Westar seeks $91 million increase

? Westar Energy, the largest electric company in Kansas, is seeking a $91 million rate increase that would raise the typical residential ratepayer’s bill by $6.50 per month.

Westar officials said Thursday that the 5.85 percent increase in its base price was needed to comply with new federal regulations and other higher costs including trimming trees to keep them away from power lines.

“Our customers and our state depend on reliable electric infrastructure,” said Mark Ruelle, Westar’s chief executive officer. “Unfortunately, the cost of keeping our system reliable has gone up.”

The rate request will be considered by the Kansas Corporation Commission.

Earlier this month, Westar, which has approximately 700,000 customers, announced it would pay its former leader, David Wittig, $36 million plus $3.1 million in legal fees to settle a long-running contract dispute.

Wittig and another former executive, Douglas Lake, were indicted on charges that they tried to loot the company. Their first trial ended in mistrial, and convictions in a second trial were later overturned. Westar announced in May it had settled with Lake for $26 million.

Westar officials said the payment to Wittig and Lake would be made with money that shareholders set aside and not by ratepayers.