DeStefano says city will proceed with deal to bring Venezuelan oil to residents

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said Wednesday that city officials will not stop final negotiations on a deal to bring discounted Venezuelan heating oil to low-income Connecticut residents, despite Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s reservations about the plan.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Rell asked Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 to review the legality of the program. Rell said the controversial nature of accepting oil from Venezuela could be problematic, pointing to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s concern last week that the program may be being used as an extension of Venezuela’s “increasingly belligerent and hostile foreign policy toward the United States.”

But DeStefano, whose staff has spearheaded negotiations between Venezuelan-owned CITGO Petroleum Corp. and energy providers in Connecticut, said he questions the legitimacy of Rell’s objections to the plan, as New York and Massachusetts have been receiving the discounted heating oil for months without problems.

“This is a time when we would expect Governor Rell to show leadership in finding ways to help families make it through the winter,” the mayor said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Instead, her request for a review of the [program] … could mean that more than 24,000 families may not get the help they need until the winter is over.”

DeStefano said a contract between relevant parties is expected to be signed within the week. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced the discounted heating oil program late last year. Six eastern states have signed contracts with CITGO for the discounted heating oil already, and negotiations between New Haven and CITGO began last December.

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