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Central Texas experienced historic winter weather the week of Feb. 14, with a stretch of days below freezing. Sleet followed snow followed freezing rain, leading to a breakdown of the electric grid and widespread power outages. Water reservoirs were depleted and frozen pipes burst, leaving some without service for days.

An ERCOT Veteran Returned To Help After The Blackouts. He Stayed Only A Couple Weeks.

The control room at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in Taylor.
Julia Reihs
The control room at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in Taylor. ERCOT manages the electric grid for 24 million Texans.

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A past CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas who was brought back after February's blackouts to help restore public trust in the institution ended up staying only “a couple of weeks."

ERCOT, which manages Texas' electric grid, was a prime target of blame for the deadly catastrophe. In the fallout, board members resigned in groups, some even reportedly receiving death threats.

It was in that context that ERCOT announced Bob Kahn’s return to service. Kahn was ERCOT's CEO from 2007 to 2009 and said he was coming back to get to the bottom of the blackouts.

"My goal is not to place blame on anyone," he told the Austin American-Statesman in March. "My goal is to find out what plants ran, what didn't run, and why they didn't run.”

But his departure that same month shows just how difficult the task has become, as electric consumers, generators, fuel suppliers and regulators each blame one another for the power failure and the financial devastation it wrought.

Kahn says the reason for his departure was a potential conflict of interest stemming from a lawsuit filed by the City of Denton against the ERCOT board. The city sued after ERCOT sent it a bill for millions of dollars in charges relating to the blackout.

The Texas Municipal Power Agency, where Kahn is CEO, serves the City of Denton.

“So, basically, my bosses sued me,” Kahn told KUT with a chuckle. “It was just such an awkward situation that after talking to ERCOT council and my council lawyer, I decided the right thing to do is to just get off the board.”

Kahn, who had been serving as a representative of municipally owned utilities, said he still hopes to lend his experience to helping the state recover. “But I won't be able to in that capacity as an ERCOT board member."

On April 1, Tom Hancock, the assistant managing director of Garland Power and Light, was elected to fill the seat Kahn left vacant.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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