WASHINGTON (AP) -- Five oil industry executives acknowledged frequent company contacts with government officials to discuss energy issues but insisted they had responded truthfully at a recent Senate hearing when they denied participating in Vice President Dick Cheney's 2001 energy task force.
The exchange at the Nov. 9 hearing prompted accusations by some Democratic senators that several of the executives may have knowingly misled Congress. A report published a few days later found that White House logs showed representatives of some of the companies had visited energy task force officials.
New Mexico Sens. Pete Domenici, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Jeff Bingaman, its ranking Democrat, asked the executives to clarify any discrepancies.
The senators released the executives' written responses on Wednesday.
John Hofmeister, chairman of Shell Oil Co., said Shell representatives did not meet with the task force but added, ''Shell representatives did meet with the administration -- including the vice president and his staff -- on a broad range of energy policy issues.''
Exxon Mobil Corp. said its chairman, Lee Raymond, responded accurately when he said no one at the company participated in a task force meeting -- as the question was phrased by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
In its letter, however, Exxon Mobil confirmed that company officials met with a Bush administration official for 45 minutes on Feb. 14, 2001, to discuss the ''global energy supply and demand situation.'' On the same day, the company said, the same information was given to members of Congress and others. The Cheney task force issued its report on energy priorities in May 2001.
Lautenberg called the executives' clarifications ''corporate doublespeak that only further demonstrates the need for a criminal investigation'' of their Nov. 9 testimony. He said he planned to discuss the issue further with Justice Department officials on Thursday.
There was no indication that either Domenici or Bingaman planned to press matters further. The White House has steadfastly refused to provide a list of oil companies that provided information to the Cheney task force, going to court to fight attempts to obtain such information.
Ross Pillari, chairman of BP America Inc., said Nov. 9 he did not know whether anyone from his company participated in any task force matters.
In his clarification, Pillari reiterated that he was ''not personally involved in energy policy issues'' in 2001. After looking into the issue further, he confirmed that ''BP representatives did meet with (task force) staff members.''
They ''provided them with comments on a range of energy policy matters,'' wrote Pillari, adding, ''We provided comments and information much like we continue to do on a routine basis with members of Congress and the administration.''
James Mulva, chairman of ConocoPhillips, also insisted that he had responded accurately when he said his company did not participate in the Cheney task force. In 2001, Conoco and Phillips Petroleum Co. had not yet merged into ConocoPhillips.
Mulva said he had since learned that Archie Dunham, chairman of Conoco, and another Conoco official ''had attended or participated in a task force meeting in 2001,'' but said he had never discussed the task force with Dunham.
He said ConocoPhillips representatives have had ''many meetings with various members of the administration. ... We value greatly our opportunities to provide information, assistance and our company's perspective concerning energy policy.''
David O'Reilly, chairman of Chevron Corp., wrote that Chevron representatives ''did not attend any meetings with administration officials or staff for the purpose of discussing (Cheney) task force activities.'' But O'Reilly attached to his reply a letter he sent President Bush on Feb. 5, 2001, emphasizing ''we need to increase our energy supply'' and discussing other energy issues.
''Chevron personnel routinely have and did have discussions on U.S. energy policy with officials in the administration and their staff,'' O'Reilly wrote in his response to Domenici and Bingaman.
On the Net:
Exxon Mobil Corp.: http://www.exxonmobil.com/
Chevron Corp.: http://www.chevron.com/
Shell Oil Co.: http://www.shell.com/
BP America Inc. http://www.bp.com