Perry Hopes Obama Stays "True to His Word" on West

After learning that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would not provide additional money to help the town of West recover from a devastating fertilizer plant explosion, Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that he hopes President Obama will stay "true to his word" to help the town's residents recover.

FEMA, which provided millions of dollars in aid after the April plant blast that killed 15 people and destroyed several buildings, rejected the state's aid request on the basis that the explosion was “not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration,” according to a letter from the agency obtained by The Associated Press.

“FEMA considers a number of factors in assessing a request for a major disaster declaration, including insurance coverage,” FEMA spokesman Dan Watson wrote in an email to the Tribune. “FEMA considers the amount of insurance coverage that is in force at the time of the disaster and reduces the amount of anticipated assistance by that amount. FEMA, by law, cannot duplicate benefits provided by insurance companies or other federal agencies.”

In a news release, Perry said: “The day of the West memorial service, President Obama stood in front of a grieving community and told them they would not be forgotten. 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,” he added.

Attorney General Greg Abbott had harsher words for the president, saying Obama "has turned his back on Texas and gone against his word."

In a news release, Abbott said Obama "has yet again promised one thing and then not delivered.” He added that "once the cameras have stopped rolling, President Obama's FEMA has denied our state and our neighbors the necessary opportunities to rebuild critical infrastructure in the town."

The state has 30 days from June 10 to decide whether to appeal the decision, said Perry spokesman Josh Havens. In the meantime, the state plans to work with the West community, the state emergency management team and the regional FEMA office in Denton to “figure out and reassess what information we can provide that we haven’t provided already that could change D.C.’s mind,” Havens said.

The state is currently assisting West with “structure needs,” such as roads and water system damage, he added.

FEMA has provided more than $7 million in grants and loans to individuals and families in West since the disaster, and the agency is covering 75 percent of the state’s spending on debris removal and “emergency protective measures,” Watson wrote in his email.

But West Mayor Tommy Muska told The Dallas Morning News that additional money would be needed to cover $57 million in damages, including $40 million to rebuild a school.

Perry's office corresponded with Muska Wednesday, Havens wrote in an email to the Tribune. He did not offer details on the conversation.

Havens said he was not sure what the state would do if FEMA's decision was not overturned. But the state does not plan to “leave [West residents] out to dry,” he said. 

“At the end of the day, Texans are going to take care of Texans,” Havens said.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.