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Railroad Leaders Come Together to Address Sustainability

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – Sept. 2, 2014 -- Norfolk Southern, BNSF Railway and GE Transportation are partnering to address sustainability in the rail industry. At the fourth annual Railroad Sustainability Symposium that begins today, sustainability and business leaders representing railroad operators, manufacturers, shippers and environmental stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations, will discuss ways to continue driving the industry toward a cleaner future.

The symposium was established in 2011 when Norfolk Southern and GE Transportation recognized an opportunity to increase the dialogue about energy conservation and sustainable practices within the industry. This year, participants and speakers from more than 25 companies will attend, including Canadian National, Maersk, UPS, Wal-Mart, the Worldwide Wildlife Fund, the Environmental Defense Fund, The Arbor Day Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. They will share insights on such issues as supply-chain sustainability, safety and next-generation locomotives.

Among the speakers will be Deb Frodl, the global executive director of GE ecomagination. Ecomagination is GE’s commitment to develop innovative solutions for today’s environmental challenges. She will outline GE’s strategic vision for a more sustainable future. “At ecomagination, we strive to develop solutions that both improve the environment and provide sound economic results,” Frodl said. “The symposium offers an incredible opportunity for the brightest minds in the industry to gather, discuss and learn from each other so, together, we can continue this positive trajectory toward a more sustainable future for transportation.”

Sustainability and innovation are at the forefront of the rail industry, and railroads are the most sustainable forms of long-distance land freight transportation. Rail provides tremendous benefits by reducing our country’s overall transportation emissions and carbon footprint. That’s why Norfolk Southern and BNSF have taken the lead in this dialogue. 

“Norfolk Southern is proud to continue its journey to fully integrate sustainability into all aspects of its business and operations, and looks forward to gaining keen insights from the best practices of industry and NGO participants at this symposium,” said Blair Wimbush, chief sustainability officer for Norfolk Southern.

From its pioneering efforts to dramatically improve fuel and energy efficiency, to focused efforts to ensure a safe and engaged workforce committed to sustainable business practices, Norfolk Southern is determined to maintain a leadership role in forging a new corporate paradigm where economics, society and environment converge to produce desirable outcomes that sustain its business. 

An example of conservation capitalism is Norfolk Southern’s “Trees and Trains” campaign. The campaign will produce significant ecosystem benefits from the reforestation of 10,000 acres in the Mississippi Delta, while generating carbon credits that Norfolk Southern can use to recoup its investment.

“For decades, BNSF has had an organization-wide commitment to sustainability and our efforts to improve the green advantages of our locomotive fleet are investments that push the envelope of what is already the most sustainable option for land freight transport,” said John Lovenburg, vice president of environmental for BNSF. “We have the newest and cleanest locomotive fleet in the nation. Of our nearly 7,300 locomotives more than 3,300 are new and more than 2,800 have been remanufactured since 2004.”

Since 1980 BNSF has improved its fuel efficiency more than 100 percent, moving each ton of freight nearly 500 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel. Every year BNSF provides its customers with custom reports documenting the emissions they avoid by shipping via rail vs. over-the-road modes. Carbon footprint reductions of more than 30 million metric tons of CO2 each year have been achieved by customers hauling products through BNSF’s rail system. That is equivalent to taking six million cars off the road, which would result in an emissions reduction equal to 3 billion gallons of fuel.

GE Transportation is also a key driver in this movement. GE has been developing technology that improves emissions and fuel efficiency. GE Transportation’s engineers have developed the Evolution Series Tier 4 locomotive that reduces emissions by over 70 percent, meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Tier 4 standard. Additionally, on board thousands of locomotives today is a technology called Trip Optimizer that improves fuel efficiency. It functions as an intelligent cruise control for trains, adjusting the speed to optimize fuel usage. Lastly, GE Transportation is testing the NextFuel Retrofit Kit, which works with liquefied natural gas. These innovations reflect GE’s broader ecomagination strategy to employ measurable breakthroughs that create sustainable outcomes. Already, ecomagination has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent since our 2004 baseline and by 2015, GE plans to double research and development investment to $10 billion by 2020. 

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