The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today awarded the 2016 Professional Environmental Excellence Award, which is the highest honor for environmental professionals in the railroad industry, to Russ McDaniel of Norfolk Southern.
The annual award, which recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding performance in environmental awareness and responsibility during the year, was presented during the Railroad Environmental Conference at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“Railroads and environmental preservation go hand-in-hand and we proudly honor those who exhibit a commitment to environmental stewardship,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “Russ and railroad employees like him bring a range of environmental expertise, making them an integral part of the industry’s successful environmental program in countless ways.”
Since joining the rail industry more than 20 years ago, McDaniel has made significant contributions to environmental awareness at Norfolk Southern and throughout the entire railroad industry.
McDaniel worked his way up through the environmental department, holding a number of engineering positions, before assuming his current position as the Director of Environmental Engineering, Remediation and Compliance. He oversees areas including remediation of impacted sites, compliance with air and water permits and management of storm water protection and spill preparedness plans. McDaniel and his team took on a $10 million, multi-year project to remediate a site that had housed a rail car manufacturing facility for nearly 100 years. Working with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the team has restored 79 acres (32 hectares) of the site for industrial use. In addition to his work with Norfolk Southern, he has moderated sessions on storm water and waste water, environmental information systems, and compliance. McDaniel believes that practical and sustainable solutions are the best and that teamwork and collaboration are critical to success.
McDaniel was one of eight railroad industry professionals nominated for the 2016 Professional Environmental Excellence Award. The other nominees are as follows (alphabetically):
Carl Akins – Kansas City Southern
Carl Akins, Director – Environmental and Hazardous Materials with Kansas City Southern (KCS), has 16 years of service with the freight rail industry. In his current position, Akins has made significant progress in integrating environmental awareness and responsibility into the fabric of KCS. He has managed numerous remediation projects and most of the formerly contaminated sites have been closed. Akins has also developed a long range plan for the KCS Environmental and Hazardous Materials Department called Environmental 2000. The overall goal of the plan is to drive significant improvements in the safe performance and reduction of risks of all environmental protection, hazardous materials transportation, occupational safety, engineering safety and administrative functional areas. Waste minimization and recycling at home are part of his family’s values. Akins is also a volunteer with Operation Lifesaver.
George Bray – Amtrak
George Bray is a Senior Environmental Specialist in the New England Division of Amtrak. The facilities in his territory set a high standard for environmental compliance and sustainability, consistently exceeding environmental compliance goals. Bray identified energy efficiency upgrades that would benefit the Southampton Street Yard and obtained funding for the upgrades. The reduction of electricity usage saved the facility more than $100,000 in utilities payments. He also led a facility improvement project to replace underground waste oil tanks with aboveground tanks at the waste water treatment system. This reduced Amtrak’s corporate risk for groundwater and soil contamination and allowed for more thorough waste oil tank inspections. Additionally, Bray has worked to expand and improve Amtrak’s recycling program, reducing waste and saving the company thousands of dollars per year in landfill fees.
Stuart Boykin – CSX
Stuart Boykin has 21 years of railroad experience with CSX. As an Environmental Engineer, he manages projects for the southern region of his company’s network. The majority of Boykin’s efforts are focused on environmental capital improvements and maintenance of the company’s infrastructure - specifically waste water and fuel storage facilities across the network. Boykin led the installation of a networked waste water management system that can be viewed and managed remotely. Having a virtual system has allowed CSX to implement more efficient control of its waste water and reduced the amount of chemicals needed for treatment. The proficiencies gained through Boykin’s work have been shared across the freight rail industry. In addition to his job responsibilities, Boykin has completed several environmental and hazardous materials training programs and has participated in environmental focused volunteer events.
Todd Cabonor – Metra
Todd Cabonor, the head of Industrial Hygiene at Metra, has worked to ensure his company is compliant with numerous air, underground storage tank and waste environmental regulations. Cabonor implemented quarterly inspections and annual cleanings of underground oil-water separator systems to guard against groundwater, soil and environmental risks. During work on the Lemont Landfill Project, he identified an environmental risk to Metra and worked to find cost-effective and creative solutions to mitigate the problem. He was able to reach out to several specialists and determine the best course of action was to move forward on closing the landfill. Cabonor also actively considers sustainability projects. His initiatives include: implementing a recycling program at Metra workshops, testing air quality at train stations and repair facilities and promoting more environmentally friendly chemicals.
Chantele Despres – Canadian National
Chantele Despres, the Director of Sustainability for Canadian National (CN), manages a team that maintains a high degree of environmental awareness in the areas of energy and carbon emissions, waste reduction and minimization programs and sustainability policies. Despres played an instrumental role in founding the CN Sustainability Department and in creating EcoConnexions, an employee engagement program focused on environmental awareness, action and recognition. She works with her team to engage leadership in implementing best practices system-wide that will address deficiencies, preventing potential government fines and citations. Extending her commitment to environmental awareness and education beyond the workplace, Despres has been a mentor to hundreds of youth involved with Leading Change - a national non-profit founded by environmental and sustainability professionals.
Susana Lizcano Gonzalez – Union Pacific
Susana Lizcano Gonzalez has gained environmental asbestos regulation knowledge and used it to improve and promote Union Pacific (UP)’s asbestos program. Gonzalez has worked with UP’s environmental team to develop effective training practices to raise awareness among employees and outline cost-effective and efficient procedures for safe handling. She established an approach that made environmental responsibility an integral part of UP’s success. Gonzalez encouraged cross-departmental cooperation to move from a focus on remediation to prevention. She found that by focusing on determining the root cause of environmental incidents, UP could prioritize the prevention of any further incidents. Gonzalez actively participates in Engineers Without Borders where she has led a project for a potable water program in her home country of Colombia, South America.
Gregory Jeffries – BNSF
Gregory Jeffries is a fourth generation railroader, following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, grandfather and father. Jeffries began his railroad career with BNSF 26 years ago. He currently holds the position of Manager – Environmental Remediation where he leads the environmental efforts to address historically impacted sites in seven states. In one remediation and restoration effort, Jeffries led his team by immediately becoming a part of the Incident Command structure. Through his efficient and innovative response, he protected local resources and recycled recovered materials and damaged equipment to effectively remediate the site. Jeffries has worked to instill responsibility and accountability for compliance and good stewardship in his colleagues. He has also volunteered with Friends of the Mississippi River, cleaning trash and debris from the river system.