* Continental Resources Chief Executive Harold Hamm is top of the list
* Hamm became one of America’s wealthiest during oil and gas drilling boom over past decade
* Shortlist also includes venture capitalist Robert Grady
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.
People close to Hamm were mixed on the possibility.
“I think Harold would be great in the (Energy Secretary) job. If the president calls, I think he would do it,” said Mike Cantrell, a former vice-president of government affairs at Continental, who remains close to Hamm.
Another prominent US oil and gas executive who knows Hamm and asked not to be named, however, said he doubted Hamm would be willing to leave Continental and may be more interested in having a strong say in who gets the job.
Aside from Hamm and Cramer, Trump’s shortlist 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 U.S. 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.