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Press Release of Senator Cantwell

Cantwell Demands Oil Execs Testify Under Oath as Oil Companies Fail to Answer Questions about Exports, Supply, and Trading Practices


Thursday, December 01,2005


WASHINGTON, DC – Today U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) reiterated her demand that oil company executives return to Congress and testify under oath. At a November 9 joint hearing by the Commerce and Energy Committees, executives from major oil companies committed to providing data detailing their fuel inventories, exports, and trading practices. However, Exxon, BP, and Shell in particular have since refused to disclose much of this information, leaving hard-working Americans without answers.

“Oil executives failed to answer the simple questions we asked of them,” said Cantwell. “This is unacceptable. If we’re going to get to the bottom of high gas prices, we need complete answers that Americans can trust. Oil executives must come back and testify under oath.”

In addition to failing to provide many of the answers Americans demand, the answers executives did provide may not have been accurate. A Washington Post article has cast doubt on the truthfulness of testimony offered by oil company CEOs at the original November 9 hearing. In a letter sent Thursday to Chairman Ted Stevens of the Commerce Committee and Chairman Pete Domenici of the Energy Committee, Cantwell requested that hearings reconvene as soon as possible to take sworn testimony from oil CEOs about on their pricing and exporting practices and the recent run-up in American fuel prices.

Cantwell is the chair of the Senate Democrats’ Energy Independence 2020 national campaign, working to break America’s overdependence on foreign oil, to protect working families from skyrocketing energy costs, and to stop unfair market manipulation by energy companies. We must stop price gouging, provide relief from high home heating costs, and invest in reliable sources of affordable fuel. By working toward energy independence, we can protect our environment, jumpstart our economy, and provide for a better future.

[The text of Cantwell’s letter follows below]

December 1, 2005

Honorable Ted Stevens Chairman Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation United States Senate Dirksen Building, Room 508 Washington, DC 20510-6125

Honorable Pete Domenici Chairman Committee on Energy and Natural Resources United States Senate Dirksen Building, Room 364 Washington, DC 20510-6125

Dear Chairmen Stevens and Domenici:

I write to reiterate my request that the Senate Commerce and Energy Committees reconvene hearings as soon as possible to take the sworn testimony o the five major oil company CEOs who appeared before the Committees last month.

As I have previously noted, allegations detailed in a Nov. 16 Washington Post article cast doubt on the truthfulness of testimony offered by some of these CEOs in regard to their participation in the Vice President’s energy task force. I support a Department of Justice inquiry into this matter, but also believe the Senate must act to hold these witnesses accountable. Allowing them to hide behind a strained if not patently erroneous reading of the law would be an insult to the American consumers we represent.

But perhaps most importantly, I asked during the hearing a series of questions designed to help unravel the factors contributing to the record-setting and tremendously volatile fuel prices, which are harming consumers, businesses and the American economy as a whole. The witnesses committed to provide the Committees in a timely manner with data detailing their fuel inventories, exports and trading transactions. But despite these commitments, Exxon, BP and Shell in particular have subsequently refused to disclose much of this information. I believe that failure to live up to these commitments is unacceptable. We cannot allow these companies to frustrate our efforts as policymakers to understand the dynamics influencing the record-setting fuel prices being paid by our constituents.

Just as Majority Leader Frist has stated, the oil company executives who testified last month “did not… adequately answer the question of whether the sky-high gas prices we saw earlier this fall were entirely justified, and whether their companies' profit margins are appropriate given the hardships energy consumers are facing and will continue to face this winter." Recalling these witnesses to testify under oath will help us answer many of these lingering questions, bolster the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the Senate’s investigation into this matter, and help us obtain the information so vital in crafting well-reasoned energy policy.

I continue to believe the American people deserve real answers about the causes of the recent run-up in fuel prices. Given the complexities of national and international fuel markets, getting these answers will require more than a single hearing—and further requires that we demand that witnesses who come before the United States Senate make good on their promises to us and to the American people.

Thank you for your attention to this request.

Sincerely,

Maria Cantwell U.S. Senator