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Board Members Resign From Texas Electric Grid Operator After Mass Power Outages

Five out-of-state members of a major Texas electricity grid operator are resigning following winter storm Uri that hit the state and knocked out coal, natural gas and nuclear plants that were unprepared for the freezing temperatures brought on by the storm.
Five out-of-state members of a major Texas electricity grid operator are resigning following winter storm Uri that hit the state and knocked out coal, natural gas and nuclear plants that were unprepared for the freezing temperatures brought on by the storm.

Five out-of-state board members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas — the entity that maintains and operates much of the state's electricity grid — will resign Wednesday, according to a notice filed with the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

The resignations come as Texas still grapples with the aftermath of last week's winter storm that, at its worst, left more than four million residents in the dark and bitter cold for days. The outages also stretched into northern Mexico.

Ratepayers and politicians alike have criticized ERCOT's leadership for failing to prepare before the storm and for seating board members who don't live in Texas. In the immediate days after the record cold temperatures, customers reported exorbitantly high electricity bills.

State officials have called for an investigation into ERCOT's failures.

The four board directors resigning are Sally Talberg, the board chairwoman and a former state utility regulator who lives in Michigan; Peter Cramton, the board's vice chairman and an economics professor at the University of Cologne in Germany and at the University of Maryland; Terry Bulger, the Finance and Audit Committee Chairman and a banker from Illinois; and Raymond Hepper, the Human Resources and Governance Committee Chairman and a former regulator for New England's power grid.

Talberg, Cramton, Bulger, and Hepper wrote in a letter attached to the Public Utility Commission filing Tuesday that they are resigning "to allow state leaders a free hand with future direction and to eliminate distractions."

Vanessa Anesetti-Parra, a director for the independent retail electric provider market segment, will also resign her position as a board member with ERCOT. And Craig Ivey, who was slated to fill a vacant unaffiliated director position, withdrew his application on Tuesday, according to the Public Utility Commission filing.

ERCOT is a nonprofit governed by a board of directors, but ultimately overseen by the Public Utility Commission. Fifteen members serve on the ERCOT board, including the five unaffiliated director positions.

The resignations are effective upon the adjournment of a scheduled teleconference meeting Wednesday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he welcomed the board members resignation.

"When Texans were in desperate need of electricity, ERCOT failed to do its job and Texans were left shivering in their homes without power. ERCOT leadership made assurances that Texas' power infrastructure was prepared for the winter storm, but those assurances proved to be devastatingly false."

He said the state will continue its investigation into ERCOT despite the resignations.

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