- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

DENVER (AP) - Xcel Energy plans to ask Colorado’s utility regulator to OK rate increases of around 3 percent this year and in the next two years, saying Tuesday it needs the money to pay for about $1 billion in new pipes, and other safety and reliability improvements.

In a news release Tuesday, Xcel said typical residential customers would see their monthly bill increase less than $2 each year, and small-business owners would see a monthly increase of less than $7 each year. The company has more than 1.3 million natural gas customers in Colorado.

Xcel expected to file its request late Tuesday. The Public Utilities Commission usually acts about seven months after such a request has been filed, giving entities like the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel, which advocates for ratepayers, a chance to respond.

“Safety is a concern. The cost of safety measures is a concern,” said Cindy Schonhaut, director of the consumer office. “Can you achieve safety cost-effectively is the overarching concern.”

Schonhaut added she had been expecting the Xcel request and would study it once it was filed.

The company said its focus on safety includes work to speed replacement of older pipes and improve its ability to identify and quickly repair leaks. Some of the work for which it is now seeking money has already been done, and some is still to be undertaken.

Xcel said it has replaced 198 miles of pipe since its last rate increase request was approved in 2012 and planned to replace 275 miles between now and 2017.

Xcel, which operates in 30 of Colorado’s 64 counties, has more than 2,100 miles of transmission-grade pipeline and more than 21,600 miles of distribution-grade pipeline in the state.

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