AAR Presents 2019 Environmental Excellence Award

Gary Van Tassel II of CSX Transportation and his team made the traditional intermodal facility more efficient by implementing new technology and modernizing site layouts, which allow CSX to operate with a smaller footprint, fewer diesel utility trucks, a transition to electrified cranes, and significantly reduced truck dwell times.

The Association of American Railroads announced that Gary Van Tassel II of CSX Transportation is the recipient of the 2019 John H. Chafee Environmental Excellence Award, which is named for the late Rhode Island senator, who was a strong advocate for green causes and the eco-friendly benefits of rail transportation. The annual award recognizes a railroad employee who has demonstrated the highest level of environmental stewardship in the previous year.

"As the industry continues to modernize, it's important to recognize our colleagues in the industry for their outstanding dedication to developing sustainable initiatives. Railroads continue to lead the way when it comes to sustainability in the transportation sector, and we have these men and women to thank for their efforts," said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. "The conversation around sustainability is so important, and I am proud that this industry is making it a top priority for generations to come."

Van Tassel and his team made the traditional intermodal facility more efficient by implementing new technology and modernizing site layouts, which allow CSX to operate with a smaller footprint, fewer diesel utility trucks, a transition to electrified cranes, and significantly reduced truck dwell times. During 2018, they focused on how to adapt the concepts to modernize smaller terminals that do not use large rail-mounted gantry cranes. A modernized terminal that maximizes efficiency and automation reduces potential air emissions by 90 percent, and the paperless system has cut $300,000 annually in paper costs, according to AAR's announcement.

There were four other nominees for the 2019 award:

  • Sheila C. Dougherty, Kansas City Southern, described in the announcement as having "spent countless hours spearheading sustainable practices for employees and enhancing the corporate culture of sustainability for KCS" and also has encouraged recycling company-wide.
  • Mike McAndrews, Union Pacific's director of Mechanical Facilities and Equipment. "Throughout his career, he has completed numerous energy-conservation projects, including upgrades to shop lighting, air compressor systems and shop heating systems," according to the announcement. "These projects have reduced the company's carbon footprint significantly, while also increasing safety and reducing maintenance costs. Replacing high bay lights at two facilities resulted in a reduction in energy consumption of 1.5 million kilowatt hours per year, enough to power 140 US homes for a year. Mike's efforts have resulted in over one million dollars per year in total utility savings since he came into his role with the mechanical team."
  • Iz Salazar, a 24-year veteran of BNSF's Police Department who was tasked with addressing the homeless issues for the company, covering 28 states, three Canadian provinces, approximately 32,500 miles of track, and almost 1 million acres of real estate. "He was trusted to re-invent the process for addressing homeless encampments and homeless trespassers from the ground up," the announcement said. "In advance of every removal project, he measures the scope of the work against an environmental checklist tailored for the Railway's homeless initiative. The purpose of the checklist is to ensure that every removal project holds the greatest respect for the environment and the local ecology. Since beginning the initiative, Iz has led the removal of over 400 homeless encampments and did so without complaints, environmental regulatory violations and injuries. The collective effort contributed to a 16 percent reduction in system-wide trespasser incidents."
  • Alison Simon, Amtrak, who brought about the integration of sustainability language in areas surrounding fleet procurement, recycling, and food and beverage. She designed on-board hydration stations to reduce plastic bottle use, increased recycling receptacle locations, and reduced single-use packaging on the new Acela trains, and her dedication led to a successful collaboration where seat covers are donated to a nonprofit in Indianapolis, People for Urban Progress, which since October 2018 has processed more than a ton of leather by reusing the material to create consumer goods such as totes, duffle bags, and backpacks.
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