The state's largest electric utility is asking the Utah Public Service Commission for a $160.6 million rate increase that would raise the typical residential customer's monthly power bill by 11.2 percent.

The request is the second by Rocky Mountain Power in the past seven months.

The Committee of Consumer Services, the state's utility watchdog group, is criticizing this latest rate-hike request. Michelle Beck, the committee's executive director, said the tactics employed by Rocky Mountain Power in making back-to-back rate-increase requests are "unfair and improper."

In December 2007, the utility asked for a $161 million rate increase, but it scaled back that request to $75.45 million last month.

Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Dave Eskelsen said the $160.6 million request would be reduced to $85.2 million, or a 5.7 percent increase, if the other request is fully approved by the Utah Public Service Commission.

The commission is still reviewing the original case, and a ruling is expected by Aug. 13, said commission spokeswoman Julie Orchard. The commission has 240 days to make a ruling on the new case filed Thursday, she added.

But Beck said the Committee of Consumer Services plans to challenge Rocky Mountain Power's filing for a second rate increase.

"What we call this is a 'pancake rate case,' when you get another one before the first one is done," she said. "People are already struggling with the impact of rising energy costs and we feel that Rocky Mountain Powers misuse of the system makes it even more difficult to protect consumers."

The commission this month approved an order that raised Questar's rates by approximately $195 million, or 23 percent, effective immediately. That hike meant an increase of approximately $152 annually, or $12.66 monthly, for the typical residential customer.

In a separate general-rate case, the commission issued an order approving an $11.97 million rate increase for Questar, effective Aug. 15, that will result in an increase of about 92 cents per month to the typical residential customer, or about $11 per year. With the two increases, residential customers will have to pay an additional $163 per year for natural gas.

Questar had said the increases were needed to cover the escalating cost of purchasing natural gas for distribution to customers and to cover increases in non-gas costs such as infrastructure, labor, pipes and equipment.

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