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Norfolk Southern to Cut Carbon Footprint 10% by 2014

Norfolk Southern has set a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per revenue ton-mile 10 percent by 2014, using 2009 as a baseline. The freight rail transportation company expects to reduce its carbon footprint through fuel-savings technology and improvements in operating efficiencies.

In 2009, Norfolk Southern transported 158.5 billion ton-miles of freight, producing 4.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, mostly from diesel-burning locomotives. Emissions per revenue ton-mile were 30.0 grams. To achieve a 10 percent reduction by 2014, the freight company has to reduce its emissions to 27.0 grams per revenue ton-mile, which would prevent the emission of 475,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually.

Blair Wimbush, vice president real estate and corporate sustainability officer for Norfolk Southern says the company’s emissions reduction strategy will focus on ways to achieve better fuel economy, including the purchase of new and more fuel-efficient locomotives, continued deployment of idle-reduction and train handling technologies and refined engine maintenance practices.

In October last year, Norfolk Southern unveiled its zero-emissions electric locomotive.

Other efforts will target direct and indirect emissions from energy used for heating, cooling, and lighting buildings and other facilities on the railroad, and adjusting its non-rail vehicle fleet to save fuel and cut emissions.

Norfolk has nearly completed a systemwide lighting upgrade that is reducing the company’s electricity use. The company also expects significant efficiency gains from its major infrastructure improvement projects, including the Heartland and Crescent corridors.

The Heartland Corridor is a three-year project to upgrade Norfolk Southern’s rail route between the Virginia ports and the Midwest by modifying 28 tunnels and other facilities to accommodate double-stack containers. The new gateway, scheduled to open on September 9, will cut about 250 route miles, and a day or more of transit time from current train schedules.

The Crescent Corridor project includes improvements to infrastructure and other facilities, which will create a high-capacity, 2,500-mile intermodal route spanning from Louisiana to New Jersey. The improvements will allow the freight company to handle more rail freight traffic faster and more reliably.

In March, Norfolk Southern Railway was fined $4 million over a 2005 chlorine spill in Graniteville, S.C., for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and hazardous materials laws. The spill was caused by a train wreck.

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