Top Climate, Air and Water Polluters Named in Latest Toxic 100, Greenhouse 100 Lists

Report from UMass Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute also includes environmental justice indicators, tracking unequal impacts on minorities and the poor
Michael Ash
Michael Ash
smoke stacks
smoke stacks

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

The Toxic 100 Air and Toxic 100 Water Indexes 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.

For the second year in a row, Vistra Energy, Southern Company and Duke Energy are the top three companies in the Greenhouse 100 Index, which ranks companies by 2018 direct emissions from large sources. Each company released almost 100 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions in 2018, totaling almost 5% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Rounding out the top 10 in the Greenhouse 100 are Berkshire Hathaway, American Electric Power, Xcel Energy, NRG Energy, Calpine and Dominion Energy, with the U.S. government ranking sixth. The top company whose direct emissions are not dominated by electric power plants is Exxon Mobil, which ranked 11th. 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 companies in terms of total potential chronic human health risk are LyondellBasell, Boeing, Huntsman, BASF, Dow Inc., Celanese, General Electric, Terumo, Eastman Chemical and Royal Dutch Shell. Two of these companies are in the top 10 almost entirely because of ethylene oxide emitted from one facility, and one of them is included due to chromium from just a single facility. The Toxic 100 Air Index covers publicly-traded as well as privately-held companies, such as 24th-ranked Koch Industries, which appear on Forbes, Fortune or S&P lists.

The Toxic 100 Air Polluters Index includes environmental justice indicators showing companies’ pollution burden on minority and low-income communities. While minorities make up just under 40% of the U.S. population, minorities bear 68% of the air-toxics risk from facilities owned by LyondellBasell, for example.

The Toxic 100 Water Polluters Index ranks the pounds of toxics released into surface water or sent to water-treatment systems, adjusted for chemical toxicity, and Northrop Grumman, BASF, LyondellBasell, Dow Inc. and Celanese top this year’s Toxic 100 Water Index.

In addition to the top-100 lists, PERI has also created a search function that provides information on all companies reporting releases to the Toxics Release Inventory or the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

“The Toxic 100 and Greenhouse 100 inform consumers, shareholders, regulators, lawmakers and communities of which large corporations release toxic and climate-altering pollutants into our environment,” says Michael Ash, professor of economics and public policy 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, and 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,” Ash notes. “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 and Greenhouse 100 lists – and their accompanying report – can be found online at