Obama administration reverses course, approves aid for Texas plant blast

Posted Friday, Aug. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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President Barack Obama today overruled the Federal Emergency Management Administration and signed a declaration that a “major disaster” exists in Texas because of the fertilizer plan explosion in West that killed 15 people.

“The president today declared a major disaster exists in the state of Texas and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by an explosion during the period of April 17-20, 2013,” said the White House release.

Although details were not available this morning, Texas Gov. Rick Perry had appealed FEMA’s June denial of additional funding and requested more than $35 million in assistance.

According to the White House release, “federal funding is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the explosion in McLennan County.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.”

Texas officials welcomed the announcement.

“The approval of the state's appeal for a major disaster declaration is great and welcome news for the people of West. I appreciate everyone who joined me in standing with the people whose lives have been forever impacted to move this appeal forward, especially our congressional delegation,” Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement.

“This, along with the disaster relief funding provided by the Texas Legislature, will help this community rebuild their infrastructure, school district and public works as quickly as possible,” Perry added.

Like Perry, the congressman who represents West, U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, doesn’t often have a lot of positive things to say about Obama, but today is different.

“While I often disagree with President Obama on many issues, I applaud this decision to support this Central Texas community’s efforts to rebuild and to recover,” Flores said in a prepared statement.

“... This federal funding, coupled with the financial commitment from the state of Texas, will help West rebuild even stronger than before,” Flores said. “We wish Godspeed to the community as they rebuild and we remain committed to help them in every way possible.”

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, represents the area just miles from where the explosion occurred.

“We need all the help down there that we can get,” he said. “This was such a tragedy.”

But he said the spirit of those who live in West remains awe-inspiring.

“They represent what this country and Texas is all about — the can-do spirit and making things better than they were,” Williams said.

State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, took to social media to express his gratitude, tweeting, “Thanks to ALL who joined us in this effort!”

Staff writers Anna M. Tinsley and John Gravois contributed to this report.

Maria Recio 202-383-6103 mrecio@mcclatchydc.com Twitter: maria_e_recio

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