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Citgo Reinstates Charitable Heating Oil Program, Claiming it Never Stopped

BOSTON -- Citgo Petroleum Corp. on Wednesday said it is not suspending charitable contributions of home heating oil to low-income U.S. households, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

On Monday, former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II said his Boston-based nonprofit, Citizen's Energy, would stop receiving fuel shipments from Venezuela after Citgo re-evaluated its social programs due to the world economic downturn and plunging oil prices, according to the report.

At the time of Kennedy’s announcement, Citgo had no comment, but Wednesday, the company's CEO Alejandro Granado said in a statement the decision to continue the program "is the result of a strong commitment and a big effort on the part of Citgo and our shareholders in light of the current global financial crisis and its impact on the oil industry in general."

Last winter, Citgo provided Citizen's Energy with $100 million of fuel that was distributed throughout the Northeast.

Kennedy, the president of Citizens Energy Corp., said Monday that Citgo suspended contributions because of plunging oil prices and the widening recession, which hurt its revenue. As a result, Kennedy warned, he might have to cut the program by one-fifth in Massachusetts and shutter it completely in other states this year unless he could raise other contributions or persuade Citgo to change its mind, according to The Boston Globe. He also said Citizens would lay off 20 staffers and delay the contracts for operating its application processing call centers.

Both companies said Citgo told Citizens in December it had to reevaluate all of its charitable commitments -- a process that was still underway this week. But that's where their stories change.
"We never stopped the program," Granado said twice at a press conference Wednesday in Citizens Energy's office in South Boston, according to The Globe.

Since Kennedy said the program would be suspended, Citgo and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have been swarmed by political pressure. The Venezuelan government owns Citgo, the U.S. distribution arm of Venezuela's state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, which Chavez indirectly controls.

Granado said he talked to Chavez Wednesday morning and was given the go-ahead to continue the program. Citizens said it will start accepting applications Jan. 19, and expects home deliveries to begin two to three days later, according to The Globe report.
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