Harold Hamm, the CEO of fracking company Continental Resources, tried to get University of Oklahoma scientists who linked earthquakes and fracking fired from their jobs, reported Bloomberg Business.
Hamm denied ever trying to get a university dean to fire scientists from the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS), which is housed by the University of Oklahoma (UO). The university receives donations from Hamm’s company.
“I’m very approachable, and don’t think I’m intimidating,” Hamm told energy trade magazine EnergyWire.
However, an email obtained through public records laws illustrated the exact opposite. Larry Grillot, the dean of UO’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, emailed colleagues saying that “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 seemed protective of the OGS staff because he met with Hamm to discuss the issue, and no change came. Grillot didn’t name who Hamm wanted fired but assured Bloomberg that nobody was let go nor did he tell any OGS staff what was happening.
This incident is an extension of past problems that Hamm has had with the OGS’ findings that the sharp increase of seismic activity in Oklahoma is due to fracking. Oklahoma now surpasses California as America’s most seismically active state.
In November 2013, OGS seismologist Austin Holland was called to meet with Hamm and UO’s president, David Boren. “The basic jist of the meeting is that Continental does not feel induced seismicity is an issue and they are nervous about any dialogue about the subject,” said Holland. It should be noted that President Boren is on the board at Continental Resources.
Regarding the apparent conflict of interest involving Boren, he told Bloomberg that “the facts speak for themselves.”
“No OGS staff member has been terminated or threatened with termination,” he continued. “No research has been stopped or modified. . . . The University has more than once expressed its total commitment to academic freedom in this matter.”
Let’s hope that is true. There has long been a discrepancy between private companies funding public research, mainly because private companies usually expect something in return. That “something” is usually junk science that makes the company look better.