To say that the town of West has had a rough time is pretty much the understatement of the year. Since a fertilizer plant exploded, killing 15 people and leaving half the town looking like it had been wiped out by a nuclear bomb, the people of West have been struggling to rebuild and move on from the tragedy. There has been help from the federal government, but now it turns out that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is denying funds to help rebuild the town, according to the Associated Press.
FEMA has already provided a ton of money -- millions -- to aid the town, but the decision means the residents of West won't be getting the funding that would help them repair their infrastructure, such as the roads, the electric lines, the sewer lines and, you know, that school that got blown up.
Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement on the FEMA decision on Wednesday, and it's stating the obvious to say he made it pretty clear he's understandably not happy with the decision.
"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 stated. "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."
What makes this worse is that the federal government -- despite all those millions -- overlooked the situation at the West fertilizer plant for years.
In the wake of the explosion, it was found that investigators from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration hadn't inspected the plant since 1985. The facility got a citation from the Environmental Protection Agency for $2,300 in 2006, and was generally overlooked by most regulatory agencies, which are understaffed and responsible for covering a huge swathe of the U.S. chemical industry.
Then, when everyone convened to actually investigate the explosion, the Chemical Safety Board, a non-regulatory agency charged specifically with investigating and determining the cause of these kinds of incidents, was kept out of the site while state and federal investigators pretty much demolished it, according to the folks over at CSB themselves and AP.
FEMA did approve more than $7 million in aid and low-interest loans, and the agency is covering 75 percent of the cost of removing the debris from the blast, but there won't be the level of aid that communities get after FEMA has declared a "major disaster" in an area. So now West won't be getting the federal funding to help residents rebuild.
The AP points out it's not unusual for the agency to deny that type of aid for this kind of disaster, but that's likely not much comfort to the people of West, who are the ones actually trying to sift through the wreckage and rebuild their lives in the midst of this particular disaster.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.