UMass Amherst Political Economy Research Institute’s Toxic 100 Names the Top U.S. Climate, Air and Water Polluters

Environmental justice report card also tracks unequal risk for poor and minorities

AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) today published new editions of its lists of the top corporate air and water polluters and top greenhouse gas emitters in the United States using the most recent data available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

PERI unveiled its 2018 Greenhouse 100 index, ranking U.S. companies by their emissions responsible for global climate change according to the U.S. EPA Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, and the Toxic 100 Air and Toxic 100 Water indexes, ranking U.S. industrial polluters using the U.S. EPA Toxics Release Inventory. The PERI indexes also include environmental justice indicators to assess impacts on low-income people and minorities.

The Greenhouse 100 Index ranks companies by 2015 direct emissions from large sources. The top three companies—Southern Company, Duke Energy and American Electric Power—each released over 100 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions in 2015. Together, these three companies released almost 5 percent of all (energy, industrial, agricultural, transportation and household) U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Rounding out the Greenhouse 100 top 10 are NRG Energy, Berkshire Hathaway, Dynegy, Xcel Energy, FirstEnergy and Calpine, with the U.S. government ranking seventh. The top company whose direct emissions are not dominated by electric power plants is Exxon Mobil at No. 13. 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 Air Polluters Index reports that the top 10 2015 companies in terms of total potential chronic human health risk are Zachry Group, DowDuPont, Berkshire Hathaway, General Electric, Royal Dutch Shell, TMS International, Arconic, LyondellBasell Industries, Robert Bosch and Freeport McMoRan. The Toxic 100 Air Index covers publicly traded as well as privately held companies, such as Koch Industries (No. 15), that appear on Forbes, Fortune or S&P lists.

The Toxic 100 Air Polluters Index includes an environmental justice report card showing companies’ pollution burden on minority and low-income communities. While minorities make up only 39 percent of the U.S. population, they bear, for example, 72 percent of the air-toxics risk from facilities owned by steel company TMS International. PERI’s research has found that minorities bear a disproportionate risk from eight of the top 10 companies listed in the Toxic 100 Index.

The Toxic 100 Water Polluters Index ranks the pounds of toxics released into surface water or from water-treatment systems, adjusted for chemical toxicity. DowDuPont, American Electric Power and Honeywell International top the Toxic 100 Water index based on 2015 EPA figures.

“The Toxic 100 informs consumers, shareholders, lawmakers and communities which large corporations release the most toxic pollutants into our environment,” said James Boyce, UMass Amherst professor of economics 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.”

“In making this information available, we are building on the achievements of the right-to-know movement,” explains Michael Ash, also a professor of economics 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 complete Toxic 100 lists and their accompanying report can be found online at