ATLANTA – Georgia energy regulators gave Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) a $65 million rate increase Thursday while requiring the utility to make a series of improvements to customer service.

The state Public Service Commission (PSC) voted unanimously to reduce the $90 million rate hike AGL requested last June. Commissioners also trimmed the profit margin AGL had proposed from 10.75% to 10.25%.

“I’m pleased with what was accomplished today,” said Commissioner Chuck Eaton, chairman of the PSC’s Energy Committee, who crafted the motion the commission approved. “It balances increased federal regulations, the capital investment required from a growing Georgia economy and ensures the company will make needed service improvements that customers will notice.”

AGL’s first rate increase since 2010 will raise the typical residential customer’s monthly bill by 4%, or $2.54, starting next month.

AGL officials said they need the money to cover $744 million in investments the utility is making to replace old pipelines, add new transmission lines and undertake an unprecedented expansion into rural parts of Georgia.

“These increases have been driven by aggressive investment in our distribution system,” Robert Highsmith, a lawyer representing AGL, told members of the Energy Committee earlier this week. “Our system is stronger, safer, more reliable and poised for growth.”

“We are mindful of the impact any increase can have on customers with low or fixed incomes,” AGL President Bryan Batson added. “Fortunately, thanks to today’s lower natural gas prices, consumers are still paying on average $250 less on their total natural gas bill than even 10 years ago.”

Eaton’s motion will require AGL to respond to gas leaks in 25 minutes or fewer, increase the percentage of appointments provided within a four-hour window from 40% to 80% and increase by 25% “evening” appointments, which occur between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Those were among service improvements recommended by the gas marketing companies that pay fees to AGL to provide and maintain gas pipelines and other infrastructure.

Commissioner Tricia Pridemore said she voted for the rate increase because of AGL’s agreement to improve service. But she criticized marketers for not fighting hard enough for even more service improvements while admonishing AGL’s presentation of its case for higher rates.

“You’ve gotten $15 million more than you should,” she said. “Your rate case proposal was weak and lacked detail. … Your next effort needs much improvement.”