ERCOT faces class-action lawsuit, resignations in wake of Texas power outages

“Despite multiple clear warnings, ERCOT’s alleged failure to ensure reliable generating capacity under the expected conditions forced many of its customers to endure dangerous freezing temperatures for long periods,” lawyers Mike Morgan and Rene Rocha said in a statement Tuesday. “It was not the first time that ERCOT failed to plan and prepare for cold weather. Instead of learning from past mistakes, ERCOT once again disregarded its obligations to its customers. Over 70 people died and millions of others have suffered emotional and physical trauma due to the alleged gross negligence of ERCOT. “

ABC News asked ERCOT for a comment.

PHOTO: Vehicles stand still on Interstate Highway 35 southbound on February 18, 2021 in Killeen, Texas after a historic cold explosion.

After a historic cold explosion, vehicles on Interstate Highway 35 stand still in a southerly direction on February 18, 2021 in Killeen, Texas.

The lawsuit was filed in Harris County, Texas, on behalf of an alleged class that includes all of ERCOT’s current retail customers – millions of Texans – “who lost electricity or drinking water in the week of February 14”. 2021 as a result of ERCOT’s failure to ensure sufficient generation capacity, “the complaint said.

ERCOT, which manages the flow of electricity to more than 26 million customers in Texas and accounts for 90% of the state’s electrical load, was reportedly warned as early as February 9 that an impending winter storm could threaten the integrity of its electricity grid if the complaint was made no adequate action taken. Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, who was critical of ERCOT after the storm, issued a disaster statement in all 254 counties on February 12 prior to the storm, in which the lawsuit said “should have further emphasized the need for ERCOT.” Take appropriate measures to ensure system performance under the expected conditions. “

The storm moved into Texas on February 14th and covered the Lone Star State with snow and ice. During a press conference last Thursday, Bill Magness, President and CEO of ERCOT, admitted that the Texas power grid was “seconds or minutes” away from a complete and catastrophic outage as electricity demand increased and the generators opened the night that the storm struck, failed. By the morning of February 14th, more than 4.4 million customers in Texas were without power, according to PowerOutage.US.

PHOTO: A sign states that a Fiesta Mart is closed due to a power outage in Austin, Texas on February 17, 2021.

A sign states that a Fiesta Mart is closed due to a power outage in Austin, Texas on February 17, 2021.

The prolonged blackouts combined with record temperatures caused freeze pipes to burst across the state, depleting water reserves. Millions of people were also under boiling water advice on concerns about possible contamination as water treatment plants suffered from power outages.

According to the complaint, Mariaelena Sanchez, the plaintiff named in the lawsuit, was one of those who had lost electricity and drinking water for “several days” because ERCOT allegedly had not planned and prepared the freezing system. Sanchez was forced to “huddle under blankets in her dark and ice-cold house, rationing scarce supplies of bottled water. During this time, Sanchez had to use snow to” preserve “the little food she had that was not by her.” Failures was spoiled “The Complaint.

The lawsuit alleged that the “total state energy demand during the event in cold weather peaked at around 69,000 megawatts – significantly less than the total capacity of the ERCOT system or the typical peak demands in summer”. ERCOT allegedly failed to “reserve enough capacity to meet such foreseeable requirements” and “assess the integrity of its infrastructure, the environmental limitations of its power sources and the impact of abnormally cold weather on the availability of its power sources” on the complaint.

PHOTO: Sid Snow, 72, stays at the Salvation Army facility after winter weather caused power outages in Plano, Texas on February 18, 2021.

Sid Snow, 72, is staying at the Salvation Army facility after winter weather caused power outages in Plano, Texas on February 18, 2021. After traveling four hours to visit his son in North Texas, he lost the hotel to seek refuge with the Salvation Army for several nights.

Although winter storms are not as common in Texas as elsewhere in the United States, the complaint noted that the state has witnessed a number of cold weather events over the past few decades. The lawsuit alleged that “ERCOT has repeatedly disregarded its responsibilities over the years” to plan and prepare for the impact of cold weather on its power grid. The complaint cited winter storms in 1989 and 2011 that resulted in failure of the ERCOT systems and widespread power outages and human suffering.

The lawsuit is seeking legal action and seeking class certification, injunctive relief, damages and legal costs for the named plaintiff as well as any other class members proposed in the complaint.

This is not the only lawsuit that ERCOT has made after the historic cold snap. The family of an 11-year-old boy who was killed last week during the power outages in Conroe, about 40 miles north of Houston, filed a $ 100 million lawsuit against ERCOT and Entergy Texas, a company for power generation and distribution.

PHOTO: Power lines in Houston on Feb. 16, 2021.

Power lines in Houston on February 16, 2021.

Meanwhile, ERCOT’s top board members announced Tuesday that they would be stepping down amid outrage over the company’s management of the storm. Four board members, including the chairman and vice-chairman, have submitted their resignations, which will take effect on Wednesday. One candidate for a position as a board member also said he would withdraw his name from the exam. All five live outside of Texas, which only stepped up ERCOT’s review.

In a letter to ERCOT board members on Tuesday, the four outgoing leaders pointed out “recent concerns about non-governmental board leadership”.

“We want to acknowledge the pain and suffering of the Texans over the past week,” they wrote. “Our hearts go out to all Texans who had to do without electricity, heat and water in freezing temperatures and are still exposed to the tragic consequences of this emergency.”

In a separate letter to the Texas Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT, the board nominee said he was calling for his name to be withdrawn “so as not to be distracted,” citing concerns about the adequacy of out-of-state directors . “

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