(Reuters) – Top executives of the Texas power grid operator, who faced sharp criticism from a massive failure in the state power system that left millions last week without light, heat and water, resigned on Tuesday.
The chairman of the board, vice chairman, three board members and one board member of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), who all live outside Texas, resigned as of Wednesday, according to a statement to the State Public Utility Commission.
The departures were revealed the same day ERCOT was hit by a proposed class action lawsuit in a Texas court by customers claiming to have lost power and drinking water because they failed to ensure that the network could function properly despite the bad weather.
There have been dozens of deaths linked to the severe cold, and the state has launched investigations into what caused power generators and electrical transmission systems to shut down. Municipal power suppliers and marketers find it difficult to pay for costs. Retail marketer Just Energy issued a warning about continued operations due to price increases.
The Government of Texas, Greg Abbott, welcomed the departures, noting that ERCOT had assured that it had sufficient power before the storm. The state investigation will "reveal the whole picture of what went wrong" and ensure that it is not repeated, he said in a statement.
"Ultimately, legislators are responsible for not creating a system where more reliable energy was available," he said. “The failures that occurred were free market failures. We may need regulation to put some railings on it.
Four directors resigned to give heads of state a free hand with a future focus and to eliminate distractions, according to a joint letter signed by President Sally Talberg, Vice President Peter Cramton and directors Terry Bulger and Raymond Hepper.
"Our hearts go out to all Texans who have to go without electricity, heat and water under cold temperatures and continue to face the tragic consequences of this emergency," they added.
A fifth ERCOT Director, Vanessa Anesetti-Parra, resigned separately. She is the CEO of Just Energy in Canada.
Craig Ivey, former president of the consolidated Edison Co. in New York, who was nominated to fill a vacancy as of February 1
A spokesman for the Public Utility Commission in Texas declined to comment on the resignations or when the regulator would try to appoint new members. PUC appoints the ERCOT board with 15 members.
Separately, about 3.4 million people in Texas in 204 counties still had problems with their water supply as of Tuesday night, compared to more than 7.9 million people a day earlier, a spokesman for said Texas Commission on Environmental Quality ( TCEQ).