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Exxon said yesterday that it won't renew its membership in the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a move that follows a dispute over climate policy but comes years after several other major oil companies left the group.

Driving the news: According to several reports, in late 2017 Exxon was among the companies that opposed and helped defeat a draft ALEC resolution attacking the Obama-era "endangerment finding" that said greenhouse gases threaten humans — a conclusion that provides the legal underpinning of regulations.

The intrigue: Exxon declined to explain why it's leaving ALEC, which brings together companies and conservative state lawmakers. But nor did the company push back on reports that linked it to the recent debate.

My thought bubble: That's a pretty Exxon way of approaching a climate topic. The company is less outspoken on global warming in general than some of its peers, including Shell, BP and Equinor.

  • Consider that Exxon supports taxing carbon emissions and is among the corporate founding members of Climate Leadership Council, a nonprofit group pushing a CO2 tax plan that would return the revenues to the public.
  • However, while Exxon supports a tax, there's no evidence that the company actually lobbies lawmakers to implement one.

What they're saying: "If I know one thing about Exxon, it's that the company never wants to be seen to bow to pressure," said Andrew Logan, oil and gas director for the sustainable investor advocacy group Ceres.

  • "So even though this clearly was about climate change — what else could it be about? — admitting that would be seen by leadership as a sign of weakness," he told Axios.

What's next: The move will hardly end green group pressure on Exxon over climate. For instance, the Environmental Defense Fund welcomed Exxon's move and also noted the company's recent pledge to cut emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane. EDF's Ben Ratner said via a statement:

"Now companies must follow through on these steps by taking concrete action, including by defending EPA's finding that methane emissions from the oil and gas sector endanger public health and welfare, and by opposing efforts to weaken federal and state policies that secure reductions of these potent pollutants."

One level deeper: Several major corporations have abandoned ALEC in recent years, but their exit styles vary. Shell explicitly cited differences over climate when it bailed in 2015, but BP, when announcing its departure that year, didn't offer a reason.

Go deeper

Progressives pressure Schumer to end filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

A progressive coalition is pressuring Chuck Schumer on his home turf by running a digital billboard in Times Square urging the new majority leader to end the Senate filibuster.

Why it matters: Schumer is up for re-election in 2o22 and could face a challenger, and he's also spearheading his party's broader effort to hold onto its narrow congressional majorities.

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U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

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The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.