FEMA Denies Texas Aid Bid to Rebuild After Fertilizer Blast

By Jim Snyder and Darrell Preston | June 13, 2013

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it won’t provide U.S. aid to help rebuild the town in Texas where an April fertilizer plant explosion killed 15 people and leveled nearby buildings.

In a June 10 letter to Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, FEMA’s administrator said that while the agency had made payments to individuals affected by the blast, a major disaster declaration wasn’t necessary.

“Based on our review of all the information available, it has been determined that the remaining cost for permanent work is within the capabilities of the state and affected local governments,” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate wrote.

Texas can appeal the decision within 30 days.

The blast at Adair Grain Inc.’s fertilizer plant in West, Texas, wrecked two schools, a nursing home and an apartment building within blocks of the facility.Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion

It also generated a debate over the adequacy of chemical plant safety regulations.

“The day of the West memorial service, President Obama stood in front of a grieving community and told them they would not be forgotten,” Perry said today in a statement. “He said his administration would stand with them, ready to help. We anticipate the president will hold true to his word and help us work with FEMA to ensure much-needed assistance reaches the community of West.”

$7 Million

West, Texas, Mayor Tommy Muska didn’t immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.

Dan Watson, a FEMA spokesman, said FEMA and the Small Business Administration provided more than $7 million in grants and low-interest loans to individuals and families disrupted by the explosion. The U.S. has also covered about 75 percent of the state’s cost for debris removal and emergency protective measures, Watson said in an e-mail, which didn’t list the total spent so far on federal aid to the community south of Waco.

Republican Representative Bill Flores, whose district includes West, said the needs of the town met the threshold for a disaster declaration and Texas should appeal FEMA’s decision.

Flores said West may need an additional $30 million in federal funds to cover the $40 million required to rebuild.

Moody’s Investors Service said June 4 that it placed the West Independent School District’s bond rating under review for possible downgrade in part over “uncertainty regarding the amount of state and federal assistance for recovery and rebuilding efforts.”

(With assistance from David Mildenberg in Austin. Editors: Steve Geimann, Jon Morgan)

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