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Oklahoma Oil Executive Told OU Dean He Wanted Earthquake Scientists Fired

Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm
Continental Resources

Harold Hamm, the billionaire founder and CEO of Continental Resources told a University of Oklahoma dean he wanted scientists dismissed who were researching links between oil and gas activity and this state’s earthquake surge, Bloomberg’s Benjamin Elgin reports.

“Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed,” wrote Larry Grillot, the dean of the university’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, in a July 16, 2014, e-mail to colleagues at the university.

The emails, obtained through Oklahoma’s Open Records Act, refer to a 90-minute meeting held in July 2014 about scientists at the Oklahoma Geological Survey, a state agency that is hosted by the University of Oklahoma, Bloomberg reports:

Hamm also expressed an interest in joining a search committee charged with finding a new director for the geological survey, according to Grillot’s e-mail. And, the dean wrote, Hamm indicated that he would be “visiting with Governor [Mary] Fallin on the topic of moving the OGS out of the University of Oklahoma.”

Hamm's request wasn’t fulfilled, and Grillot said he never relayed the oil billionaire’s “displeasure” to OGS staff, Bloomberg reports.

The new Bloomberg story published just days after Hamm defended the tone and content of another scrutinized meeting with OU brass — a 2013 “coffee” attended by Hamm, state seismologist Austin Holland of the OGS and OU president David Boren. In an interview with EnergyWire’s Mike Sorgahan, Hamm said the purpose of that meeting was informational in nature and wasn’t to “bully” a scientist studying earthquakes scientists have linked to fracking and disposal wells.

Continental Resources wouldn’t comment on Hamm’s dismissal request, Bloomberg reports. A spokesperson for Gov. Mary Fallin said the governor doesn’t have the authority to “decouple” OU and OGS.


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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