Cantwell Repeats Demand for Investigation Into Oil Execs' False Testimony
Senator Demands Answers in Response to Concerns That Oil CEOs' Responses to Congress May Not Have Been Accurate
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) reiterated her demand on Wednesday for oil company executives to provide real answers to hard-working Americans. Cantwell joined a group of senators, led by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), in calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether top executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell provided false testimony at a joint hearing of the Commerce and Energy Committees in November.
"Hard-working Americans deserve the truth from oil company executives," said Cantwell, a member of both the Commerce and Energy Committees. "Winter means lower temperatures across the country and higher natural gas bills for American households. Nationwide, household heating costs are already up 26 percent, households heating primarily with natural gas will likely spend $281 more for fuel this winter, 38 percent more than last year, and just yesterday, natural gas prices reached a new record, while yet another industry merger was announced. Energy prices are out of control and far too many Americans can't afford to heat their homes in the face of rising winter heating costs. As we try to get to the bottom of this crisis, America has the right to expect complete and honest answers from CEOs at the oil companies."
At the joint hearing in November, executives from major oil companies spoke to Congress about nationwide concerns of gas price gouging. Soon after the hearing, The Washington Post published an article which cast doubt on the truthfulness of their testimony, specifically on the companies' participation in Vice President Dick Cheney's 2001 Energy Task Force. In a letter sent Wednesday to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Cantwell joined 6 other senators to call on the Justice Department to investigate whether the testimony provided by oil executives at the November 9 hearing violated the Federal "False Statements" statute.
"If witnesses believe that the laws requiring truthful testimony before our committees will not be enforced, our hearings will lose their usefulness and the Senate's ability to effectively legislate will be hampered," the senators wrote in their letter.
Before the joint hearing, Cantwell led a group of Democratic senators in requesting that oil company executives testify under oath when they appeared before the Committees. That request was denied. Last month, in a letter to Chairman Ted Stevens of the Commerce Committee and Chairman Pete Domenici of the Energy Committee, Cantwell requested again that oil executives return to Congress and testify under oath about their pricing and exporting practices and the recent run-up in American fuel prices. A number of the oil companies have failed to provide necessary information about their fuel inventories, trading activities and exports, despite the CEOs'commitments to Cantwelll at the November joint hearing.
Cantwell has also introduced legislation to put in place federal anti-gas price gouging protections and guard against future profiteering and market manipulation. Cantwell's legislation came up for a vote on November 17, but needing a supermajority of 60 senators to pass, failed on a close 57 to 42 vote.
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 the letter to Attorney General Gonzales follows below]
December 14, 2005
Honorable Alberto Gonzales Attorney General Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530 Dear Attorney General Gonzales: As you know, the CEOs of major oil companies testified at a joint hearing of the Senate Commerce and Energy Committees on November 9, 2005. The companies represented included Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP America and Shell Oil Company. At the hearing, Senator Lautenberg asked each of these CEOs the following question: Did your company or any representatives in your companies participate in Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001?
Most of the witnesses answered the question in the negative. Following the hearing, the Washington Post revealed the existence of a Secret Service document that raised serious questions about the veracity of some of the answers provided by these witnesses. The companies then released statements and letters attempting to clarify the executives' answers to Senator Lautenberg's question. Many of these latter statements admitted participation in task force activities and raised greater concern about the accuracy of the hearing testimony. We therefore request that the Justice Department investigate whether the testimony provided at the November 9th hearing violated the Federal "False Statements" statute, 18 U.S.C. §1001 or any other applicable statutes. If witnesses believe that the laws requiring truthful testimony before our committees will not be enforced, our hearings will lose their usefulness and the Senate's ability to effectively legislate will be hampered. You and your Department have a unique Constitutional duty to enforce laws that help protect the integrity of proceedings before the United States Senate. We strongly urge you to exercise this critical duty. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter Sincerely,
Frank Lautenberg, United States Senator
Harry Reid, United States Senator
Maria Cantwell, United States Senator
Dick Durbin, United States Senator
Daniel Inouye, United States Senator
Ron Wyden, United States Senator
Barbara Boxer, United States Senator
Edward Kennedy, United States Senator