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Exxon quits ALEC

Oil giant ExxonMobil will not be renewing its membership to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative, corporate-backed lobbying organization known for giving lawmakers template legislation. ALEC also has a long history of pushing laws that would undermine environmental protections and clean energy.

It’s unclear whether climate change was the issue that pushed Exxon to leave ALEC. However, its decision to quit the council reportedly comes after a public spat over climate change policy last December.

According to news reports, the dispute concerned a proposal by climate science denial groups such as the Heartland Institute to try and convince the government to drop the fact that climate change is a risk to human health. The group’s draft resolution against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) endangerment finding was ultimately squashed.

“The American Legislative Exchange Council values partnership with ExxonMobil and stakeholders across the business community,” ALEC said in a statement Thursday. “Organization government relations strategies change over time, and we have valued ExxonMobil’s work and leadership with ALEC on STEM education, among other issues.”

Exxon is the latest oil company to pull its membership from the controversial organization. In 2015, both Shell and BP left the group; oil companies Occidental Petroleum and ConocoPhillips also previously cut ties with ALEC. And following pressure from environmental activists, tech companies Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Yelp left ALEC in 2014 due to differences on climate change policy.

ALEC has previously pushed “model legislation” to limit renewable energy in states and has condemned the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

“We review our memberships on an annual basis and this year we have decided to discontinue our membership in ALEC,” ExxonMobil spokesperson Scott Silvestri said in a statement Thursday.

The move by Exxon to not renew its membership — which expired in June — comes after years of climate science denial and misinformation by the company. In the past couple of years, however, the company has been publicly shifting its stance on climate change through statements defending the Paris climate agreement and the need for a carbon tax.

At the same time, it has not been known to lobby in favor of these issues and has in fact continued funding for anti-climate efforts.

According to figures compiled by DeSmogBlog, the group has spent around $33 million funding climate denial efforts over the past few decades. And between 1997 and 2016, Exxon gave ALEC roughly $1.8 million.

As investigations by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times found in 2015, ExxonMobil has known about the cause and consequences of climate change since the late 1970s. Despite these revelations, which came the same year that BP and Shell quit ALEC, ExxonMobil maintained its relationship with the lobbying group for another three years.

The move to leave ALEC also comes amid a growing movement of climate lawsuits against the fossil fuel giant.

Exxon’s membership is mentioned in two lawsuits — launched in Massachusetts and New York after the 2015 “Exxon Knew” investigations — which argue Exxon has knowingly lied to the public and shareholders about the dangers of burning fossil fuels, and its climate impact.

The company is also facing public nuisance lawsuits launched by cities in California and New York seeking damages for the impacts of climate change. Recently, a judge overturned two of these suits — initiated by San Francisco and Oakland — saying the courts were not the right place to decide this issue. But earlier this month Rhode Island became the first state to file a public nuisance climate lawsuit against Exxon and 20 other oil companies.

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