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Shell Oil ditches conservative group that fuels climate change deniers, while drilling for oil in the Arctic

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August 12, 2015 | By Joel Connelly

Royal Dutch Shell is severing its ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative groups that has worked in states to block President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to curb coal plant emissions.

Shell has cited ALEC’s stand on climate change as the reason for not renewing its membership, a decision made as its drilling rig the Polar Pioneer begins controversial drilling of exploratory wells in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea.

The oil giant joins such firms as Microsoft, AOL, Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yahoo, Occidental Petroleum and — lately — the Canadian National Railroad which have quit the Council over its climate stands.

Eric Schmidt, CEO at Google, accused ALEC of “literally lying” for its stands on climate and resistance to clean energy legislation.

“ALEC advocates for specific economic growth initiatives, but its stance on climate change is clearly inconsistent with our own,” Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said in a statement.

“We have long recognized both the importance of the climate challenge and the critical role energy has in determining quality of life for people across the world.”

The departure of Shell from ALEC comes as Shell CEO Ben van Beurden explained, in an interview with the BBC, how his company arrived at the decision to drill for oil in sensitive, ice-choked, wildlife rich Arctic waters.

“You have to make a judgment: Can I do this in a responsible way?” said van Beurden. “That is a bit of the personal journey that I had to go through. We believe that we can responsibly explore for hydrocarbons in Alaska.”

He has a lot of disagreement on that. “Kayakctivists” tried to block the Polar Pioneer from leaving Seattle for the Arctic. Environmental groups have mounted a sustained series of lawsuits against Shell’s drilling plans.  Seattle politicians have protested Shell using Seattle as homeport for its Arctic drilling fleet, albeit after the Port of Seattle signed a lease with almost no public involvement.

Earlier this month, Greenpeace activists rappelled off a bridge over the Willamette River in Portland, trying (unsuccessfully) to block a Shell-leased icebreaker heading for the Chukchi Sea drilling site.

Still, Shell has received some applause for dumping ALEC.

Angela Anderson, head of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Climate and Energy Program, said in a statement:

“Shell’s leadership has recognized that the company’s membership in ALEC is at odds with its acceptance of climate science. We’re happy they’ve responded to scientists and investors who have been urging Shell to sever its ties with ALEC.”

ALEC has defended itself, claiming it is not undermining climate programs but simply practicing free market economics. “Climate change activists have conflated our opposition to the government picking winners and losers as climate change denial,” Molly Fuhs of ALEC told the Washington Post.

But ALEC’s remaining members include “dirty” industries that have underwritten groups that fan climate change skepticism.

Its members include Koch Industries, Peabody Coal, Exxon-Mobil and Chevron.

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