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Texas Power Grid Chair, Directors Quit in Wake of Blackouts

Naureen S. Malik and Mark Chediak
·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- The chair of Texas’s power grid operator and four other board members have resigned in the wake of the energy crisis that crippled the state’s electrical system.

Electric Reliability Council of Texas Chair Sally Talberg resigned along with Vice Chair Peter Cramton and board members Raymond Hepper, Terry Bulger and Vanessa Anesetti-Parra, according to a filing.

The departures are the first high-profile resignations in the wake of last week’s blackouts that left millions of homes without heat and light and dozens of people dead during an historic cold snap. Texas Governor Greg Abbott last week called for board members and other leaders of the grid operator, known as Ercot, to step down. Some board members had received death threats as public outrage over the crisis mounted.

“When Texans were in desperate need of electricity, Ercot failed to do its job, and Texans were left shivering in their homes,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement. “The State of Texas will continue to investigate Ercot and uncover the full picture of what went wrong.”

At its peak, more than 4 million Texas homes and businesses were without power over several days of unprecedented cold. Even when electricity was restored as temperatures rose, millions remained without safe drinking water after power outages hit treatment plants and water pumps used to pressurize lines.

Texas lawmakers have scheduled hearings on the power failures for Thursday.

In their resignation letter, the Ercot board members cited recent concerns raised about out-of-state board leadership at the grid operator. “To allow state leaders a free hand with future direction and to eliminate distractions, we are resigning from the board effective after our urgent board teleconference meeting adjourns on Wednesday, February 24, 2021,” they said.

An Ercot board nominee, Craig Ivey, also submitted a letter to withdraw his petition for approval as an unaffiliated director, citing concerns stakeholders recently expressed of having out-of-state directors.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned against making Ercot a “scapegoat” for the crisis, saying responsibility also lies with the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the state legislature, “which failed to act 10 years ago.”

Turner, who served 27 years in the Texas House prior to being elected mayor of America’s fourth biggest city, filed a bill in the legislature in 2011 calling for the prevention of blackouts by ensuring there is enough reserve power capacity in the state. He said the bill never received a hearing. “Now the question is, are we really committed to taking the necessary steps to keep this from happening again,” he said in an interview.

Cramton declined to comment. Talberg, Hepper and Bulger didn’t immediately respond to requests for a comment.

(Adds comments from Houston mayor in ninth, 10th paragraphs.)

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