Low debt leverage and a reasonable regulatory environment support the U.S. pipeline industry’s stable credit metrics. Fitch believes the industry is actively reacting to shifting supply/demand dynamics and other major long-term trends.Fitch also notes that environmental and safety costs resulting from new federal legislation and tighter regulation are manageable, although the extent and details of new regulations remains uncertain. The permitting and construction of pipelines will face growing challenges.The rapid increase of natural gas production from shale basins will change supply dynamics and elevate pipeline recontracting risk. In particular, Marcellus Shale production will displace supplies from other basins and affect pipeline capacity utilization on systems now serving the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Several factors including increasing demand could limit potential financial exposure. Fitch believes it is premature to determine winners and losers.The full report ‘Natural Gas Pipelines: Hot Topics - Long-Term Trends Affecting Pipeline Risk’ is available at ‘www.fitchratings.com.’ Fitch maintains ratings on 15 issuers in the pipelines industry.