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    Big Oil Denies Misleading Senate

    Top oil execs acknowledge contact with officials on energy policy.

    WASHINGTON--Oil company CEOs acknowledged contacts between corporate representatives and Bush administration officials on energy-related issues, but insisted they didn't mislead a Senate committee when they denied participating in Vice President Dick Cheney's energy taskforce, reported MarketWatch.

    At issue is testimony by five oil company CEOs before the Senate Energy Committee last month.

    Asked by Sen. Frank Lautenberg if their companies had participated in the 2001 taskforce, BP America CEO Ross J. Pillari told the committee that he didn't know if representatives of BP's U.S. unit met with taskforce members. John Hofmeister, U.S. chairman of Royal Dutch Shell replied, "Not to my knowledge." CEOs of Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron Corp and Conoco Phillips said no, according to the report.

    After the hearing, a report in the Washington Post cited a White House document that showed officials from Exxon Mobil, Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil and BP America met in the White House complex with Cheney aides that were developing the administration's national energy policy blueprint, reported MarketWatch.

    That prompted Lautenberg to ask the Justice Department to investigate whether the CEOs had misled Congress, according to the report.

    Meanwhile, Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the panel's top Democrat, asked the executives to clarify their responses. The committee released the replies late Wednesday, reported MarketWatch.

    In his response, BP's Pillari told the senators that he had "looked into the matter and can advise you that BP representatives did meet with staff members of the National Energy Policy Development Group (taskforce) and provided them with comments on a range of energy policy matters" including natural gas, liquefied natural gas, transportation fuels and renewable energy, reported MarketWatch.

    Pillari said in the report that his reply at the Nov. 9 hearing "was and is a truthful answer as I was not personally involved in energy policy issues at the time."

    Shell's Hofmeister told the senators in his letter that his reply at the hearing was "truthful and accurate." Shell representatives didn't meet with Cheney's energy taskforce, Hofmeister said, but did meet with the administration-- including Cheney and his staff--on a "broad range of energy policy issues," MarketWatch reported.

    ConocoPhillips CEO James Mulva said his reply at the hearing was "a truthful one." While the Washington Post reported that two Conoco representatives attended or participated in a taskforce meeting prior to the merger of Conoco Phillips, Mulva said he responded to Lautenberg's question "based upon my knowledge of Phillips' conduct prior to the merger with Conoco and on my knowledge of ConocoPhillips' conduct subsequent to the merger," according to the MarketWatch report.

    Mulva was CEO of Phillips Petroleum before the merger.

    ExxonMobil pointed the senators to an item posted on the company's Internet site last month, which stated that CEO Lee Raymond correctly responded "no" to Lautenberg's query, according to the report.

    The posting said that ExxonMobil hadn't been a participant on the taskforce and that no company representatives had met with the taskforce. The posting also said the Washington Post article correctly noted that a meeting between company officials and an administration official took place in February 2001 at ExxonMobil's request, MarketWatch reported.

    The company said it provided the official with information on the global energy supply and demand situation, and shared the same information with the Government Accountability Office and Democratic and Republican energy committee staff members in the House and Senate.

    Chevron CEO David J. O'Reilly, who replied to the senators on Nov. 18, said his testimony before the committee was accurate. O'Reilly said neither he nor any Chevron representative participated in the taskforce or its meetings, MarketWatch reported.

    O'Reilly said he wrote a letter to President Bush on in February 2001 with recommendations on U.S. energy policy.

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