Board members of Texas electrical grid operator resign after deadly winter storm, power crisis

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said he welcomed the resignations

The top board members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) announced that they would resign from their posts on Wednesday after a deadly winter storm system left millions without power amid subzero temperatures.

In a Tuesday letter to their fellow board members -- there are 16 in total -- Chairwoman Sally Talberg and vice-chairman Peter Cramton, Terry Bulger and Raymond Hepper wrote that their "hearts go out to all Texans" who had to go without electricity, heat, water and "face the tragic consequences of this emergency." 

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"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 effective after our urgent board teleconference meeting adjourns on Wednesday, February 24, 2021," they said. 

The group said it wants what is best for both ERCOT and Texas and is "in the process of reviewing this extreme cold weather event and resulting power crisis."

"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 group added. 

"We have only one thing to ask those of you who remain on the board: please continue to recognize the fine people at ERCOT and what they do for Texas every day," the members concluded, thanking ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness

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A filing posted to the Public Utility Commission website -- the entity that oversees ERCOT -- showed that board member Vanessa Anesetti-Parra is also resigning from her position and Craig Ivey withdrew his application for an unaffiliated director slot.

On the ERCOT website, the positions are now listed as "vacant." Magness had previously told reporters at a news conference that some of the members had been receiving threats leading the company to temporarily remove personal information from the board of directors page.

All five live of the members reside outside of Texas.

Customers use the light from a cellphone to look in the meat section of a grocery store Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Dallas. Even though the store lost power, it was open for cash-only sales.

Customers use the light from a cellphone to look in the meat section of a grocery store Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Dallas. Even though the store lost power, it was open for cash-only sales. ((AP Photo/LM Otero))

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that Talberg lives in Michigan and Bulger lives in Illinois.

In order for ERCOT to remain certified as an independent organization, the board must include five directors who are unaffiliated with "any market segment,"  according to The Texas Tribune

Bulger, Hepper, Ansetti-Parra and Talberg were not immediately available for comment.

Cramton declined to comment but pointed Fox News to a recording of a Feb. 24 urgent board of directors meeting. 

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"ERCOT was flying a 747. It had not one, but two engines experience catastrophic failure, then flew the damaged plane for 103 hours before safely landing in the Hudson," Cramton said during the more than three-hour-long meeting. "In my mind, the men and women in the ERCOT control room are heroes."

ERCOT operates the Texas electrical grid -- which is isolated from the rest of the country -- managing around 90% of the Lonestar State's power for 26 million customers.

The nonprofit has been raked over the coals over the last week after an Arctic blast across the Deep South left more than 80 dead.

In their own letter, 16 Texas mayors called on Magness to address their "deficiencies" and wrote in favor of a full public airing and action from state leadership -- though Houston's Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner said the Public Utility Commission of Texas is just as responsible for the loss of electric power.

Lawsuits have been filed against ERCOT in response to the crisis. However, whether or not ERCOT can be held liable remains unclear and the Texas Supreme Court is expected to decide whether or not it is entitled to sovereign immunity.

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While Magness has defended the outages, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said ahead of Thursday's hearings in Austin that he welcomed 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," he 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."

"The lack of preparedness and transparency at ERCOT is unacceptable, and I welcome these resignations. The State of Texas will continue to investigate ERCOT and uncover the full picture of what went wrong, and we will ensure that the disastrous events of last week are never repeated," Abbott concluded. 

In a statement to Fox News, ERCOT said it looks "forward to working with the Texas Legislature" and thanked "the outgoing Board Members for their service."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.