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Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican, cited the memo Thursday in accusing Mrs. Browner of misleading members of Congress, the media and the public. He demanded immediate action to ease the regulatory pressures on the region.

"It is clear from the June 5th memo that the DOE, whose primary responsibility is oversight of our nation's energy supply, believed that a lack of gasoline inventories in the Midwest, as well as EPA regulations, were not only 'factors' which led to higher gasoline prices, but in fact the primary causes," he said in a letter to the EPA administrator.

"Nowhere does this document indicate, or imply, that price gouging was a factor; nor has any other federal study or investigation," the speaker said. "Yet, you continued to point the finger" in what appears to be a "coordinated strategy" with the White House to deflect blame, he said.

On the other side of Capitol Hill Thursday, the Senate handily defeated an attempt to roll back the federal gasoline tax for 150 days during the peak summer driving season. Sen. Spencer Abraham, Michigan Republican, offered the measure as an amendment to a bill cutting estate taxes.

The 59-40 rejection drives "a stake through the heart of consumers," he said.

But opponents including many Republicans on the budget and appropriations committees said the tax cut would undermine the highway spending program, which is financed with the gas-tax revenues, and throw as many as 50,000 highway construction workers out of jobs.

"This tax is more acceptable to the public than any other tax," said Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican. "They see their dollar go directly from the gas pump to the project and employment in the state."