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The Chafee Awards: Railroaders to be recognized for environmental contributions


Seven North American railroad employees will be honored for their contributions to the environment at the U.S. Capitol April 30 when the Association of American Railroads announces the winners of the John H. Chafee Environmental Excellence Awards.

Melvin Burda, director-environmental operations for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, is this year's recipient of the "professional award," presented to environmental professionals employed in the railroad industry.

Over the past two years, Burda — who has worked on environmental issues at BNSF and predecessor roads since 1977 — developed a program to survey the railroads' structures for vermiculite insulation, which contains asbestos; 118 asbestos-containing structures will be cleared by July. The railroad removed asbestos-containing materials from more than 100 other structures, and asbestos-containing thermal wrap from more than 2,700 locomotives. Burda also has coordinated environmental training for more than 13,000 railroad employees, and the review/update of BNSF's environmental policies.

Currently, Burda chairs AAR's Environmental Affairs Working Committee and serves as first chairman of American Railway Engineering and Maintenance Association's Environmental Committee 13, which is coordinating three environmental-related symposiums. He's also writing a wastewater treatment manual.

Meanwhile, six railroaders have been the nominated for the "non-professional award," presented to rail workers who aren't employed as environmental professionals. The nominees are:

• Paul Agren, roadway mechanic for Amtrak in Providence, R.I.;

• Gary Biggs, maintenance supervisor for Union Pacific Railroad in Fort Worth, Texas;

• Matt Bruno, a machinist for Canadian Pacific Railway in St. Paul, Minn.;

• Trent Hudak, manager of engineering for BNSF in Seattle;

• Robert Leonard, an electrician for Norfolk Southern Railway in Enola, Pa.; and

• Robert Toms, senior general foreman for CSX Transportation in Indianapolis.

Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-Rhode Island) will present the awards, which honor his father's legacy as an environmentalist who understood and promoted rail's environmental advantages.

"Railroads are the most environmentally friendly form of transportation, more fuel efficient than any other modes," said AAR President and CEO Ed Hamberger in a prepared statement. "We are blessed with tens of thousands of environmentally conscious employees who — in addition to their daily job responsibilities — have dedicated extra time and effort to protecting the environment."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/28/2003