By NEIL GORDON
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story listed Textron as the number two polluter. Textron has since submitted upated information to the EPA, which removes Textron from the top 100 list.
Whenever someone puts out a best/worst ranking of corporations, the first thing the Project On Government Oversight does is check to see if any of the contractors in our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database are in it.
This week, the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst published its fourth Toxic 100 Air Polluters list of the worst corporate air polluters in the United States. Sure enough, General Electric is the second worst air polluter.
Sixteen other contractors in our database also made the top 100. As you would expect, the fossil fuel companies are in it (ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Valero Energy, and Chevron), as are fossil fuel industry services provider Halliburton and the company whose main product runs on fossil fuel, General Motors. The ranking also contains several defense contractor heavyweights: Boeing, United Technologies, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell International, and General Dynamics.
The list is based on air releases of hundreds of chemicals fr om tens of thousands of industrial facilities across the country. The ranking takes into account the quantity of releases, the toxicity of the released chemicals, and such factors as prevailing winds, the height of smokestacks, and the number of people at risk.
The web-based interface allows users to view the details behind each company’s “toxic score”, including the names and locations of facilities owned by the company, the chemicals emitted by those facilities, and the share of the toxic score borne by minorities and people living below the poverty line. For example, PERI found that racial and ethnic minorities, who make up less than 32 percent of the U.S. population, bear 69 percent of the air toxics risk from facilities owned by ExxonMobil and Valero and 68 percent from facilities owned by Chevron.
The number one air polluter in PERI’s ranking is Bayer Group, with a toxic score nearly 11 times that of the second-worst polluter, General Electric. Although not a “top” contractor, Bayer has still received a substantial amount in federal contracts – about $102 million since fiscal year 2000 according to USASpending.gov. Bayer also topped PERI’s 2010 Toxic 100 Air Polluters list. Remember that the next time you reach for an aspirin.
Neil Gordon is an investigator with the Project On Government Oversight. Image is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's “Woodsy Owl” anti-pollution campaign, circa 1971.