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Oil Executive Says Meeting With State Earthquake Scientist Was About Information, Not Intimidation

Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm
Continental Resources

Harold Hamm, the founder, chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, says he requested a meeting with a state seismologist to get information, not to “bully” a scientist tasked with studying an earthquake surge that has been linked to oil and gas activity.

EnergyWire’s Mike Soraghan reports:

In his first in-depth interview about his dealings with state officials on the issue of man-made earthquakes, the billionaire oilman said he knows that wastewater disposal can set the ground rumbling but said the practice of fracturing shouldn’t be associated with quakes.

Scientists say hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” can trigger earthquakes, but researchers suggestanother oil and gas activity, the injection of waste fluid into disposal wells, is more likely behind the surge of earthquakes recorded in Oklahoma and other states.

At issue is a 2013 meeting attended by Hamm, state seismologist Austin Holland of the Oklahoma Geological Survey and University of Oklahoma president David Boren. Boren — who presides over the university that hosts Holland’s state agency and serves as a member of the board at Hamm’s Continental — brokered the meeting.

Hamm says he requested the meeting because of Holland’s research into fracking-related earthquakes, not disposal well-related quakes, Sorgahan reports:

“We were in there because we are involved in fracture stimulation,” Hamm said. “We’re the most active horizontal driller in Oklahoma.” … Hamm believes that discussion of earthquakes and fracking plays into the hands of an active campaign to demonize the United States’ oil and gas “renaissance.”

Holland confirmed Hamm’s account of the meeting with Boren, but emails obtained through Oklahoma’s Open Records Act suggest a Continental executive took issue with a joint OGS and U.S. Geological Survey statement that warned about a sharp increase in Oklahoma’s earthquake risk and possible links to disposal wells, EnergyWire reports.

Boren has a different account of the meeting with Hamm and Holland, according to EnergyWire:

In a March statement, Boren said that Hamm asked for the meeting because “he wanted to know if Mr. Holland had found any information which might be helpful to producers in adopting best practices that would help prevent any possible connection between drilling and seismic events.”

Holland has acknowledged feeling pressure from the oil and gas industry, but says it hasn’t affected any of his scientific findings — about the potential for disposal well orfracking-triggered quakes, EnergyWire reports:

Hamm’s concerns, however, have not changed Holland’s conclusions about frack jobs and earthquakes. In recent presentations, he has continued to say that as many as 10 percent of the state’s earthquakes could be caused by fracture treatments.


StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership among Oklahoma’s public radio stations and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Joe was a founding reporter for StateImpact Oklahoma (2011-2019) covering the intersection of economic policy, energy and environment, and the residents of the state. He previously served as Managing Editor of Urban Tulsa Weekly, as the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Oklahoma Gazette and worked as a Staff Writer for The Oklahoman. Joe was a weekly arts and entertainment correspondent for KGOU from 2007-2010. He grew up in Bartlesville, Okla. and studied journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma.
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