Donald Trump's Top Energy Aide Could Profit From GOP-Promised Keystone XL Permit

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Harold Hamm — founder and CEO of Continental Resources, top energy aide for Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump and Trump's possible choice for energy secretary — may stand to gain from a cross-border permit of TransCananda's Keystone XL pipeline. 

Continental Resources has been dubbed the “King of the Bakken” because of the vast amount of acreage the company owns in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin, while Hamm also served as energy adviser in 2012 for Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Handing TransCanada a permit for Keystone XL receives an explicit mention in the Republican Party platform.

Hamm also spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. 

Reuters revealed in a 2012 investigation that the Hamm-founded lobbying group, Domestic Energy Producers Alliance (DEPA), had made a successful and surreptitious lobbying push to have a Bakken on-ramp tacked onto the tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit)-carrying northern leg of Keystone XL.

That on-ramp, now named TransCanada Bakken Marketlink, would carry up to 100,000 barrels per day of oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from the Bakken Shale to Gulf coast refineries (and perhaps some of it for export markets). Continental signed a contract with TransCanada to carry up to 35,000 barrels per day of Bakken oil on the Bakken Marketlink, according to Reuters.

“In another victory, Hamm says his lobby group received a written confirmation from TransCanada it would build the southern leg of the pipeline first, a step since approved by the Obama administration while the northern leg awaits permission. The southern leg should help drain a glut of crude in the Midwest and help Continental earn more on its oil,” explained Reuters.

In more recent years, Hamm has suggested that the time to build Keystone XL North — from a business perspective — has come and gone. It is unclear whether that means Continental had cut its contract with TransCanada.

“It’s not relevant at all in my opinion. And here we are making it relevant now? Forget it,” he told Politico in November 2014. “We’re supporting other pipelines out there, we’re not waiting on Keystone. Nobody is. That thing … needed action on it six years ago. I just think it’s too late and we need to move on.” 

As revealed in a December investigation by DeSmog, the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance (DEPA) also played a behind-the-scenes role in spearheading a public relations campaign dedicated to lifting the oil export ban called the “Miracle of American Oil.” If Hamm does become energy secretary, he would have to step down as CEO of Continental and would either sell off or defer his stock options, as vice president Dick Cheney the former Halliburton CEO did in 2000.  

If Hamm does the latter, it means he could earn money in the future off of policy decisions such as approval or disapproval of Keystone XL North and the Bakken Marketlink.

Trump's other top energy adviser, U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), has received $18,500 from Continental throughout his political career and Continental is currently one of Cramer's top donors for his 2016 congressional race. Hamm also appeared at a $1,000 per person fundraiser for Cramer in 2012 and Cramer issued a press release praising the first batch of exported crude oil, owned by Continental, when it was shipped to South Korea earlier this year.

Bill McKibben, 350.org founder and member of the Democratic Party's Platform Committee, does not find the potential choice of Hamm by Trump surprising.

“Given that Hamm's as close as we've got to a fracker-in-chief in this country, it would be an apropos pick for a president who thinks global warming is a hoax manufactured by the Chinese,” he told Reuters.

And Erich Pica, executive director of Friends of the Earth-U.S., called out Trump for claiming to be a candidate fighting against the power and clout of Big Business. 

“His energy advisor Harold Hamm stands to make millions off of guiding Trump's energy toward building the Keystone XL pipeline,” Pica said.

Continental Resources did not respond to a request for comment.

Image Credit: Republican Party Platform

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