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Venezuela and Vermont Make Deal for Low-Income Community

Washington, D.C. ? The John Graham Emergency Service Shelter in Vergennes, Vermont today witnessed the commitment of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to work towards aiding the poor, be they in Venezuela, the United States, or in any other place in the world.

Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) joined Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez, CITGO CEO Felix Rodriquez, Citizens Energy President Joseph Kennedy, and representatives of the Vermont Fuel Dealers and the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) for the first delivery of fuel under the new discounted heating oil program established by the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the State of Vermont. The first delivery was made to the John Graham Emergency Service Shelter.

Under the deal brokered by Rep. Sanders, more than 2.5 million gallons of discounted heating oil will be brought into Vermont. Of that, 2.4 million gallons of the oil will be sold at a 40 percent discount to individual participants of Vermont?s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Crisis Fuel Assistance Program, and WARMTH Program. The remaining 108,000 gallons of heating oil will be distributed free of charge to homeless shelters throughout Vermont.

?I am very pleased that we were able to establish this program and bring much-needed relief to thousands of senior citizens and low-income families,? said Rep. Sanders. ?At a time when home heating oil costs are skyrocketing, this discounted fuel will help ensure that no one in Vermont goes cold this winter. I want to thank the Venezuelan government, CITGO, Citizens Energy, CVOEO, the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association and the State of Vermont for their hard work in making this happen,? he continued.

Under the program, CITGO will work with CVOEO and Citizens Energy, both non-profit organizations, to distribute the discounted oil. Citizens Energy will purchase over 2.5 million gallons of heating oil at a 40 percent discount from CITGO. The State of Vermont and CVOEO will be responsible for identifying low-income families and individuals using the same criteria used for the distribution of federal heating assistance benefits under LIHEAP, the Crisis Fuel Program and WARMTH.

"This is not about politics, nor is it not about oil. This is about our government in Venezuela acting as a good neighbor, and stepping in to do the right thing. This arrangement represents the strong ties between the people of the U.S. and the people of Venezuela, helping each other through tough times, since we are all Americans," said Ambassador Alvarez.

"We are happy to give back to the communities in which CITGO does business. Low-income Americans were hit hard by rising fuel prices following the hurricane tragedies, and with this gesture, hopefully no one in Vermont will be left out in the cold this winter," said Felix Rodriguez, CEO of CITGO Petroleum Corporation.

"We're proud to work with my good friend, Congressman Bernie Sanders, and CITGO to help relieve the burden of high energy prices on the poor," said Citizens Energy Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy II. "Congressman Sanders has devoted his whole career to helping those in need. For their part, Felix Rodriguez and CITGO have shown extraordinary concern for ordinary people who are struggling to stay warm. Together, we're working to make sure that no one is left out in the cold."

Thousands of low-income individuals will receive a letter from the State of Vermont instructing them to contact participating fuel dealers or their CAP Agency to purchase the discounted oil, and Vermont fuel dealers will also be contacting their low-income clients about this program. Customers may purchase up to 200 gallons of fuel at the discounted price. Vermonters can call 1-866-851-9080 toll free for more information about the program.

President Hugo Ch?vez of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela promised to set up the program in several areas during a visit to New York City in September 2005. The deal in Vermont comes on the heels of last weekend?s launch of the program in the Philadelphia area and is the sixth state to benefit from the initiative. In addition to Philadelphia and Vermont, the program is ongoing in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the Bronx borough of New York City.

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