Greg Abbott

Texas PUC Chairman Resigns After Winter Storm Energy Crisis Knocks Out Power to Millions for Days

Chairman says she is proud she spoke the truth at hearings at the State Capitol last week

DeAnn Walker
NBC 5 News

In a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday, DeAnn Walker resigned as the Chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas and is calling on others to come forward and accept their role in last month's energy crisis that occurred amid a winter storm that knocked out power to millions in dayslong subfreezing temperatures.

"Effective immediately, I resign as the Chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas. I believe it is in the best interest of this Great State of Texas," Walker wrote.

The winter storm battered Texas' deregulated power generators, both renewable and thermal, knocking 48.6% of them offline and plunging millions of Texans into the dark. ERCOT, the nonprofit that oversees the Texas grid, claimed the controlled outages, which lasted for more than 70 hours in subfreezing temperatures that dropped to near zero degrees, were necessary to avert an even more catastrophic failure that would have wiped out power to most of the state’s 30 million residents for weeks or maybe even months. At least 40 people in Texas died as a result of the storm, and 10 days after the blackout started, more than 1 million people in the state were still under boil-water notices.

After receiving Walker's resignation, the governor's office issued the following statement.

"The governor thanks Chairman Walker for her years of service to the State of Texas. Our focus is to continue working collaboratively with the Legislature on reforms to our power system and look forward to passing lasting and meaningful solutions to ensure these tragic events are never repeated."

Walker testified last week before both the state Senate and House where she said she accepted her role in the situation.

In her resignation letter Monday, Walker called on others to do the same and said the events that led to the energy crisis were not caused by any one individual or group and that many are responsible for the hardships endured by Texans while the power was out.

"I believe others should come forward in dignity and courage and acknowledge how their actions or inactions contributed to the situation," Walker wrote.

"The gas companies, the Railroad Commission, the electric generators, the transmission and distribution utilities, the electric cooperatives, the municipally-owned utilities, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and finally the Legislature all had a responsibility to foresee what could have happened and failed to take the necessary steps for the past 10 years to address issues that each of them could have addressed," Walker wrote.

Walker said that despite the treatment she received from some legislators during last week's hearings, she was proud that she "spoke the truth."

"I know that I acted with the best of intentions and used my best judgment on how to respond once the crisis was upon us, as well as to the days that led to the crisis," Walker said. "With devoted faith, I know that God will take care of me during these difficult times."

Last week five ERCOT board members, including the chairman and vice-chairman, resigned following the crisis. Abbott said at the time, "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."

On Monday morning, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called for Walker's resignation and that of ERCOT CEO Bill Magness saying neither was prepared to deal with the storm that hit and that their projections didn't consider that the freeze could shut down electricity-generating power plants or that crews would not be able to make emergency repairs because roads would be impassable.

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