Special Report

Companies Pumping the Most Greenhouse Gas Into the Atmosphere

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5. American Electric Power
> 2019 CO2 equivalent emissions: 70,044,545 metric tons
> Environmental justice, poor population share: 16% – #31 highest out of 100 corporations
> Environmental justice, minority population share: 19% – #86 highest
> Pct. of CO2 equivalent emissions from single facility: 14% – #90 highest
> Industrial sectors: Power plants, other

No. 5 American Electric Power produced almost 23 million more metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions in 2019 than the U.S. Government. In 2007, the Columbus, Ohio, company agreed to pay $4.7 billion to cut 813,000 tons of air pollutants annually, pay a $15 million penalty, and spend $60 million on projects to curtail the worst impacts of excess emissions. The company reported nearly $17 billion in revenue and $3.5 billion in net income in 2021.

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4. Berkshire Hathaway
> 2019 CO2 equivalent emissions: 74,960,726 metric tons
> Environmental justice, poor population share: 14% – #56 highest out of 100 corporations
> Environmental justice, minority population share: 36% – #64 highest
> Pct. of CO2 equivalent emissions from single facility: 15% – #88 highest
> Industrial sectors: Power plants, petroleum and natural gas systems, minerals, metals, other, chemicals

Energy, mineral, and chemical companies in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway group were fined $230.1 million for environmental violations. Berkshire’s Nevada Power Company unit settled with the federal government and the state of Nevada to spend almost $85 million on cleaner technology, pay a $1.11 million fine, and spend $4 million on energy conservation projects.

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3. Southern Company
> 2019 CO2 equivalent emissions: 86,244,286 metric tons
> Environmental justice, poor population share: 15% – #39 highest out of 100 corporations
> Environmental justice, minority population share: 48% – #39 highest
> Pct. of CO2 equivalent emissions from single facility: 22% – #74 highest
> Industrial sectors: Power plants, petroleum and natural gas systems, other

More than one-third of the CO2 equivalent emissions generated by Southern Company in 2019 came from two plants in Alabama and Georgia. Since 2000, the Atlanta-based company has received fines totaling nearly $207 million. Most of that amount was from a settlement in 2006 at its James H. Miller coal-fired plant in Quinton, Alabama, operated by its Alabama Power subsidiary that agreed to spend more than $200 million on pollution controls to settle alleged Clean Air Act violations. Alabama Power alone reported revenue of $6.4 billion in 2021.

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2. Duke Energy
> 2019 CO2 equivalent emissions: 87,140,105 metric tons
> Environmental justice, poor population share: 14% – #56 highest out of 100 corporations
> Environmental justice, minority population share: 29% – #76 highest
> Pct. of CO2 equivalent emissions from single facility: 13% – #94 highest
> Industrial sectors: Power plants, other, petroleum and natural gas systems, waste

Duke Energy, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is responsible for 3.1% of the national total of 2019 Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program of large fixed source emissions. The company has been fined $2.5 billion for environmental infractions since 2000. Before it merged with Duke in 2006, Cinergy Corp. settled alleged Clean Air Act violations by agreeing to spend $1.4 billion on new emission controls, pay an $8.5 million civil penalty, and spend $21.5 million on environmental projects. In 2021, Duke settled a case that decided liability for payment of coal ash cleanup, writing off $485 million in coal ash expenses for customers, $270 million in future additional coal ash costs for customers, and it agreed to pay a $100 million penalty.

Source: Vistra Energy Corp.

1. Vistra Energy
> 2019 CO2 equivalent emissions: 106,510,086 metric tons
> Environmental justice, poor population share: 12% – #77 highest out of 100 corporations
> Environmental justice, minority population share: 39% – #59 highest
> Pct. of CO2 equivalent emissions from single facility: 12% – #96 highest
> Industrial sectors: Power plants

Vistra Energy of Irving, Texas, is the only company on the list with 2019 CO2 equivalent emissions exceeding 100 million tons. Vistra accounts for 3.7% of the national total of 2019 Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program of large fixed source emissions, the most of any company on the list. In 2005, Vistra’s Dynegy Midwest Generation unit was fined more than $524 million in environment-related offenses. It agreed to spend $500 million on new pollution control equipment, pay a civil penalty of $9 million, and spend $15 million on environmental projects.

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