Federal officials have denied West Virginia’s request for emergency grants to reimburse first responders, nonprofits and public agencies that assisted during last month’s chemical spill.
FEMA said in a letter that the spill “was not of such severity and magnitude” to warrant the additional federal assistance. The Jan. 9 spill spurred a water-use ban for days for 300,000 West Virginians.
Many wary residents are still using other sources of water. West Virginia remains in an official state of emergency.
FEMA said Wednesday that it determined additional federal assistance isn’t warranted because certain costs associated with response and recovery efforts aren’t beyond the state and local governments’ response and recovery capabilities.
FEMA provided about 7 million liters of water and more than 130,000 meals in the spill’s aftermath.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin applied on Jan. 27 to include the added grant help in the state’s federal emergency status. His application said state and local responding agencies spent millions of dollars to provide water and other emergency services after the spill. Tomblin added that the local economy and tax revenues suffered.
Tomblin said he will work with the state’s congressional leaders to appeal the decision. He has 30 days to appeal.
“We are committed to providing the detail necessary to demonstrate the assistance needed by the public safety agencies that have provided support to citizens since this crisis struck more than one month ago,” Tomblin said.
Tomblin has had mixed success securing FEMA money through individual assistance grants.
FEMA originally denied individual help for residents in four West Virginia counties who sustained property losses during a fierce June 2012 windstorm. The agency changed its mind and approved Tomblin’s appeal. It later expanded the assistance to 20 counties at Tomblin’s request.
The June 29 derecho and subsequent storms left three people dead and more than 680,000 customers without electricity across the state.
The agency did not approve Tomblin’s appeal after rejecting his application for Superstorm Sandy individual assistance in eight counties.
The October 2012 storm dumped more than 2 feet of snow in parts of the state, left seven people dead and knocked out electricity to more than a quarter-million customers, some for two weeks.
FEMA provided millions of dollars in public aid after both disasters.