Texas Blackouts Spark First Lawsuit; AG Vows Probe

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Feb 20, 2021 - 08:00 PM

A Corpus Christi man has accused the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the state's primary electric grid, of ignoring repeated warnings that the state's electric power infrastructure had weaknesses, according to a new lawsuit. In a statement by the Dallas law firm which filed the suit, ERCOT and American Electric Power utility are also accused of causing property damage and business interruptions as last week's cold snap shattered water pipes and caused widespread power outages to millions of Texans, according to NBCDFW.

Power lines in Houston (photo: David J. Phillip/AP)

"This cold weather event and its effects on the Texas energy grid were neither unprecedented, nor unexpected, nor unforeseen," states the lawsuit, filed by Donald McCarley. "In fact, similar cold weather events in 1989 and 2011 led to exactly the same type of rolling blackouts that have affected and continue to affect Texas residents and businesses." The lawsuit also cites a clause in the Texas Constitution which holds that "no person’s property shall be taken, damaged or destroyed for or applied to public use without adequate compensation being made."

"The rolling blackouts ordered by Defendant ERCOT took, damaged, or destroyed Plaintiff’s property without adequate compensation," the suit claims.

The lawsuit filed Friday in a Nueces County court at law in Corpus Christi alleges the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, manager of the state's main electric grid, ignored repeated warnings of weaknesses in the state's electric power infrastructure. -NBCDFW

"The resulting widespread property damage from blackouts was caused by their negligence and gross negligence. In addition, the disruptions rendered private property unusable and amounted to an illegal `taking' of private property by the government," the law firm said in a statement.

The lawsuit also claims that utility companies should have winterized their plants and increased generation to meet skyrocketing demand, "but consciously chose not to do so." Of course, frozen wind turbines in the middle of Texas may fall in the 'unforseen' category.

Temporary outages began occurring last week and in the days and hours before the storm actually hit as temperatures across Texas began plummeting well below freezing. AEP Texas has not yet commented about the litigation but did post a series of tweets beginning Feb. 10 and continuing through the emergency offering winter storm preparation tips and urging energy conservation.

ERCOT held numerous news briefings throughout the emergency to explain that the outages, intended to be temporary with power switching off and on for affected customers, were needed to prevent a catastrophic collapse of grid. Several giant generators tripped off line late Sunday and early Monday as demand for power spiked. -Caller Times

Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued civil investigative demands to ERCOT, and says he'll get "to the bottom of this power failure."

According to the report, the investigation will address power outages, emergency planning, energy pricing and other issues related to the winter storm.

"The large-scale failure of Texas power companies to withstand the winter storm left multiple millions of Texans without power and heat during lethal, record-low temperatures across the state," Paxton's office said in a statement.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called on ERCOT leadership to resign, and has vowed to reform the way the Texas grid operates.

ERCOT says it's reviewing the lawsuit and would not comment on specific allegations.

"Our thoughts are with all Texans who have and are suffering due to this past week," said spokesperson Leslie Sopko in a statement. "However, 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."