Local oil supplier appears before Senate Committee


Northborough – Sandra Farrell, one of the owners of Northborough Oil Co. and chair of the Massachusetts Oilheat Council, went to Washington, D.C., June 25 to appear before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and take part in a hearing called, "Examining solutions to cope with the rise in home heating oil prices."

"I arrived in Washington on a 6 a.m. flight that morning and … [was] on a 2:30 flight that afternoon," Farrell said with a laugh. "There was no tour, no sightseeing. I appeared before the hearing, gave my opening statement, answered their questions and came home."

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, DMassachusetts, is chair of the committee, with U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, serving as the committee's ranking member. Both were in attendance at the hearing.

Also on the panel that appeared at the hearing were: Michael Ferrante, president of the Massachusetts Oilheat Council; Jennifer Brooks, community relations manager for Penquis, a social service agency in Maine; and Michael Stoddard, deputy director and attorney for Environment Northeast.

"I think there were a lot of reasons why the hearing was held and included us," Farrell said. "First of all, both of those senators' focus is New England, and the New England states are the largest fuel-oil using states in the country. In other parts of the nation, oil isn't as vital for home heating."

Farrell said the part of the hearing that involved her panel lasted about 90 minutes, beginning around 11 a.m. and ending around 12:30 p.m. Prior to the panel Farrell was on, the committee heard from David Johnson, the secretary for petroleum reserves for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Farrell said when Ferrante first asked her to appear at the hearing, she didn't immediately grasp the magnitude of the situation.

"I just figured it would be a hearing held in Springfield or Boston, something along those lines," Farrell said. "And then it dawned on me – this is a U.S. Senate hearing. This means going to Washington."

Farrell said she was notified about appearing at the hearing in the middle of the day June 20 – a Friday – and had to have the written testimony she was going to read from to the committee by Monday June 23.

Farrell said the hearing was, for the most part, a factfinding, question-and-answer session.

"A lot of the hearings you see on television have an adversarial element to them, but that wasn't the case with this one," Farrell said. "They were looking for information about the industry and the problems and challenges facing the industry and we were there to provide those answers."

Farrell has been clearly taken aback by all the notoriety that has come her way as a result of appearing before the U.S. Senate Committee at the hearing.

"I've been really, really surprised by all the publicity," Farrell said. "The reaction has been much, much more than I ever expected it would be. I've been contacted several times since the hearing about my opinion about various issues relating to home heating oil, and I've received a lot of feedback from other oil dealers who thanked me for going to Washington, for appearing before the Senate at this hearing and opening my business and my heart about what is going on in the industry."

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