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The Top 10 Corporate Environmental Disasters in U.S. History: Litigation and Large Corporate Payouts

The top 10 corporate environmental disasters in U.S. history, with a focus on the ones that resulted in litigation and large corporate payouts:

  1. Deepwater Horizon oil spill: BP’s offshore drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 caused the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history. BP paid over $20 billion in fines and compensation.
  2. Love Canal: Occidental Petroleum dumped 21,000 tons of toxic waste into the Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York, causing widespread contamination and birth defects. Occidental Petroleum paid over $130 million in settlements.
  3. Exxon Valdez oil spill: In 1989, Exxon’s oil tanker hit a reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil. Exxon paid over $1 billion in cleanup and compensation.
  4. DuPont Chemical leak: In 2014, a chemical leak at a DuPont plant in West Virginia contaminated the drinking water of over 300,000 people. DuPont paid over $670 million in settlements.
  5. Hinkley Groundwater Contamination: PG&E contaminated groundwater with chromium-6 in Hinkley, California, causing widespread health problems. PG&E paid over $333 million in settlements.
  6. Three Mile Island: In 1979, a nuclear reactor at the Three Mile Island power plant in Pennsylvania experienced a partial meltdown, causing radioactive gas to escape. The cleanup cost over $1 billion.
  7. Flint Water Crisis: In 2014, Flint, Michigan switched its water source to the Flint River, causing lead contamination in the city’s water supply. The state of Michigan paid $600 million in settlements.
  8. Volkswagen Emissions Scandal: In 2015, Volkswagen was found to have installed software in its diesel cars that allowed them to cheat on emissions tests. Volkswagen paid over $25 billion in settlements.
  9. Cuyahoga River Fire: In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio caught fire due to pollution from industrial waste. The incident spurred environmental activism and led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
  10. Kingston Fossil Plant Coal Ash Spill: In 2008, a retention pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee breached, releasing over 1 billion gallons of coal ash sludge into the surrounding area. The cleanup cost over $1 billion.

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