The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today awarded CSX Transportation’s Meaghan Atkinson the 2020 Professional Environmental Excellence Award, the industry’s highest honor for environmental professionals. The award was presented to Atkinson during the 2020 virtual Railroad Environmental Seminar.
Meaghan Atkinson has worked for CSX for nine years, currently as Manager - Environmental Programs. Atkinson leads the CSX effort to implement some of the most ambitious greenhouse gas targets in the transportation sector, reducing Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 37.3% per million gross ton-miles by 2029 from a 2014 base year. Atkinson also led the cross-functional team that applied for matching funds from competitive public-private partnerships to upgrade local switcher locomotives in several non-attainment areas where CSX operates. CSX was awarded more than $10 million over several years to upgrade locomotives, and significantly reduce emissions, because of the team’s efforts.
Atkinson has been a regular contributor, planner and presenter for the Railroad Environmental Conference. She has represented CSX on several industry panels and working groups, providing thoughtful leadership to other industry professionals.
In addition to Atkinson, seven other railroad environmental professionals were nominated for the 2020 Environmental Excellence Award. The other nominees are as follows:
Josh Raglin – Norfolk Southern Railroad
With nearly 24 years of service, Raglin is Norfolk Southern’s newly appointed Chief Sustainability Officer. Raglin, a biologist by training, has worked and managed NS’s Brosnan Forest conference center and 14,405-acre woodlands preserve in Dorchester, S.C. In 2008, Raglin led the team that pioneered and implemented his railroad’s enrollment of 12,488 acres at the forest preserve into permanent protection. Raglin has also been a leader in NS’s Trees and Trains initiative, the largest reforestation project in the world. As part of the Trees and Trains project, 6 million trees were planted in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley on 10,000 acres from 2011 to 2014. The project has already captured over 250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere generating 50,000 carbon credits annually for future use.
Laura Fotiou – Amtrak
Fotiou has enhanced the environmental performance of Amtrak in multiple areas, from environmental compliance programs to setting strong sustainability goals to leading significant reductions in the company’s greenhouse gas emissions and increases in recycling. In the past two years, Fotiou took on leadership of the company’s recycling goal and worked to double the company’s overall recycling rate for municipal materials from around 8% to almost 16%. With the onset of COVID-19, Fotiou worked quickly – and on her own initiative – with those stakeholders to reduce pick-up frequencies and optimize trash hauling services to realize an annual savings of $700,000 for the company.
Joel Strafelda – Union Pacific Railway
Strafelda assembled a team and led an effort to incorporate globally recognized standards for effective environmental management – referred to as International Organization for Standardization 14001 principles – into the Union Pacific’s operations. He and his team have built a lasting structure that prescribes performance standards for day-to-day and strategic implementation, which has improved environmental performance by 65%. Strafelda also developed the framework for the Absolute Compliance Measure, which enables the railroad to deliver a single metric that measures environmental performance across all compliance obligations in a single systemic, comprehensive and current summary of results.
Nic Winslow – BNSF Railway
Joining BNSF Railway six years ago, Winslow serves as the Manager - Hazardous Material Planning. He has developed and implemented a “comprehensive spill response planning program” that complies with state and federal regulations, decreases liability through world class preparedness for spill response and enhances the environmental performance of the company. Winslow has been instrumental in expanding the scope of the railroad’s fast water boom deployment exercise program, which trains railroad responders, inland Oil Spill Removal Organization, tribal, state, and federal agencies, and local fire departments to use emergency response equipment in the field.
Sean Strong – Watco
Since joining Watco two years ago, Strong has implemented a formalized environmental review process for all new business opportunities. This process ensures that the environmental aspects associated with new projects are fully understood and assessed, and that costs are captured during the initial venture bidding process. Strong has also led Watco in improving its Environmental, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) initiatives, aimed at improving operations to limit environmental, social and sustainability impacts. He is working to establish measurements and metrics, used to drive change intended to directly support safe, sustainable, environmentally friendly transportation of goods on the network.
Karla Graf – Canadian National
With 25 years of experience, Graf serves as Manager of Environmental Impact for CN. Graf has been heavily involved in the completion of the Aberdeen Bridge Upgrade Project. To address environmental risks, Graf worked with the team on innovative solutions for designing and constructing two large cofferdams on the riverbed of the South Saskatchewan River. Furthermore, as water quality was critical to compliance and the success of the project, Graf worked to maintain appropriate levels of turbidity and total suspended solids. In addition to her work at the Aberdeen Bridge Upgrade Project, Graf and her engineering counterpart Shane McCartney established a new CN Project Risk Assessment Table as a starting point for any new corridor project. The management tool not only documents, measures and forecasts environmental risk, but also takes a holistic approach to include other project risk considerations such as geotechnical, First Nations relations & archeology, adjacent land use and historical incidents.
Tara Hill – KCS
Since joining KCS ten years ago, Hill has moved into a first-of-its-kind hybrid role that allows her to manage both environmental issues and safety-related industrial hygiene programs. Through industrial hygiene assessments, Hill has brought attention to air quality and noise concerns associated with on-track equipment. She has worked with mechanical management to implement control measures and to reduce potential employee exposure to contaminants such as silica as well as excessive noise. Hill has also worked with the company’s facilities department to implement ventilation controls for newly implemented battery nursing stations – allowing for sustainable recharging stations for locomotive batteries.