AUSTIN, Texas – Five members of the board of directors at the entity that operates the state’s electrical grid resigned from their posts Wednesday, according to a notice posted to the Public Utility Commission website.
Board Chairwoman Sally Talberg, Vice Chairman Peter Cramton and members Terry Bulger, Raymond Hepper and Vanessa Anesetti-Parra will leave the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT. None of them lives in Texas.
ERCOT has come under fire for its handling of widespread blackouts that left millions of Texans without power and water as the state faced subfreezing temperatures, snow and ice. The storm was part of an icy blast across the Deep South that resulted in more than 80 deaths, roughly half of which were in Texas.
In a joint resignation letter, Talberg, Cramton, Bulger and Hepper acknowledged “the pain and suffering of Texans during this past week” and cited objections to their residency as a motivating factor for their resignations.
Anesetti-Parra did not sign the joint letter, but a notice sent from ERCOT to the Public Utility Commission noted her intention to resign from the board.
Winter storm blackouts plagued Texas in 2011, too. Recommendations made afterward went unenforced.
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“Our hearts go out to all Texans who have had to go without electricity, heat, and water during frigid temperatures and continue to face the tragic consequences of this emergency,” the letter reads. “We have noted recent concerns about out-of-state board leadership at ERCOT. To allow state leaders a free hand with future direction and to eliminate distractions, we are resigning from the board.”
Craig Ivey, who was set to fill a vacant position on the board, said in a separate letter that he was withdrawing his candidacy “to avoid becoming a distraction” over his out-of-state residency.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who charged state lawmakers with making changes at ERCOT after the outages, said he welcomed the resignations.
“When Texans were in desperate need of electricity, ERCOT failed to do its job and Texans were left shivering in their homes without power,” Abbott said in a statement. “ERCOT leadership made assurances that Texas’ power infrastructure was prepared for the winter storm, but those assurances proved to be devastatingly false.”
A month ago, operators at ERCOT offered a positive assessment about the preparedness of Texas power plants for winter storms, according to the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network.
When the intense storm hit the state, major generation units failed, and operators at ERCOT ordered a series of rolling blackouts intended to protect the electric grid from catastrophic failure.
Instead of rolling blackouts, more than 4 million people were left without electricity for days.
State officials criticized ERCOT amid the blackouts and state lawmakers scheduled legislative hearings for Thursday and Friday to discuss the outages.
“We look forward to working with the Texas Legislature, and we thank the outgoing Board Members for their service,” reads a statement from ERCOT.
Talberg, who lives in Michigan, and Cramton, who lives in California, were elected to their posts as board chair and vice chair, respectively, on Feb. 9 during a board meeting where leaders at the electric grid operator spent just 40 seconds discussing the upcoming storm.
Bulger lives in Wheaton, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, and Hepper lives in Maine. Anesetti-Parra lives in Toronto.
There are a total of 16 members on ERCOT’s board, which appoints officers who manage the grid manager’s day-to-day operations.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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