approval by the Louisiana Public Service Commission. We also manage two asset management plans, which have been approved by applicable state regulatory commissions. Generally, these asset management plans require us to share with our distribution customers a significant portion of the cost savings earned from these arrangements.
Our pipeline and storage segment is impacted by seasonal weather patterns, competitive factors in the energy industry and economic conditions in our Texas and Louisiana service areas. Natural gas prices do not directly impact the results of this segment as revenues are derived from the transportation and storage of natural gas. However, natural gas prices and demand for natural gas could influence the level of drilling activity in the supply areas that we serve, which may influence the level of throughput we may be able to transport on our pipelines. Further, natural gas price differences between the various hubs that we serve in Texas could influence the volumes of gas transported for shippers through our Texas pipeline system and rates for such transportation.
The results of APT are also significantly impacted by the natural gas requirements of its local distribution company customers. Additionally, its operations may be impacted by the timing of when costs and expenses are incurred and when these costs and expenses are recovered through its tariffs.
APT annually uses GRIP to recover capital costs incurred in the prior calendar year. On February 10, 2023, APT made a GRIP filing that covered changes in net property, plant and equipment investment from January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2022 with a requested increase in operating income of $84.9 million. On May 17, 2023, the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) approved the Company's GRIP filing. Additionally, GRIP requires a utility to file a statement of intent at least once every five years to review its costs and expenses, including capital costs filed for recovery under GRIP. On May 19, 2023, APT filed its statement of intent seeking $107.4 million in additional annual operating income. On October 24, 2023, APT and the intervening parties in its general rate case filed a Joint Notice of Settlement and Proposed Order. See "Ratemaking Activity" above for further information.
The demand fee our Louisiana natural gas transmission pipeline charges to our Louisiana distribution division increases five percent annually and has been approved by the Louisiana Public Service Commission until September 30, 2027.
Review of Financial and Operating Results
Financial and operational highlights for our pipeline and storage segment for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2023, 2022 and 2021 are presented below.