The northeastern U.S. state of Connecticut has given its social services agencies permission to supply thousands of needy families with discounted heating oil from a Venezuelan-owned oil company.
The state's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal cautioned that the deal is politically sensitive, given Venezuela's tense relationship with the United States, but he ruled that the program is legal.
Blumenthal also criticized the U.S. Congress for this year's controversial cuts to federal heating assistance to the poor, saying that is what made outside help necessary.
Venezuela has already delivered oil through Citgo, its U.S. subsidiary, to communities in seven other U.S. states. The oil is sold at a 40 percent discount to low income families.
Critics of the program say Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is trying to embarrass President Bush and build support for himself.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.