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Public Utility Commission chair resigns after failing to take ownership of Texas power outages

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COURTESY PHOTO / PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION OF TEXAS
  • Courtesy Photo / Public Utility Commission of Texas
DeAnn Walker, who chairs the Public Utility Commission of Texas, has resigned in the wake of statewide blackouts that left millions without power during a devastating winter storm, according to media reports.

The three-member commission, appointed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, has faced fiery criticism from both sides of the aisle over its handling of the power crisis which reportedly brought the state's power grid minutes from complete collapse.

The PUC's duties include overseeing the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the grid. However, during testimony before the Texas Legislature last week, Walker stoked outrage by saying her agency bore little responsibility for the power failures.

Politicos applauded Walker's resignation, with State Rep. Rafael Anchía, D-Dallas, telling the Texas Tribune that “Texans still await her apology.”

However, critics of the state's largely hands-off approach to power generation — the result of a 1999 deregulation bill the Lege approved with bipartisan support — said her departure doesn't solve the fundamental problems that led to last month's power crisis.

"Chairman Walker needed to go, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that her departure changes anything about the fundamental problems that led to the blackouts," said Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas.

"Electric and gas companies ran roughshod over Texas consumers during the blackouts, and we're just going to keep repeating history if the governor and legislature don't finally have the guts to stand up to the powerful, fix our broken electric system and build a cleaner and more resilient grid."

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