Sunday, February 28, 2021
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Mother whose 11yo son died in Texas freeze sues Electric Reliability Council of Texas and Entergy Corp for $126 million

Mother whose 11yo son died in Texas freeze sues Electric Reliability Council of Texas and Entergy Corp for $126 million
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The mother of an 11-year-old boy who died after they lost electricity and heat in their Texas mobile home during last week’s freeze has filed a $US100 million ($126 million) lawsuit against two power companies for gross negligence.

It came as more than eight million people continued to have issues with their water supply following the winter storm, which resulted in record-breaking low temperatures.

Four million lost power and at least 24 people died in the snowstorm.

Maria Pineda said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and Entergy Corp are responsible for the death of her son Cristian Pavon Pineda, who was found unresponsive on the morning of February 16 at home, where he shared a bed with his three-year-old brother.

The complaint filed on Saturday local time accused the defendants of ignoring a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recommendation following similar conditions in 2011 to “winterise” the power grid, and were caught “wholly unprepared” when the grid failed last week.

Cristian froze to death “because [the] grid wasn’t a priority, and the energy provider made decisions based on profits”, said the complaint filed in the Jefferson County District Court.

The family lives in Conroe, Texas, a Houston suburb.

ERCOT, a cooperative responsible for about 90 per cent of the electricity in Texas, said it would respond “accordingly” after reviewing the lawsuit.

Entergy declined to discuss the lawsuit, but a spokesman said it was “deeply saddened by the loss of life”.

Sparse traffic on a Texas highway covered in snow.
An autopsy is being performed on 11-year-old Cristian, who died during a period of freezing weather and the collapse of the power grid in Texas.(AP: Brett Coomer)

Ms Pineda’s lawyer Tony Buzbee told the American ABC News he represents seven families who suffered deaths in the storm’s aftermath, and more lawsuits against power companies were planned.

An autopsy on Cristian is being performed, the media organisation said.

ERCOT began rolling blackouts on February 15, saying they were needed to avert a cascading, statewide outage.

“We are confident that our grid operators made the right choice,” ERCOT said on Monday, local time.

President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Texas on Saturday.

Texas has an unusual, deregulated energy market that lets it avoid federal regulation but limits its ability to draw emergency power from other grids.

Texans told to boil water

Millions of Texans have been advised to boil water before using it, even as power has been restored to most homes.

Officials in Houston, the biggest city in the state, said water there was safe to use without boiling as of Sunday.

However ‘boil water notices’ have been issued across 202 counties.

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“As of 6pm Central Time Monday, more than 1,200 public water systems have reported disruptions in service due to the weather, many of them leading to boil water notices,” a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality spokesman said in a statement.

“A total of 147 PWSs [public water systems] serving a population of more than 33,000 people are non-operational.

“In addition, 4 PWSs wastewater treatment facilities have reported as non-operational.”

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he had joined the Texas Air Guard, the Texas National Guard and the US military to distribute water.

“About 3.5 million bottles of water have been delivered”, the governor said in a tweet.

Texas is also bringing in plumbers from out of state to help repair burst pipes, the governor said on Sunday.

Homeowners or renters who do not have insurance may be able to seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he said.

Reuters



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