Four energy board members to resign after catastrophic Texas blackouts during winter storm

Six board members of Texas’ power grid operator have resigned after last week’s blackouts left millions of people without electricity in brutal winter weather.

The board chairwoman and vice chairman of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, along with two other board members, issued a joint statement Tuesday announcing their intention to resign after a board meeting Wednesday, according to a filing with the Texas Public Utility Commission.

“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,” the statement said.

The letter was signed by Chairwoman Sally Talberg, Vice Chairman Peter Cramton, Finance and Audit Committee Chairman Terry Bulger and Human Resources and Governance Committee Chairman Raymond Hepper.

The four members said in the letter that they have heard the concerns about “out-of-state” board leadership and want to acknowledge Texans’ “pain and suffering” during the past week.

“With the right follow through, Texas can lead the nation in investing in infrastructure and emergency preparedness to withstand the effects of severe weather events — whether in the form of flooding, drought, extreme temperatures, or hurricanes,” the letter said. “We want what is best for ERCOT and Texas.”

In a footnote in its letter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas, ERCOT noted that board member Vanessa Anesetti-Parra also submitted a letter of resignation on Tuesday.

Another person, Craig Ivey, withdrew his petition to fill a vacant spot on the board in a letter acknowledging that he, too, lives outside Texas, according to the filing. Ivey said in his notice that Texas is a state with a “rich history” where the people are “proud, independent, and resilient.”

“I have every confidence that Texas and ERCOT will emerge from this crisis better than before,” Ivey’s letter said.

At the start of Wednesday’s virtual board meeting finalizing the resignations, Talberg announced that board member Randall Miller, who represented independent power providers, had resigned late Tuesday.

ERCOT did not respond to a request for comment.

Gov. Greg Abbott said he “welcomed” the resignations in a statement Tuesday.

“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. “ERCOT leadership made assurances that Texas’ power infrastructure was prepared for the winter storm, but those assurances proved to be devastatingly false.”

Abbot declared reform of ERCOT a top priority last week, urging the Legislature to investigate the energy grid service.

“This is unacceptable,” he said. “Reviewing the preparations and decisions by ERCOT is an emergency item so we can get a full picture of what caused this problem and find long-term solutions.”

More than 3 million people and businesses were left without power after a major winter cold front swept Texas last week, leaving Texans without power in below-freezing temperatures. Residents struggled to stay warm, and the lack of heating froze pipes, contributing to a water crisis in the state.

ERCOT, which oversees about 90 percent of Texas’ energy production, cited frozen equipment for the loss of output from its natural gas and some renewable energy sources.

Even though Texas is one of the largest energy producers and consumers in the country, it is not subject to federal regulations, because it relies on its own energy grid. Critics have said the lack of oversight allowed the state to shirk its responsibilities under federal requirements that would have better prepared the energy grid for winter weather.