The Council on Economic Priorities, a nonprofit group that publishes the popular consumer guide "Shopping for a Better World," has named some of America's best-known companies to a list of the nation's eight worst corporate environmental offenders.
Rockwell International, General Electric, General Motors, Maxxam Group, Du Pont, Georgia-Pacific, USX and Cargill make up the council's list of environmental culprits.
The list marks the debut of the council's Campaign for Cleaner Corporations, which said it plans to annually rate the environmental performance of major U.S. firms.
Rockwell, the Seal Beach-based aerospace company, was cited foremost for its Rocky Flats, Colo., nuclear weapons manufacturing plant, which the council said "may be the nation's most polluted site," with at least 166 hazardous waste dumps. The group also criticized Rockwell for generating air pollution in the Los Angeles area.
Rockwell said in a statement Monday that the company had seen the council's news release but not its full report. "It is unfortunate that the council's judgment is based largely on out-of-date information and has not recognized Rockwell's continuing, successful efforts to conduct business in an environmentally responsible manner," the company said.
The council's judges recommended specific improvements for each company.
Rockwell, the council said, should phase out its work at nuclear weapons plants, "develop specific measurable goals" to clean up the Rocky Flats facility, develop a corporate environmental policy and make annual reports of its progress in environmental matters.
Houston-based Maxxam Group was criticized for doubling the logging activities of Pacific Lumber Co. after its 1990 takeover of the company, which previously had won praise for its conservative cutting practices in its Northern California redwood forests. Maxxam was also cited as a potentially responsible party at 17 Superfund toxic waste sites and for eight "willful" violations of federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.
The council studied the environmental histories of 100 companies in 10 categories, including aerospace, automobiles, chemicals, electrical equipment, food processing, paper, steel, timber and oil. These were sent to 11 judges, which included Sierra Club Chairman Michael McCloskey, Green Consumer Letter Editor Joel Makower and Kenneth Mountcastle, senior vice president of Dean Witter Reynolds. Notably, no oil companies were named to the top eight offenders.
"They couldn't come to agreement on which oil company had the worst record," said John Weiss, a project director for the council. "The general oil company recommendation is that the whole industry has significant problems."
The nonprofit, New York-based council for more than two decades has researched the social-responsibility records of U.S. corporations.
In 1993, the council will rate companies in the nuclear and conventional power industry and the apparel and shoe industry, among other categories.