State and local officials vow to appeal denial of San Bruno disaster funds

State and local officials are appealing a decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deny additional funds to help California and the city of San Bruno pay for ongoing efforts to repair and reconstruct a neighborhood struck by a PG&E gas pipeline explosion.

San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson expressed disappointment in FEMA's decision, but she aimed to reassure residents of the Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood who were most severely impacted by the Sept. 9 explosion and fire that the city's quest for federal aid isn't over.

“We were very disappointed with the denial by FEMA,” Jackson said from an airport on her way home from Washington D.C., where a hearing on the disaster was held Tuesday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“We are coordinating with the governor's office to move forward with the appeal,” Jackson said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has 30 days to prepare the appeal, Jackson said, which will include updated costs of an ongoing environmental cleanup, as well as compelling evidence from the victims of the disaster — who lost homes, property and loved ones — to at least mitigate financial losses through individual assistance from federal disaster relief.

So far, FEMA has pledged disaster relief funds that will reimburse California and the city of San Bruno — not individual victims — for 75
percent of the costs of fighting the fire, repairing damaged equipment, and paying for public agency supplies that aren't covered by insurance policies.

The reimbursement will also pay for a portion of the costs of running shelters for the displaced, and for security, traffic control,
policing and control of access to the disaster zone.

San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane addressed FEMA's decision during his testimony before the Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.

“The city of San Bruno, already struggling, does not have the resources to cover the costs of the response and the long-term consequences of this disaster,” Ruane said.

The mayor said the explosion and fire — which killed 8 people, injured more than 50 others, and destroyed 37 homes — has so far caused an estimated $50 million and counting in damage.

“I am very disappointed with the recent determination by FEMA to deny federal resources,” Ruane said.

“Your support for our appeal is vital to San Bruno's future.”

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