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BNSF Railway Co., Norfolk Southern Railway and GE Transportation launched a three-day symposium yesterday in Fort Worth, Texas, that aims to address sustainability in the rail industry.The fourth annual Railroad Sustainability Symposium brings together sustainability and business leaders representing railroads, manufacturers, shippers and environmental stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations, to discuss ways to continue driving the industry toward an environmentally conscious future.The symposium was established in 2011 when NS and GE recognized an opportunity to spur more dialogue about energy conservation and sustainable practices within the rail industry. This year, participants and speakers from more than 25 companies will attend the event, including representatives from CN, Maersk, UPS, Wal-Mart, the Worldwide Wildlife Fund, Environmental Defense Fund, The Arbor Day Foundation and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.Sustainability and innovation are at the forefront of the rail industry, symposium organizers believe. Rail is the most sustainable form of long-distance surface transportation for freight and provides "tremendous benefits" by reducing the nation's overall transportation emissions and carbon footprint, they said in a press release. "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 … participants at this symposium," said Blair Wimbush, NS' chief sustainability officer.As an example of the Class I's sustainability efforts, a “Trees and Trains” campaign is producing "significant ecosystem benefits" from the reforestation of 10,000 acres in the Mississippi Delta, and is generating carbon credits that the railroad can use to recoup its investment, he said.At BNSF, customers each year receive custom reports documenting the emissions they avoid by shipping via rail versus over-the-road modes. Carbon footprints collectively have been reduced by more than 30 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year by the customers, BNSF officials said. "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, BNSF's vice president of environmental. "Of our nearly 7,300 locomotives, more than 3,300 are new and more than 2,800 have been remanufactured since 2004."