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Oil Executive Says He Didn’t Try To Get Oklahoma Earthquake Scientists Fired

Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm at the 2012 Time 100 gala.
David Shankbone

Harold Hamm, the billionaire founder and CEO of Continental Resources, denies a report that he told a University of Oklahoma dean he wanted scientists dismissed who were researching links between oil and gas production and Oklahoma’s exponential increase in earthquakes.

In emails obtained byBloomberg’s Benjamin Elgin, Larry Grillot, then the dean of OU’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, wrote to colleagues after a meeting with the oil executive: “Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed,” Grillot wrote, referring to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, a state agency operated through the university.

Hamm and Continental declined comment to Bloomberg, but the oilman disputed the report in a story bydifferent reporter, Adam Wilmoth of The Oklahoman:

“All that was false. It’s incorrect,” Hamm said. “Nobody asked for anybody to be removed. Nobody has been let go. Nobody was asked to be let go.”

The emails in the Bloomberg story follow other emails obtained by EnergyWire’s Mike Sorgahan, which detail a meeting Hamm had with OGS seismologist Austin Holland and OU President David Boren. Boren is a board member at Continental and Hamm is a major university donor. Holland described the meeting as “just a little bit intimidating,” but said the conversation never affected his scientific research. For their part, Hamm and Boren say the meeting was informational in nature.

Grillot confirmed his discussion with Hamm in an interview with Bloomberg, but said nobody was dismissed from OGS and that he never relayed the oil executive’s displeasure with the agency’s staff.


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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