One of the board members who tendered their resignations Wednesday with the troubled electric grid operator for much of Texas is a retired utility executive who served in top management roles at Central Maine Power, including general counsel, dating to 1989.

Beginning in 2007, Raymond Hepper also worked at ISO New England, the regional electric grid operator, where he was general counsel until 2018. Hepper currently is a board member of the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Hepper is one of five board members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas who resigned Wednesday, all of whom live outside the state.

But any responsibility for the events in Texas would be hard to attribute to Hepper’s actions, said David Flanagan, CMP’s executive chairman. Hepper had served on the board for fewer than two months, he said.

Flanagan said he spoke with Hepper last weekend, at which time Hepper discussed what he saw as the grid debacle’s root causes: Lack of interconnections between Texas and other grids, inadequate winterization of natural gas and other power plant equipment, and inadequate backup power requirements.

“It’s really a shame,” Flanagan said. “I understand the politics. You have a disaster and you want to blame someone. But Ray shouldn’t get the blame.”

Hepper, who lives in Belgrade, didn’t return a phone call from the Press Herald. A person who answered the phone at his home number said he wasn’t available.

ERCOT, as it’s known, is the entity that manages and operates the electricity grid that covers much of Texas. ERCOT has come under fire in the wake of the massive power outages that struck Texas following a freak winter storm last week that brought sub-freezing temperatures to areas unprepared for them.

News that some of the agency’s members lived outside Texas drew criticism from the state’s politicians, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who called on the board members to resign and promised an investigation.

“I welcome the resignations,” Abbott told the Texas Tribune. “The lack of preparedness and transparency at ERCOT is unacceptable. We will ensure that the disastrous events of last week are never repeated.”

Abbott, a Republican, falsely blamed failed wind and solar farms for the outages immediately after the blackouts began. But the finger-pointing has most recently turned to ERCOT, which operates a transmission system that’s not connected to other state or regional electric grids, as is the case in New England and elsewhere.

In a resignation letter dated Wednesday, Hepper and the other out-of-state board members said they were resigning to eliminate distraction and to give state leaders a free hand with the utility’s future direction.

“Before we step aside, we are beginning the process of reviewing this extreme cold weather event and resulting power crisis,” they wrote. “With the right follow-through, Texas can lead the nation in investing in infrastructure and emergency preparedness to withstand the effects of severe weather events – whether in the form of flooding, drought, extreme temperatures or hurricanes. We want what is best for ERCOT and Texas.”

Hepper served as chair of ERCOT’s human resources and governance committee. It’s not clear how or if he was compensated for his service. ERCOT’s most recent publicly available tax information – from 2018 – shows most members were not paid, although those that were earned between $65,000 and $100,000. Most of the 15 board members reported working about five hours a week for ERCOT, although some worked more than that and others worked less.

According to his bio on ERCOT’s website, Hepper retired in 2018 as vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for ISO New England, which plans and operates the six-state New England electric system and wholesale markets. From 1989 to 2000, he worked at CMP in a variety of roles, starting as tax counsel and ultimately serving as general counsel and managing director of legal and regulatory affairs.

The other members who resigned following the board’s meeting Wednesday are Sally Talberg, board chair; Peter Cramton, vice chair, and Terry Bulger, finance and audit chair.

The director for the independent retail electric provider market segment, Vanessa Anesetti-Parra, also resigned as a board member.

ERCOT is a nonprofit entity governed by a board of directors, but is overseen by the Texas Public Utility Commission.

Flanagan said that rather than vilifying utility executives who live outside Texas, the state should have recruited more people like Hepper.

“If Texas was smart,” Flanagan said, “they’d get more people from out of state who have deep experience.”


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