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UMass Amherst Researchers Reveal Top U.S. Climate, Air, and Water Polluters

AMHERST — Researchers at the UMass Amherst Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) recently published the latest editions of its lists of the top corporate air and water polluters and top greenhouse-gas emitters in the U.S., based on the most recent data available from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Toxic 100 Air Polluters Index and Toxic 100 Water Polluters Index rank U.S. industrial polluters using the EPA Toxics Release Inventory, and the Greenhouse 100 Index ranks U.S. companies by their emissions responsible for global climate change according to the EPA Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. The PERI indexes also include environmental-justice indicators to assess impacts on low-income people and minorities.

“In making this information available, we are building on the achievements of the right-to-know movement,” said Michael Ash, professor of Economics and Public Policy at UMass Amherst and co-director of PERI’s Corporate Toxics Information Project. “Our goal is to engender public participation in environmental decision making and to help residents translate the right to know into the right to clean air, clean water, and a livable planet.”

The Toxic 100 Air Polluters Index reports that the top 10 companies  in 2017 in terms of total potential chronic human health risk are Huntsman, Boeing, LyondellBasell, DowDuPont, Celanese, Mitsui, BASF, Arconic, Eastman Chemical, and Royal Dutch Shell. The new list differs from the previous Toxic 100 Air list in part because the EPA has increased its toxicity assessment of ethylene oxide, increasing the estimated risk from companies releasing this chemical. The index covers publicly traded firms, as well as privately held companies that appear on the Forbes, Fortune, or Standard & Poor’s lists.

The Toxic 100 Air Polluters Index’s environmental-justice indicators show companies’ pollution burden on minority and low-income communities; for example, while minorities make up just under 40% of the U.S. population, they bear 67% of the air-toxics risk from facilities owned by LyondellBasell.

DowDuPont, Northrop Grumman, and Parker-Hannifin top the latest edition of the Toxic 100 Water Polluters Index, which ranks the pounds of toxics released into surface water or from water-treatment systems, adjusted for chemical toxicity.

The Greenhouse 100 Index ranks companies based on their 2017 direct emissions from large sources. The top three companies, Vistra Energy, Southern Co., and Duke Energy, each released almost 100 million metric tons or more of CO2-equivalent emissions in 2017. Together, these three firms released more than 5% of all (energy, industrial, agricultural, transportation, and household) U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions.

Rounding out the top 10 in the Greenhouse 100 are Berkshire Hathaway, American Electric Power, NRG Energy, the U.S. government, Xcel Energy, FirstEnergy, and Calpine. At number 11, ExxonMobil is the top company whose direct emissions are not dominated by electric power plants. Among the top 10, Calpine has the highest weighted share of minorities living within 10 miles of its facilities with likely disproportionate exposure to co-pollutants of combustion.

“The Toxic 100 and Greenhouse 100 inform consumers, shareholders, regulators, lawmakers, and communities about which large corporations release toxic and climate-altering pollutants into our environment,” said James Boyce, professor of Economics at UMass Amherst and co-director of PERI’s Corporate Toxics Information Project. “We assess not just how many pounds of pollutants are released, but which are the most toxic. People have a right to know about toxic hazards to which they are exposed. Legislators need to understand the effects of pollution on their constituents.”

The complete Toxic 100 lists and their accompanying report can be found online at toxic100.org.

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