The Railroad Environmental Conference (RREC) celebrated its 25th anniversary at the annual two-day conference on 14-15 November 2023 at the iHotel in Champaign, IL. Conference Director Professor Christopher P.L. Barkan, George Krambles Director of RailTEC, was honored for growing the conference from the first event in 1999 that had 150 attendees and 9 exhibitors to this year’s 425 participants and 43 exhibitors. Participants attended over 35 presentations by railroaders, consulting engineers, academics and others involved in all aspects of railroad environmental topics. Forty four exhibitors filled out the exhibit hall.
Also at the conference the Association of American Railroads (AAR) recognized the work of two railroaders for advancing environmental responsibility with Career Environmental Achievement Awards. The two honorees were Norfolk Southern’s (NS) Mark Dudle and Canadian National’s (CN) Rick Verkler.
As NS occupational safety director, Dudle is charged with protecting the health and safety of the railroad’s 21,000 employees, contractors, as well as the communities NS serves. He manages the railroad’s safety and health programs which focus on proper information and protective equipment. Dudle stands among the industry’s top emergency response experts who has led air monitoring, toxicology support and site safety efforts for NS following significant incidents, including the ongoing response to the NS train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, AAR officials said.
Verkler served as environmental counsel for CN’s U.S. operations. He managed and oversaw all aspects of state and federal environmental law, including air and water pollution, hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal, site cleanup and wetlands protection. Until his retirement, Verkler also was active on AAR’s Pre-emption Committee and Environmental Matters Working Group.
Other nominees for the award this year were: Aaron Stadnyk – CN Railway, Chad Prior – BNSF Railway, Adam Motsinger – Norfolk Southern, Kiley Gibson – CPKC, Daniel S. Dyer – CSX, and Chip Heard, Jr. – Union Pacific Railroad.
The 25th-annual conference was presented by the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC), with partners AAR; American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Association; American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association; American Railway Development Association; and Railway Association of Canada.