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ERCoT, AEP-Texas issue statements in response to local winter-storm lawsuit

Winter Storm damage cimarron estates 0222.png
Posted at 4:20 PM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 20:07:31-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Both the Electric Reliability Council of Texas -- better known as ERCoT -- and AEP-Texas issed statements Monday responding to a lawsuit citing the companies were negligent in their handling of last week's winter storm.

"We are unable to comment on any specific cases," said ERCoT Communications Manager Leslie Sopko in response to KRIS 6 News' inquiry, but called last week's events a "tragedy."

AEP-Texas Corporate Communications Manager Omar Lopez also said his company currently will not be reacting to the lawsuit.

"Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on any ongoing or pending litigation," he said in a text message.

Corpus Christi resident Donald McCarley filed the lawsuit in Nueces County on Friday, alleging negligence on the defendants' part on multiple fronts: that it failed to supply the required amount of energy needed to successfully navigate the winter storm, and that AEP and AEP-Texas' "outdated" equipment failed, depriving Texans of 45,000 megawatts of energy.

McCarley's attorney Mikal Watts said the case's objective is simple.

"We're looking to make the plaintiffs whole," he said in an interview with KRIS 6 News. "To recover the damages that were sustained through no fault of their own."

They are seeking unspecified damages, saying that ERCoT's rolling blackouts caused damage to McCarley's house, and that the company knew the rolling blackouts would have such an effect on its customers' property.

Watts and McCarley said the deregulated nature of the power companies allowed them to intentionally ignore the advice of state legislative investigations in the suit, and that refusal to properly winterize their equipment is why McCarley and others currently are left with a mess on their hands.

"It was inevitable that what happened would happen," Watts said. "It's really as simple as that -- they chose to save money, they refused to winterize their equipment and Texans are the victims."

Watts said McCarley is just one of many people who suffered damage on several fronts: He did not have electricity from Feb. 14 through Thursday, and a broken pipe flooded his house, forcing him to sleep in his car on Monday.

Unable to find anyone to fix the broken pipe, McCarley was forced to stay with friends who also did not have power -- a story Watt said is one being heard regularly as a result of how the companies chose to handle power distribution during the storm.

"Primarily the cases we're seeing over and over and over again," he said.

Watt said the lawsuit aims to hold those responsible for the damage to his client accountable.

"It wouldn't be fair for Mr. McCarley to have to pay for all this damage that he didn't cause or his insurance company to pay for the damage that he didn't cause," he said. "And there's a company like American Electrical Power that made decisions that caused the flooding of his home."

In the statement, Sopko said ERCoT hasn't read the full lawsuit, but stands by how it handled last week's power outages.

"Because approximately 46 percent 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," the statement reads.

This is a developing story. Check back with KRIS 6 News for updates.