A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.
The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated.
In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips said their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate "to my knowledge," and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.
Chevron was not named in the White House document, but the Government Accountability Office has found that Chevron was one of several companies that "gave detailed energy policy recommendations" to the task force. In addition, Cheney had a separate meeting with John Browne, BP's chief executive, according to a person familiar with the task force's work; that meeting is not noted in the document.
Sen. Lautenberg will ask the Justice Department to investigate the lies. While they were not sworn in and cannot be prosecuted for perjury, lying to a congressional committee is still a crime punishable with up to five years in prison.
To be exact, here's the specific exhange:
Toward the end of the hearing, Lautenberg asked the five executives: "Did your company or any representatives of your companies participate in Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001?" When there was no response, Lautenberg added: "The meeting . . . "
"No," said Raymond [Exxon].
"No," said Chevron Chairman David J. O'Reilly.
"We did not, no," Mulva said [Conoco].
"To be honest, I don't know," said BP America chief executive Ross Pillari, who came to the job in August 2001. "I wasn't here then."
"But your company was here," Lautenberg replied.
"Yes," Pillari said.
Shell Oil president John Hofmeister, who has held his job since earlier this year, answered last. "Not to my knowledge," he said.