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Heating oil program lacks local distributor

PORT HENRY A controversial home heating assistance program is not available to Moriah residents after all but it could be. Citizens Energy Oil Heat Program, operated by Citgo, has been touted by Moriah officials as a resource for homeowners facing high energy costs. Theres just one problem no local home heating oil distributor is participating. We cant get anyone to come (with heating oil), said Joe Daniels of Port Henry, who applied for the program. Nobody around here will sign up for the program. I had to cut a hole in a window and run a stove pipe out so I could burn wood when it got real cold, he continued. This oil deal is false hope. Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava agreed; the program is worthless in Moriah. I called all around, the supervisor said. No one will deliver. But Scozzafava said hes working on the problem. Ive called a number of oil companies and Ive been told theyll look into the program, he said. I think we may be able to do something here. Calvin Guytun of the Citizens Energy Oil Heat Program acknowledged the problem. He said program officials are working to find a distributor for Essex County. Operated by Citgo, the program has provided home heating oil to poor and elderly households since 1979. This year the Citizens Energy Oil Heat Program will provide eligible families a one-time delivery of 100 gallons of home heating oil. Assistance is available based on income. A Moriah family of four with an annual income of $43,302 qualifies. The program is controversial because it is operated by Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuelas state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA). As such, it ultimately belongs to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, an avowedly anti-American leader who counts Fidel Castro among his closest friends and mocks President Bush as a genocidal murderer. But thats not the problem, according to Shelly Winters, president of Mineville Oil Co. Winters said she investigated the program last winter and found Citgo wanted distributors to deliver oil at a contract rate well below cost. Citgo then paid the distributor for 70 gallons. The remaining 30 gallons could be charged to the homeowner or be written-off by the distributor. They want to give us a contract price thats less than we can get it (oil) for, Winters said. We dont make any money with HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program), but we break even and its the right thing to do. With this program we cant come close to breaking even. Winters has told Scozzafava Mineville Oil will take another look at the program. Scozzafava urged eligible people to apply for the program so that they will be really to receive heating oil when a distributor steps forward. The deadline for application is Feb. 29. The number of calls weve received to get 100 gallons of oil shows how much people are hurting, Scozzafava said.

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