*Toxic Profit: Meet the Top Super Polluters in the US*

DowDuPont tops the list of the biggest air and water polluters in the
country, according to PERI's new Toxic 100 index. Researcher Michael Ash
breaks down the report.


*Michael Ash* is professor of economics and public policy at the University
of Massachusetts Amherst. He co-directs the Corporate Toxics Information
Project of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI)
<http://www.peri.umass.edu>, which publishes the Toxic 100 index
identifying top US polluters. Ash served as staff labor economist for the
President's Council of Economic Advisers in 1995-1996 and as Princeton
Project 55 Fellow for the Trenton Office of Policy Studies (NJ) in
1991-1992. His work on the Toxic 100 Indexes can be found at Toxic100.org



SHARMINI PERIES: It's the Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries coming to
you from Baltimore. The annual Toxic 100 reports produced by Professor
Michael Ash and Professor Jim Boyce at the Political Economy Research
Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are an assessment of
which corporations release the most toxic pollutants into our environment.
Last week, we interviewed Michael Ash about the Greenhouse 100 Index, and
we thought we'd have him back today to discuss the other indexes outlining
who are the biggest air and water polluters in the country as well as the
combined indexes that they have produced. Michael Ash is professors of
Economics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Good to have you back, Michael.

MICHAEL ASH: Thanks, Sharmini, for having me on.

SHARMINI PERIES: Michael, as I said, last week we talked about the biggest
greenhouse gas emitters in the US who surprisingly turned out to be
electric companies who burn fossil fuel. Today, let's talk about your other
indexes starting with the Toxic Air Polluters Index.

MICHAEL ASH: So, the Toxic Air Polluters Index, unlike the Greenhouse Gas
Index, is looking at industrial releases of very toxic material. Obviously,
greenhouse gases pose a global threat. The toxics that we track through
this index are more focused on local pollutants, pollutants that have their
maximum impact 2, 3, 5, 15 miles from the facility where they're released.
They're really high toxicity local pollutants. They do a lot of potential
local damage around the facility as these facilities produce for largely
national markets.

SHARMINI PERIES: Michael, let's take one of these groups like Zachry Group
or even DowDuPont and break down the kind of toxins they release and the
potential impacts it has our health.

MICHAEL ASH: Sure. Let's talk about DowDuPont because it's probably better
known to many of your listeners. So, DowDuPont, if you take a look at the
top of their list of facilities, and again, for those of you visiting that
website, which I do recommend, you can click right on the words DowDuPont
and you'll get a map of their facilities, literally a map. You can see
where the facilities are located and then also you get a map of the types
of chemicals that the facilities are emitting. So, the top chemical for
DowDuPont is released in Louisiana at their...plant, a DowDuPont facility
in LaPlace, Louisiana. Chloroprene, which is involved in the production of
neoprene, is one of the top chemicals that's released at that facility.

SHARMINI PERIES: Okay. Now, the other issue you index is really the water
pollutants in our water supply. Tell us about how you went about collecting
that information and then what are the most alarming things about our water
supply that we should know.

MICHAEL ASH: Topping the water supply list, DowDuPont is actually the
number one company on the Toxic 100 Water Polluters Index. Anyone who
visits the website toxic100.org can choose to look at air polluters, water
polluters, or greenhouse gas polluters, or we now have a new list that
combines all three. It's possible to track which companies appear on all
three lists. DowDuPont is at the top of the water polluter list. They are
then followed by a large number of electrical producers. Production of
electricity and particularly the burning of fossil fuels like coal is very
likely to top highly toxic pollution lists, both because there's a lot of
chemical produced and because fairly toxic chemicals come out of the
burning of coal. So, around the top of the water polluter list with
DowDuPont is American Electric Power, Honeywell International Southern
Company, AES Corporation. These are, again, large either chemical or
electrical producing companies. I think, again, it's very important to
visit the lists to get a full picture of which chemicals are being produced
and how many people are impacted.

SHARMINI PERIES: Speaking of people, Michael, of course this begs the
question, who's living in these toxic facility areas and the impact it has
on people's health and well being?

MICHAEL ASH: Thanks, it's a great question. One of the most important parts
of our list, particularly something that we research very heavily at
Political Economy Research Institute here at University of Massachusetts is
the sharing, shall we say, the sharing of this burden that these companies
release very toxic chemicals into the environment. That's what economists
call an externalization of their costs. They don't have to pay for
releasing those chemicals. That's like getting a piece of the production
process for free. Companies have to pay the workers who work, they have to
pay the suppliers who bring the inputs, they have to pay the trucks that
take the products away, but they don't need to pay for releasing the toxic
byproducts of their production into the environment. They're externalizing

So, we might want to ask, why don't they have to pay? One reason that
companies may not have to pay is because they select vulnerable populations
or they impact vulnerable populations who are downwind, effectively, from
their facilities. So, our methodology makes it possible to take a look at
what fraction of the burden from these facilities, what fraction of the
total population health risk from these facilities falls on poor people,
people living below the federal poverty line, and falls on minorities,
people of color who in this country in the United States are
disproportionately likely to be the recipients of environmental injustice.

So, our list, and again, I encourage your visitors to take a look at
toxic100.org, makes it possible to look at what fraction of the burden of
these releases of industrial toxic releases fall upon poor people and
people of color. It's interesting, people of color and minorities make up
about 39% of the US population. 8 of the top 10 companies on the list have
substantially more than 39% of their impact falling on minorities. If the
output was fairly shared across vulnerable and less vulnerable communities,
you'd expect minorities to make up about 39% of the burden. As I said, for
8 of the 10 top companies on the list, minorities make up more like 50% to
70% of the burden. Just to pick a company, number six, TMS International
Corporation, has 72% of its burden falls on minority populations. Outside
the top 10 at number 11, ExxonMobil has nearly 70% of its burden falling on
minority populations. That means that the faculties that these plants have
located, and in particular the plumes from these facilities, are
disproportionately likely to affect these vulnerable communities.

SHARMINI PERIES: So, in this case, how can these indexes be used to
facilitate how communities cope with it and how we should help address this

MICHAEL ASH: That's a great question. By the way, I should mention that all
of the data that we present is based on data collection by the US
Environmental Protection Agency. The US Environmental Protection Agency has
a right to know commitment that is enshrined in law so that people in the
United States have the right to know what toxics they're being exposed to.
We're trying to help users of these data convert the right to know into
actually exercising a right to clean air and clean water, something that's
enshrined in many state constitutions. We picture many users.

One possible user are actually regulators themselves. In many cases, the
state Environmental Protection Agencies don't know what are the top
important facilities in their states to focus on. The data that we present
can actually be a tool for regulators to identify areas of concern,
industries of concern, companies of concern, faculties of concern. It can
be helpful, again, because we report on a company basis. It could be
helpful to group facilities and to the companies that own them...So, you
might start to see patterns of companies that produce a lot of toxics,
release a lot of toxics and disproportionately expose vulnerable
populations. We picture regulators actually as one of the potential users,
it's interesting to think about these data leaving EPA, and thank goodness
we have EPA to produce these data, and then returning to EPA to give
guidance on where to enforce.

We also picture socially responsible investors. There may be many investors
who'd like to make sure that the funds that they're providing to companies
are going to produce salutary effect. They're going to produce the types of
goods and services that provide health and well being for large swaths of
the population. So, these investors may be concerned about pollution coming
from the facilities from the companies in which they invest. We very much
want investors to be aware of the potential chronic human health impact of
the companies in which they're considering investment. And that concern is
all the greater, of course, when you think about vulnerable communities who
are downwind. In addition to regulators, we think about socially
responsible investors as a user of these data.

And we also think about citizens and activists. Communities may well know
about the facilities that they're downwind from. They may have been active
for years working on those facilities. Our analysis of the data makes it
possible for communities to form common cause with each other. Because we
group up to the level of the parent entity or the corporation, communities
can figure out that they're not the only ones who are downwind from this
company and its many facilities. It makes it possible for communities to
find each other and make a common cause, again, to identify patterns that
there may be companies that have a widespread record of producing and
releasing a lot of toxics, and in particular finding those toxics finding
their way into vulnerable populations. So, we think about that tripartite
set of potential users of the Toxic 100 data, again, regulators, investors,
and community activists, and other stakeholders.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Michael, now looking at all of your indexes
from air, greenhouse gas to water and these toxic elements combined in your
Environmental Justice Report Card, it shows that a company's pollution
burden on minority and low income communities is disproportion across the
country, but also specific to certain companies. So, who are they?

MICHAEL ASH: The companies that are high on all of the lists, and again,
this is the first time we've offered a combined list that let people take a
look at the toxic air dimension, at the toxic water dimension and at the
greenhouse gas dimension at the same time. So, if you take a look at the
top of those lists, you'll see there are a set of companies that appear
high on all three lists. DowDuPont is a large toxic air releaser, large
toxic water releaser and a large greenhouse gas releaser. Berkshire
Hathaway is similarly high on all three lists. ExxonMobil is high on all
three lists. Koch Industries is high on all three lists. So, again, I think
it's helpful to your viewers if they go and visit the data at toxic100.org
and they can take a look at whether high toxic releasers are also high
greenhouse gas releasers, are also companies that have a particularly high
share of their burden falling on minority communities or on low income

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Michael. I thank you again for joining us and
continuing this conversation with us.

MICHAEL ASH: Thanks so much, Sharmini. It was a pleasure to discuss it with

SHARMINI PERIES: It's an important report, and we urge everyone to go and
have a look and as Michael said, to click on the information so it exposes
which communities are most affected in order to determine how your
environment might be affected by pollutants in the air, or water, or the
combined toxins that Michael talks about. I thank you so much for joining
us here on The Real News Network.

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