Four ERCOT board members, including the chairwoman and vice chairman, submitted their resignation Tuesday in the wake of the winter storm that left millions of Texas residents without electricity for days, citing "concerns about out-of-state leadership," a Texas Public Utility Commission docket shows.
Chairwoman Sally Talberg, Vice Chair Peter Cramton, Terry Bulger and Raymond Hepper submitted their resignations effective Wednesday -- one day before state lawmakers are scheduled to begin hearings into the power grid collapse.
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Bulger is the chair of ERCOT's finance and audit committee and Hepper chairs the human resources and governance committee.
The four officials are resigning after ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, came under scrutiny for having board members who do not live in the state, according to a letter to the board of directors.
Talberg lives in Michigan and Bulger in Illinois. Cramton's and Hepper's states of residence are not listed on their ERCOT biography pages.
"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 says. "We want what is best for ERCOT and Texas."
In the letter, the four resigning board members also thanked ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness.
NBC 5 Investigates tried to reach Talberg last week. She did not return the call. An ERCOT spokesperson also said that no board members would be available for interviews because their priority was restoring power at that time.
A fifth person, Craig S. Ivey, whose application was intended to fill a vacant position on the board, has withdrawn from consideration after noting that he too lives out of state.
"In order to avoid becoming a distraction, I'm requesting that ERCOT withdraw my petition for approval to serve as an Unaffiliated Director (sic). The response to recent events will require the full attention of leaders in the state and at ERCOT," Ivey wrote.
At the beginning of the year, ERCOT's board had 15 directors, including four unaffiliated directors, according to the docket. Ivey's application was to fill a fifth, vacant spot among the unaffiliated directors.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) released the following statement Tuesday in response to the board members' 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. 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.”
U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) also weighed in on the developments, adding that he did not think Abbott was absolved from the situation.
ERCOT, which is subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature, was founded in 1970 as an independent, nonprofit responsible for overseeing Texas' power grid, a network of nearly 47,000 miles of transmission lines and substations that carry electricity to utility companies for distribution. Texas' grid, under optimum conditions, has 82,000 megawatts of generation capacity and delivers 90% of the electricity used in the state by more than 26 million consumers.
Though Texas runs its own grid, it does share connections to the eastern grid and Mexican grid that allow for small transfers of power back and forth. ERCOT was bringing in roughly 600 megawatts of power from the Midwest on Tuesday until a power emergency there cut off that supply.
Wednesday's urgent board meeting comes one day prior to a hearing at the State Capitol, where legislators will make the first public inquiries of ERCOT regarding the failure of the state's power grid.
The committee leading the inquiry is asking for public comments to help convey the scope and seriousness of the widespread power outages. People can add their stories, concerns, and comments here.
This is a developing story and will be updated.