Shale billionaire Harold Hamm intends to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Commerce against Saudi Arabia for “illegal” dumping of crude that sent oil prices into a tailspin earlier this week.

Shale billionaire Harold Hamm
Shale billionaire Harold Hamm

The Continental Resources Inc. founder will begin an investigation with an industry trade group, the Domestic Energy Producers’ Alliance, he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. The Department of Commerce would have 20 days to accept it and could rule on it within 60 days, he said.

Saudi Arabia “has moved to essentially flood the market with crude oil” with “express intent to grab more market share,” Hamm said. “It’s illegal to do that.”

Hamm, who has acted as an informal sounding board to U.S. President Donald Trump on energy policy, said he hasn’t spoken to the president and the industry group is acting alone. Representatives of the Commerce Department, headed up by Secretary Wilbur Ross, didn’t immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

“If they’re found guilty of dumping as we believe now they obviously are, if they’re found guilty of that, there could be countervailing duty to place upon all their imports to this country,” Hamm said. “That would be a drastic good measure that should be done.”

The U.S. shale oil industry is reeling from Saudi Arabia and Russia’s decision to ramp up production in a price war that sent crude plunging to the $30-a-barrel range, a level not seen in four years. With heavy debts, many explorers are operating at a loss at current prices and are being forced to cut rigs and production. That will harm America’s energy security, according to Hamm.

In recent days, the Trump administration has been considering a series of moves that would help aid the shale industry through the price slump, according to people familiar with the matter. They include buying oil for the government’s strategic reserve, lowering royalty rates for fossil fuels extracted from federal land and low-interest loans to aid producers. But such moves would likely be bitterly opposed in Congress, by both Democrats and Republicans.

“We’re not asking for a handout, we want a level playing field,” he said. “These people are taking advantage of a pandemic, this coronavirus, to try and wipe us out. That’s what’s going on.”

Earlier this week, the Department of Energy slammed Saudi Arabia and Russia’s price war.

“These attempts by state actors to manipulate and shock oil markets reinforce the importance of the role of the United States as a reliable energy supplier to partners and allies around the world,” it said in a statement.