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Barton, Whitfield Ask CITGO For Discount Heating Oil Program Details

US Committee on Energy and Commerce

WASHINGTON February 15, 2006 – U.S. Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., today sent a letter to Felix Rodriguez, president and CEO of CITGO Petroleum Corp., asking him for details of the company’s programs to provide discounted heating oil primarily to organizations in the Northeast. Barton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Whitfield, chairman of the Subcommittee for Oversight and Investigations, have raised concerns that the company, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, is using this program as part of an unfriendly government’s increasingly belligerent and hostile foreign policy toward the United States.

Letter sent by U.S. Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky. to CITGO

Mr. Félix M. Rodríguez
President and CEO
CITGO Petroleum Corporation
P.O. Box 4689
Houston, TX 77210-4689

Dear Mr. Rodriguez:

Over the past several months, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has made numerous public announcements about providing discounted heating oil to poor communities and schools within the United States. According to various media reports and company briefings, Venezuela has already signed several agreements to provide discounted heating oil to various not-for-profit entities, primarily in the Northeast, through Houston-based CITGO Petroleum Corporation (CITGO). CITGO is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), with 14,000 gas stations and 8 oil refineries in the United States. While the Committee certainly has no objection to Venezuela assisting low-income Americans, we want to understand whether the beneficiaries are being selected in an objective, equitable fashion, or whether this is merely part of a larger political agenda.

Unfortunately, many of President Chavez’s public statements concerning the United States Government suggest that his purportedly altruistic motives may camouflage his true motivations. President Chavez has repeatedly demonstrated a warped view of the United States and its leaders, as well as bizarre concepts of fundamental justice. Consider, for example, that one day after the September 11 terrorist attacks, President Chavez claimed that “[t]he United States brought the attacks upon itself.” More recently, during a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization event in Rome, Italy on October 17, 2005, President Chavez called the United States “the North American Empire that threatened all life on the planet.” At a November meeting of Venezuelan and Brazilian business executives in Caracas, Chavez declared, “The people of the United States are being governed by a killer, a genocidal murderer and a madman.” Furthermore, last Christmas Eve, Chavez made the following anti-Semitic remarks:

“Some minorities, descendants of the same ones who crucified Christ . . . took all the world’s wealth for themselves.”

Venezuela also has close ties to several nations that have undisputed ties to terrorism, including Cuba, Syria, Iran, and Libya. In fact, during a September 16, 2005, interview with Ted Koppel on Nightline, President Chavez boasted of being “friends” with Fidel Castro and other decidedly anti-American foreign political figures.

Given President Chavez’s clear anti-American sentiments, his current efforts must be viewed with concern that he is attempting to politicize the debate over U.S. energy policy. Indeed, CITGO’s Chief Operating Officer, Jerry Thompson, recently acknowledged as much in an interview with USA Today (January 12, 2006, page A1): “Being owned by a political entity [PDVSA] ultimately means, from time to time, you have to do things with a political bent to them. Heating oil as an example of that.”

The Committee would like to get a better understanding of Venezuela’s program offering discounted heating oil to select low-income communities in the United States (the Program). Accordingly, pursuant to Rules X and XI of the United States House of Representatives, please respond to the following questions. (1) How and when was this Program first conceived? (2) How and why were the particular beneficiaries of this Program selected? (3) How is the Program being implemented? (4) What is the status of the Program in each of the proposed communities? (5) Does this Program run afoul of any antitrust laws? In addition, please provide all records in CITGO’s possession, custody, or control relating to the Program. All responses and documents should be provided on or before February 23, 2006.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Joe Barton, Chairman

Ed Whitfield, Chairman

cc: The Honorable John D. Dingell, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

The Honorable Bart Stupak, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations



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