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Members of Texas energy council receive threats during blackouts in winter storm

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT — which oversees about 90 percent of Texas’ energy production — removed its board of directors’ names from its website in the wake of threats against them as blackouts paralyzed the state.

Millions of Texans were left without power, some for days, as rare winter storms rolled through the state and overwhelmed its grid.

The increased demand forced ERCOT to shut off power to swaths of the state to avoid a longer blackout that would not have been controlled and would have taken weeks, not days, to recover from, ERCOT officials said Thursday. ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said that the system was possibly minutes from failure had operators not cut the power voluntarily.

But customers struggling to stay warm in their homes said on social media that the controlled “rolling” blackouts did not roll at all, lasting for days.

On Wednesday, ERCOT stripped the board of directors’ names from its website. Names were replaced with the word “vacant” and an apparent link to the page on the website was also removed. Internet archives show the page used to list at least two dozen names.

In response to a question from NBC News as to why the page and names were removed, Magness said the ERCOT board of directors had been receiving “harassing communications and threats.”

“We were very considerate about both employee and board member safety because of the things that we have been receiving,” Magness said.

But “after reflection, after we did that, we figured that info ought to be up there.” The names should be replaced by next week, confirmed ERCOT’s communication manager Leslie Sopko.

The number of customers without power decreased from 1.8 million to about 511,000 between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, according to the tracking website poweroutage.us.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called for an investigation of ERCOT, a nonprofit council, over the outages, which began Monday.

“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

When asked Wednesday by ABC13 if ERCOT leaders should resign, Abbott responded, “Yes.”

Magness said leadership “will be part of the review that comes after we get the number one priority of getting people’s lights back on.”

“The composition of our board is defined in (state) statute, and if the legislature thinks that needs to change … that’s certainly something we’ll follow,” he said.

When asked if he would give a grade to ERCOT’s response this week, Magness said he couldn’t do so yet but would give a “good grade” to the operators who chose to cut the power rather than let the system fail.

He added that ERCOT measures power generation needs based on the worst winter to date, which was 2011, but those assessments will have to be revisited and revised because “this one changes the game.”

Source:

www.nbcnews.com

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