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The John H. Chafee Environmental Excellence Award

The John H. Chafee Environmental Excellence Award

A commitment to the environment is a hallmark of the railroad industry. Part of this enviable environmental record comes from the inherent efficiency of rail, but much of it comes from the efforts of the industry's more than 160,000 employees who are committed to operating in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. The John H. Chafee Environmental Excellence Award honors the extraordinary environmental accomplishments of those individuals. Named after the late Senator from Rhode Island – a strong advocate for conservation, environmental causes, and who appreciated the environmental advantages of rail transportation – the Chafee Award is presented to both a railroad employee and a member of Congress who have demonstrated the highest level of environmental stewardship during the previous year.

Senator Bill Nelson 

2013 Congressional Excellence Award Winner

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)

Rick McNey  

2013 Environmental Excellence Award Winner

Rick McNey

Senator Bill Nelson


In his home state of Florida, Sen. Nelson has worked with ongoing Everglades restoration efforts and tackled issues surrounding the public health effects of pollutants. In Washington, he has worked with colleagues to pass the RESTORE Act, directing BP Oil fines be allocated to communities most harmed by the Gulf oil spill. Through the U.S. Department of the Interior, Sen. Nelson has worked to institute a ban on the sale and importation of Burmese pythons and other non-native snakes that destroy the Everglades ecosystem. He also has worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the wood-preserving industry to address concerns about the health risks of arsenic in residential wood.

Rick McNey

Manager of Maintenance
Baltimore, MD

CSX’s Rick McNey, in his role as manager of maintenance at the Curtis Bay Pier in Baltimore, Md., ensures every federally imposed environmental standard is met, upholding a perfect record of compliance for the last 10 years. In addition to general compliance with the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, McNey finds innovative new ways to help reduce the railroad’s environmental footprint. Under his leadership at the Curtis Bay Pier facility, water consumption was reduced by 40 percent, which amounts to 108,000 gallons per day, through a storm water management rain harvesting system. He also implemented a project to upgrade lighting systems at his facility by installing energy efficient light emitting diode (LED) bulbs, reducing energy consumption by more than 40 percent. With a keen eye towards his facility’s waste management, McNey implemented a program to reuse thousands of gallons of oil reclaimed at the facility in an oil burning heater that provides heating for his machine shop. His facility recycles approximately 4,000 cubic yards of metal, 10,000 gallons of used oil, and 100 large capacity batteries on an annual basis. McNey not only participates in annual environmental training, but also ensures all of his staff receives environmental training as well.


Nominees for the 2013 Environmental Excellence Award

union pacific

Benjamin Crandall

Foreman General
Union Pacific
Draper, Ut.

Ben Crandall hasn’t always had the easiest life. His wife was involved in three different automobile accidents, the last leaving her an incomplete quadriplegic. It is working through life’s challenges that make individuals stronger. Through these hard times, Ben has shown strength and determination in his personal life as well as work.

Ben is not your average foreman general for Union Pacific Railway (UP), he has proven to be an expert in many areas and is often sought after to address issues and to help his coworkers. Ben’s main environmental concerns have been focused on energy, water, and waste. His interest in preserving the land around him is not a new passion. In 1993, Ben was awarded the first Chairman’s Award, and twenty years later he’s still fully committed to his environmental values.

In an attempt to better understand the company’s energy usage, Ben suggested a position within the company to solely focus on energy management. Following this approval, Ben mentored a fellow who focused on air compressor maintenance, de-lamping of soda machines, and facility recommendations. Implementing these changes has the potential to save $1.7 million and 32 million kilowatt hours. One of Ben’s projects was to design and build five automotive locomotive wash facilities that recycle and reuse water. Ben also found a way to reduce waste water by researching and testing paint in order to identify anti-graffiti paint that reduces the frequency of locomotive washing. In an effort to eliminate waste, Ben is working with various departments in his company to design a locomotive filter shredder and crusher that will increase efficiencies, lessen environmental impacts, and lower costs.

Ben exhibits environmental values in his personal life as well. In 2005, he designed and built an environmentally friendly home to accommodate his wife’s disability. Ben and his wife are also ambassadors for the National Ability Center, a non-profit organization providing sports and recreational experiences for people with disabilities. His participation includes building a 400 ft. boardwalk for those in wheelchairs and working to expand the facilities and equipment for more activities. Ben is a proud father of three and grandfather of six.


Johnny F. Glenn

Assistant Regional Chief Engineer
Canadian National
Jackson, MS

Johnny Glenn is more than just an assistant regional chief engineer for Canadian National Railway (CN). He has motivated and inspired his coworkers to be more environmentally friendly in their daily activities.

Johnny has been the force behind the clean right of way program, called The Golden Broom. This program was implemented to promote good housekeeping practices across the engineering department. Starting with 12 locations, the program grew to 85 locations and continues to reduce waste and create better management and a safer work environment. Johnny also created a video seen by over 1,200 employees, encouraging them to participate in The Golden Broom. An example of this effort is the disposal of glue used with tie plates. Johnny reviewed the waste generated from the disposal of glue and found that excess glue was purchased and not being used. Now all locations participate in this program and recycling glue.

Due to the successes of The Golden Broom, Johnny was able to expand the program to help the environment even more. He located areas within yards where he could plant trees. In one yard alone, more than 140 trees were planted covering 1.5 acres of land, beautifying the surrounding area, cleaning the air, dampening noise, and leaving a better environment for future generations. Johnny also educated his coworkers about the values of recycling and reducing waste. Through this effort, Johnny saved the company $165,000 per yard by recycling items that would have otherwise gone to the landfill. Johnny has been married to his wife Sondra for 40 years, and they have two sons and three grandchildren.


Steve Grant

Director of Transload Services
Canadian Pacific
Calgary, Alberta

With the recent increase in crude oil shipments by rail, Steve Grant has excelled in ensuring the development of transloading facilities are built in an environmentally safe way. In addition to Steve’s role as director of transload services, one could say he’s also in risk management. He coordinates between his coworkers and Canadian Pacific’s (CP) external partners during the risk assessment process to address all potential environmental issues. Working with various departments, he looks for an appropriate site for a transload facility, taking into account aspects such as odor, noise, and potential impact on the surrounding communities. Steve also communicates with local fire officials, municipal officials, and members of the public to inform them of the proposed construction and the actions being taken to address the possible impact on the environment or public safety.

He also strives to help the transloading operations become more environmentally friendly. He supports the use of closed loop transload operations to capture displaced air from the tank car back to the tank truck. The air and associated chemical vapors are then released elsewhere to minimize local air emission issues and the potential for odor complaints. Steve has also been supporting pre-operation air sampling to identify the baseline for air quality at the site.

Steve and his wife Janice are actively involved in their two children’s lives. Steve coaches his daughter’s fastball team as well as soccer. He also enjoys spending time in nature as often as possible.

Norfolk Southern

Ray A. Jones

Assistant Division Manager of Mechanical Operations
Norfolk Southern
Chesapeake, Va.

After 32 years in the rail industry, Ray Jones continues to find innovative ways to help the environment and his community through his work with Norfolk Southern Railway (NS). Growing up on the Elizabeth River and on the Chesapeake Bay, it’s no surprise he finds ways to help the waterways.

Ray worked with the Elizabeth River Project and the Virginia Oyster Restoration Center to install concrete “reef balls” off of the coral pier to establish a new oyster hatchery. He has also been instrumental in a project to reclaim and reuse storm water at the Norfolk terminal’s coal pier for dust control and equipment washing, to improve the recovery of coal dust in storm water runoff, and reduce the volume of water purchased from the municipal’s water supply by 18 million gallons per year saving $100,000 per year. Ray quickly recognized the environmental and economic benefits of reusing the storm water being discharged in the bay. He coordinated an effort with the environmental department and consultants to develop a plan to significantly improve the existing system. They worked to design, construct, and install a superior fines separation and handling system, and a series of pipes and pumps to take clarified water from the large, final storm water pond to the coal pier so the water could be used to spray coal cars during dumping. This project saves up to 18.3 million gallons of water annually and $100,000 to purchase water. He also doubled the amount of street sweeping at his facility reducing the amount of coal dust reaching the stormwater by 12 million pounds. His efforts resulted in his facility being recognized by the Elizabeth River Project as an Achievement Level award winner in their River Star Program, and him being recognized with the River Star Award for his participation and encouragement of co-workers in keeping the river clean.

Ray has worked closely with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to help improve the water quality of the bay. In his free time, he is a deacon of his church, plays golf, and is very active in the railroad’s diversity program.


Renee Strolis

Director Fuel Management
Philadelphia, PA

During her 36-year commitment to her railroad career, Renee Strolis has continuously strived to improve fuel efficiency and protect the environment. She has been the driving force ensuring Amtrak meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental and fuel performance standards. Plus, she goes above and beyond her professional duties to collaborate with others to implement climate programs, training, and communications to raise environmental awareness among her coworkers.

Through her role as director of fuel management, Renee identified and implemented fuel conservation initiatives, including idling reduction, train handling, and braking measures to reduce fuel use and Amtrak’s environmental footprint. After working vigorously to perform an analysis of various costs and benefits, Renee worked with the engineering department to identify additional locations to install 480-volt ground power connections so that head-end power for lighting and heating can be provided without continuously idling the diesel engines. She automated the system for approving all chemical and lubricant purchased at support locations to reduce the environmental, health and safety risks of chemicals used by Amtrak.

Renee's passion to encourage and promote environmentally responsible behavior has made her a sought-after mentor for Amtrak’s Environmental Bootcamp for all new departmental employees. She has also been vital to a yearlong trial to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of using alternative fuel, such as biodiesel. This trial was implemented successfully and received national attention.

As an active member of the National Association of Railway Business Women, Renee is a strong advocate for the development and advancements of women in the transportation industry. She is also an avid gardener and recently participated in a program, hosted by the local horticulture society, on how to plant and maintain trees as part of a community effort. Renee and her husband, Al, of 19 years, work tirelessly to promote recycling and other environmental efforts around their neighborhood.


Ross E. Thomas

Manager of Maintenance
Edgerton, KS

As manager of engineering at BNSF Railway (BNSF), Ross Thomas has incredible responsibilities for on-site construction management for the intermodal facility at Logistics Park in Edgerton, KS near Kansas City, and ensures projects are done in an environmentally-safe manner. Through each of his projects, Ross has gone above and beyond the call of duty by keeping the surrounding environment protected and clean. Ross has led many different initiatives from testing soil to relocating ponds.

While working on the reconstruction of Argentine Hump Yard and North Kansas City Murray Yard, Ross was instrumental in testing hundreds of thousands of yards of soil to determine the suitability of reusing the material. By developing a methodology to reduce the testing timeframe, Ross was able to create a sustainable solution recycling over 60,000 cubic yards of soil while saving time and expense.

 During construction of a conservation corridor, Ross was essential in relocating ponds, plugging and abandoning wells in the area, and ensuring proper relocation and construction of new wetlands. The corridor included 30 acres of wetland planting and 25 acres of stream plantings, both consisting of 15,000 live willows, 16,400 trees and shrubs, 140,000 live branches planted, removal of all noxious invasive weeds, and replanting of natural grasses within the entire corridor. Numerous erosion control measures were installed including gabion baskets, detentions ponds, and stop log structures, all in an effort to create the new wetlands. The project also involved the temporary relocation of a creek during construction. Ross also reached out to the Army Corps of Engineers to have four major bridges constructed over streams. During this project, he inspected the construction areas to protect the integrity of the waters, and worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to plant 15 acres of wetlands in Illinois.

Ross and his wife Marie, of 20 years, teach their three children and three grandchildren the importance of environmental responsibility and actively recycle at home and at work. They also manage special waste in the appropriate manner by taking paints and used oil to appropriate facilities. Ross developed a great appreciation for the environment growing up in Colorado and working for the United States Forest Service while in college. He enjoys golf, hunting, and being in the outdoors.

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