Senators ask oilmen to explain

Sens. Pete Domenici (R) and Jeff Bingaman (D), the respective chairman and ranking member of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, plan to ask the nation’s top oil executives to clarify whether their companies participated in an energy-policy task force led by Vice President Cheney in 2001.

The senators, both of new Mexico, decided to write letters to the executives in response to a story in The Washington Post describing a document the newspaper obtained and that, the paper reported, apparently contradicts testimony oil executives gave last week before a joint hearing of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees.

The chief executives of ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips told the committees that their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. But the document, according to the newspaper, shows that officials from Exxon, Conoco, Shell Oil and BP American met with aides to Cheney.

“We take this report seriously, but we think it is important to make sure that we have the facts straight and proceed in a fair and judicious manner,” a statement released by Domenici and Bingaman states, referring to the Post article.

The task force held its meetings behind closed doors, and the White House refused later requests to release a list of participants. Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club sued to obtain the records, but were denied in court.