The average gas bills for Houston-area residents could rise in six months if a rate increase sought by the natural gas utility is approved by state regulators.

CenterPoint Energy, the monopoly gas distribution company, filed a rate request Thursday with the Railroad Commission, seeking an increase that would boost the average monthly bill of Houston area residents by $2.59. The average increases, however, will vary depending on where customers live, ranging from about $1.11 a month in coastal and other cities east of Houston, to $6.04 in Conroe.

CenterPoint said it needs the increase to recover the costs of improving pipes and facilities in its distribution network.  If approved, the rate hike would add to increases since 2010 that have boosted the average gas bills in Greater Houston by $2.31 a month.

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