West, Texas Denied FEMA Aid To Rebuild After Fertilizer Plant Explosion

Credit: AP

The town of West, Texas, where a fertilizer plant exploded in April, killing 15 people and injuring 160, will not receive disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to rebuild, the Associated Press reports. While it will give emergency funds to individual residents, the agency’s review of the state’s appeal for help found that the explosion “is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration,” according to a letter obtained by the AP.

The mayor of West, Tommy Muska, told the AP that the town needs to repair roads, the damaged sewer system, and a school, which will cost $57 million. The price tag for the total property damages resulting from the explosion could reach $100 million.

Meanwhile, the plant itself was only insured for $1 million worth of damages. Texas doesn’t mandate the terms for insurance companies that offer policies to fertilizer plants and therefore doesn’t require them to have insurance that would cover the potential damage they could cause.

FEMA announced last week that it and the Small Business Association (SBA) have approved more than $6.5 million in federal disaster assistance grants and loans for individuals and families in the area. The grants are to help cover the costs of temporary housing, home repair, and reconstruction, among other needs, and the SBA loans help businesses and nonprofits pay for property losses. Yet West lost $29 million in taxable value in the blast, which excludes damage to nontaxable property such as schools and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, victims have found that they may have to continue paying property taxes on their destroyed homes. That means that they will continue to pay out money while they rebuild, yet they won’t be able to turn to the fertilizer company for compensation nor get enough help from the federal government to cover the costs of the damage.