Oil and gas mogul Hamm tops Trump short-list for US energy secretary: Sources

Harold Hamm, founder and CEO of Continental Resources, enters the courthouse for divorce proceedings with wife Sue Ann Hamm in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, US on Sept 22, 2014.
Harold Hamm, founder and CEO of Continental Resources, enters the courthouse for divorce proceedings with wife Sue Ann Hamm in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, US on Sept 22, 2014.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Continental Resources Chief Executive Harold Hamm is at the top of President-elect Donald Trump's list to serve as energy secretary, according to US Representative Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, a Trump energy adviser who confirmed he is also under consideration for the job.

"In my view, Harold Hamm has the right of first refusal,"Cramer told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"In my view, he's likely to be asked. And, because he's a patriot and an American, he's likely to say yes."

Hamm, 70, became one of America's wealthiest men during the US oil and gas drilling boom over the past decade, tapping into controversial hydraulic fracturing drilling technology to access vast deposits in North Dakota's shale fields.

Continental spokeswoman Kristin Thomas said, "There has never been a conversation" between Trump and Hamm about the position. She declined to speculate on how Hamm would respond if asked to take the job.

A prominent US oil and gas executive who knows Hamm and asked not to be named said he doubted Hamm would be willing to leave Continental and may be more interested in having a strong say in who ultimately gets the energy secretary job.

Aside from Hamm and Cramer, Trump's short list for energy secretary also includes venture capitalist Robert Grady, who served as associate director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science in President George H. W. Bush's Office of Management and Budget, according to Cramer and two other sources with knowledge of the situation.

Grady did not respond to requests for comment.

If Hamm is nominated, the Oklahoman would be the first US energy secretary drawn directly from the industry since the cabinet position was created in 1977, a move that would jolt environmental advocates but bolster Trump's pro-drilling energy platform.

Trump, a Republican who will take office on Jan 20 and succeed Democratic President Barack Obama, is also working to fill other top administration jobs in the coming weeks.

SECOND TIME AROUND

Hamm addressed the Republican convention in July, calling for expanded drilling and saying too much environmental regulation threatened to limit US oil production and increase the country's dependence on Middle East oil producers.

Past heads of the US Department of Energy, which is charged with advancing US energy security and technology and dealing with nuclear waste disposal, have typically boasted a political or academic background.

Dan Eberhart, a Texas oil investor and Republican party financier who has worked with Hamm and has had conversations with the Trump campaign, said, "I know Hamm is being seriously considered. And I know that he wants it."

This is not the first time Hamm has been in contention for the job.

The Republican Party's presidential nominee in 2012, Mitt Romney, vetted Hamm to be energy secretary but ultimately decided against him because the two men have differing positions on renewable energy sources like wind.

Hamm made headlines in 2015 after settling a protracted divorce case and agreeing to pay his ex-wife US$975 million (sS$1,380 million) - reported to be one of the biggest divorce settlement in history.