WASHINGTON — President Obama overruled the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and signed a declaration that there’s a “major disaster” in West, Texas, because of the fertilizer-plant explosion in April that killed 15 people and destroyed much of the town.
The decision Friday came a day after Obama signed an executive order implementing a wide range of programs to improve coordination among federal agencies for safety and security at chemical facilities.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry had appealed FEMA’s June denial of additional funding and requested more than $35 million in assistance. A bipartisan majority of the Texas congressional delegation also pushed for the “major-disaster” designation.
“The approval of the state’s appeal for a major-disaster declaration is great and welcome news for the people of West,” Perry said in a statement.
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FEMA press secretary Dan Watson said that “additional federal disaster aid has been made available to the state to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by the explosion.”
The delay in getting the disaster designation had taken on a political tinge in red-state Texas. In acknowledging the additional funding, Republican state Attorney General Greg Abbott took a dig at the Obama administration.
“The people of West, Texas, haven’t allowed the uncertainty of federal disaster assistance to deter them from doing what Texans always do — they overcome obstacles and adversity, no matter the circumstance,” Abbott said in a statement. He’s running for governor next year to succeed fellow Republican Perry, who’s retiring.