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
The task force's activities attracted complaints
from environmentalists, who said they were shut out of the
task force discussions while corporate interests were
present. The meetings were held in secret and the White
House refused to release a list of participants. The task
force was made up primarily of Cabinet-level officials.
Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club unsuccessfully sued to
obtain the records.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who posed the
question about the task force, said he will ask the Justice
Department today to investigate. "The White House went to
great lengths to keep these meetings secret, and now oil
executives may be lying to Congress about their role in the
Cheney task force," Lautenberg said.
Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney,
declined to comment on the document. She said that the
courts have upheld "the constitutional right of the
president and vice president to obtain information in
The executives were not under oath when they
testified, so they are not vulnerable to charges of perjury;
committee Democrats had protested the decision by Commerce
Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) not to swear in the
executives. But a person can be fined or imprisoned for up
to five years for making "any materially false, fictitious
or fraudulent statement or representation" to Congress.
Alan Huffman, who was a Conoco manager until the
2002 merger with Phillips, confirmed meeting with the task
force staff. "We met in the Executive Office Building, if I
remember correctly," he said.
A spokesman for ConocoPhillips said the chief
executive, James J. Mulva, had been unaware that Conoco
officials met with task force staff when he testified at the
hearing. The spokesman said that Mulva was chief executive
of Phillips in 2001 before the merger and that nobody from
Phillips met with the task force.
Exxon spokesman Russ Roberts said the company
stood by chief executive Lee R. Raymond's statement in the
hearing. In a brief phone interview, former Exxon vice
president James Rouse, the official named in the White House
document, denied the meeting took place. "That must be
inaccurate and I don't have any comment beyond that," said
Rouse, now retired.
Ronnie Chappell, a spokesman for BP, declined to
comment on the task force meetings. Darci Sinclair, a
spokeswoman for Shell, said she did not know whether Shell
officials met with the task force, but they often meet
members of the administration. Chevron said its executives
did not meet with the task force but confirmed that it sent
President Bush recommendations in a letter.
The person familiar with the task force's work,
who requested anonymity out of concern about retribution,
said the document was based on records kept by the Secret
Service of people admitted to the White House complex. This
person said most meetings were with Andrew Lundquist, the
task force's executive director, and Cheney aide Karen Y.
According to the White House document, Rouse met
with task force staff members on Feb. 14, 2001. On March 21,
they met with Archie Dunham, who was chairman of Conoco. On
April 12, according to the document, task force staff
members met with Conoco official Huffman and two officials
from the U.S. Oil and Gas Association, Wayne Gibbens and
On April 17, task force staff members met with
Royal Dutch/Shell Group's chairman, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart,
Shell Oil chairman Steven Miller and two others. On March
22, staff members met with BP regional president Bob Malone,
chief economist Peter Davies and company employees Graham
Barr and Deb Beaubien.
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.
"No," said Chevron Chairman David J. O'Reilly.
"We did not, no," Mulva said.
"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.
Research editor Lucy Shackelford contributed
to this report.