No easy task: Renewable recovery after disasters

By Kris Bevill
Green Energy Resources, a waste wood supplier with its eyes on natural disaster recovery as an additional product source, is finding that acquiring the waste is no easy task.

In fact, company President Joe Murray has been trying for several years, with little success, to get his hands on waste wood created by natural disasters. Most recently, his efforts focused on what was left after Hurricane Ike pummeled the Texas/Louisiana Gulf Coast in mid-September. At press time in early October, Green Energy had yet to receive any waste wood from those recovery efforts, but Murray remained confident that affected communities would begin working with him to make use of their waste.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency is in charge of cleanup and recovery efforts following the presidentially declared natural disaster. In June 2007, the agency's public assistance division implemented a pilot program aimed at reducing the costs for public assistance and providing more flexibility to applicants. One of the program's aspects allows applicants (counties, cities, etc.) to retain money made from the sale of their debris, therefore encouraging recycling. According to Murray, few contractors or county officials are aware of the pilot program and thus aren't utilizing it.

Each state handles its disasters a bit differently, but Deana Platt, spokeswoman for the FEMA pilot program, said each FEMA aid applicant must participate in a kickoff meeting with a FEMA representative. "At that time, they are given information about the pilot program," she said. As for companies such as Green Energy that are working to obtain waste wood, she said, "They need to contact local communities."

The pilot program ends Dec. 31. At press time, Platt was doubtful the program would be extended.