Consumer Advocate Challenges Westar Hike

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A consumer advocate is challenging how Westar Energy plans to increase its rates to cover 871 million dollars in pollution control costs.

In a regulatory filing, the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board claims Westar is misusing an environmental surcharge designed to collect money for plant upgrades required to meet federal clean air rules.

Westar is the state's largest electric utility with 670,000 customers.

The Kansas Corporation Commission in 2005 allowed Westar to break out the surcharge on bills. But the ratepayer board claims the surcharge was meant as a stopgap measure to tide the utility over until it formally requested a rate change, when all expenses could be considered in depth.

Instead, Westar wants to extend the surcharge and keep environmental costs apart from its regular rate-change requests.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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