Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (pictured) today blessed a deal, spearheaded in Connecticut by Democratic gubernatorial candidate John DeStefano, that allows poor families to buy discounted home heating oil. The aid comes courtesy of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is highly critical of American foreign and trade policy.
Because the oil purchase is carried out by non-profits (and not the state itself) Blumenthal said no state action or approval is necessary to move forward. And because these non-profits aren’t companies jockeying for position in the energy market, no antitrust issues arise, he said. The oil comes from CITGO, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Venezuelan government. Under the deal, CITGO will sell 4.8 million gallons of heating oil to a Boston nonprofit wholesaler at 40 percent below the normal cost. The wholesaler, Citizens Energy, then resells the oil at normal rates, and the profits all go to alleviate Connecticut low income families.Approximately 15,000 Connecticut families that receive federal energy assistance will exhaust their benefits this year, Blumenthal said. The profits will be used to pay 40 percent of these customers’ heating oil bills, up to a maximum of 200 gallons worth of oil.When Gov. M. Jodi Rell asked for Blumenthal’s opinion, she expressed concerns about the CITGO program and the source of the oil, ie. Chavez. But today she commended DeStefano for his work on the deal, in light of the legal opinion.Blumenthal refused to take a position on the CITGO program. It could be “embarrassing” to American officials, Blumenthal said, that Chavez has been able to take advantage of minimal federal aid for the poor in order to make his own political point.Asked if he was embarrassed, Blumenthal declined to comment.