UPDATE: March 4, 2021: The Electric Reliability Council of Texas' (ERCOT) Board of Directors voted on Wednesday to oust CEO Bill Magness, following continued fallout from the power outages that plagued the state for days last month during an extreme cold weather event. His 60-day termination notice follows the resignations of Public Utility Commission of Texas Chair DeAnn Walker and several board members.
Also on Wednesday, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., chair of the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on the Environment, requested documents from Magness regarding ERCOT's lack of preparation for the winter storm.
"The Subcommittee is concerned that the loss of electric reliability, and the resulting human suffering, deaths, and economic costs, will happen again unless ERCOT and the State of Texas confront the predicted increase in extreme weather events with adequate preparation and appropriate infrastructure," said Khanna in a statement.
- Texas' head utility regulator resigned Monday, two weeks after widespread outages afflicted the state following a record-breaking cold snap.
- The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) Chair DeAnn Walker resigned effective immediately Monday afternoon. Her exit follows the resignation of several Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) board members, as well as her testimony at Texas Senate and House hearings, wherein she appeared not to know the full extent of her authority.
- In her resignation letter, Walker "accepted [her] role in the situation," but said gas companies, the Texas Railroad Commission, electric generators, ERCOT, the legislature and others should accept blame as well. "I have served as chairman for only a few short years," she said, adding that other parties "had responsibility to foresee what could have happened and failed to take the necessary steps for the past ten years."
Legislative hearings kicked off last week with many of the involved parties pointing fingers at each other. Power generators said the problem was largely caused by the gas supply side, while the gas industry and its regulators said the issues all stemmed from the electric sector.
"I believe that my industry resolved the problem and didn't really create it," Christi Craddick, one of three commissioners on the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industries, told lawmakers Friday.
ERCOT, meanwhile, pointed to its regulator, the PUCT, while the PUCT chair denied much of her authority last week.
"I don't have total and complete oversight" over ERCOT, Walker told senators last week, adding that her authority had been exaggerated by the grid operator's CEO Bill Magness. "Listening to Mr. Magness, you would think that we exercise a great amount ... of authority," she said.
Several lawmakers, however, were unsatisfied with her responses.
"You don't seem to demonstrate the knowledge that it takes to" run the PUCT, Sen. Donna Campbell, R, told Walker during the hearing. "And that's concerning."
"You're the chair of the Public Utility Commission," said Sen. Brandon Creighton, R. "So I would contend that it's not a problem with authority. I would contend that you are choosing not to leverage the authority we've given you. And that's a serious, serious problem."
Walker's resignation follows the resignation of seven members of ERCOT's board over the course of several weeks, and Walker called for other parties to take responsibility as well.
"The interests of many people and companies contributed to the situation we faced in the devastating storm," she wrote in her letter of resignation to the governor. "I testified last Thursday in the Senate and House and accepted my role in the situation. I believe others should come forward in dignity and courage and acknowledge how their actions or inactions contributed to the situation. … Despite the treatment I received from some legislators, I am proud that I spoke the truth."