Explanations Sought

From Oil Executives

The chief executives of five major oil companies were asked yesterday to clarify their recent Senate testimony about their companies' involvement in Vice President Cheney's energy task force four years ago.

Sens. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) made the request in letters to the executives after a published report said officials from four of the companies visited the White House complex in early 2001 to discuss energy issues with task force staff members.

The White House has refused to disclose its contacts with industry representatives concerning the task force's deliberations. When Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) asked last week during a hearing on oil industry profits whether any of the companies' representatives had participated in the task force's work, four of the executives said they had not, while the fifth said he did not know.

The Washington Post, citing White House documents, reported yesterday that representatives from four of the companies visited the White House complex and met with task force officials in early 2001. Domenici, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he sent letters to the oil company executives seeking clarifications that might resolve any "apparent inconsistencies" in their testimony.

U.S. to End Limits

On Canadian Cattle

The Bush administration intends to lift all mad cow disease-related restrictions on Canadian cattle in the next year, the Agriculture Department said.

The restrictions, in place since Canada's first case of the disease was disclosed in 2003, were eased earlier this year to allow younger cattle to enter the United States.

A prohibition has remained on Canadian animals older than 30 months; levels of infection from mad cow disease are thought to increase with age. Industry officials say that a rule for how cattle are slaughtered would keep the disease from ever entering the human or animal food supply.

Asbestos Bill Called

Senate's Top Priority

A proposed $140 billion fund for victims of asbestos exposure will be the Senate's top priority next year, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said.

"The Senate will finally resolve the asbestos litigation crisis," Frist said in a floor speech. "The day has come for us to fix it."

Senate Republicans remain divided on the plan. "There are still some fundamental questions about whether this trust fund can work," said Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), one of seven Republicans who voiced reservations.

-- From Staff Reports

and News Services