President and CEO of ERCOT, Which Controls Texas’ Power Grids, Fired After Deadly Storm Outages
In the wake of a deadly winter storm that knocked out power for millions of Texans, ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness has reportedly been fired, according to multiple reports.
In an emergency meeting Wednesday night, the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) board of directors voted in favor of a "60-day termination notice," according to the Texas Tribune.
The move comes amid heavy criticism from legislators and the public that ERCOT — a nonprofit that operates 90 percent of the state's electric load — did not properly plan for or warn Texans about an unprecedented winter storm that wound up killing at least 47 state residents, according to CNN.
Magness' termination follows the resignation of seven ERCOT board members, and calls from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for Magness' resignation, the Tribune reported.
Last week, Magness was questioned for more than five hours by state senators, and defended the way ERCOT dealt with the power outages, arguing that the "suffering we saw last week would be compounded" and Texans would have lost power for weeks had operators not acted as they did, according to the outlet.
Unlike the rest of the country, Texas runs its own separate power grid, and ERCOT controls that power for 26 million customers, or about 90 percent of Texans, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Because it does not cross state lines, ERCOT is not subject to federal regulations — so when a major 2011 storm prompted federal regulators to set standards for "winterizing" systems, ERCOT did not have to comply.
Though ERCOT official Dan Woodfin told the Associated Press that plants were upgraded after 2011, ERCOT has faced immense criticism for failing to prepare for extreme weather like what was seen in late February.
In a lawsuit filed late last month by the family of an 11-year-old boy who died of suspected hypothermia due to the outages, ERCOT was accused of failing to update its grids and of failing to properly alert Texans as to just how long they'd be without power.
"Rather than invest in infrastructure to prepare for the known winter storms that would most certainly come and potentially leave people vulnerable without power, the providers instead chose to put profits over the welfare of people, and ERCOT allowed them to do so," the suit alleged.
"I think the power providers were not truthful to us," family attorney Tony Buzbee previously told PEOPLE. "It wasn't a rolling blackout. It was a full-on blackout, and they didn't tell us that. And a lot of the people I represent probably could have done a better job of protecting themselves had they known that this was going to be a true situation where it's going to be three or four days of no power versus six hours of no power."
When the lawsuit was filed, an ERCOT spokesperson said in a statement to PEOPLE, "This is a tragedy. Our thoughts are with all Texans who have and are suffering due to this past week. Because approximately 46% of privately-owned generation tripped offline this past Monday morning, we are confident that our grid operators made the right choice to avoid a statewide blackout."
A spokesperson did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment on Magness' departure.
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