OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma oil tycoon Harold Hamm is accused of telling a University of Oklahoma dean that he wanted certain Oklahoma Geological Survey scientists dismissed, according to an e-mail obtained by Bloomberg News.
Which scientists exactly? The ones who were studying the links between oil and gas activity with Oklahoma’s dramatic increase in earthquakes.
“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 an e-mail to colleagues at the university.
Hamm, a major donor to the university, has reportedly disputed the claims he tried to pressure the OGS scientists, according to Bloomberg News.
One of Grillot’s e-mail’s also indicated Hamm wanted to join a search committee charged with finding a new director for the geological survey.
Catherine Bishop, the university’s vice president of public affairs defended Hamm and claimed he never requested for anyone to be dismissed.
“Mr. Hamm absolutely did not ask to be on the search committee or to have anyone from Continental put onto the committee, nor did he ask that anyone from the Oklahoma Geological Survey be dismissed,” she told Bloomberg News.
OU President David Boren mimicked Bishop’s statements saying Hamm never requested to serve on the OGS director search committee, nor requested to “remove a member of the OGS staff.”
“The facts speak for themselves,” Boren told Bloomberg News. “No OGS staff member has been terminated or threatened with termination. No research has been stopped or modified. An independent search for the OGS Director has been conducted, and a distinguished graduate of Harvard has been selected. The University has more than once expressed its total commitment to academic freedom in this matter.”
Reports surfaced saying the OGS was being pressured to stay silent on the issue.
However, a few months later, OGS announced that it agrees with the USGS that Oklahoma’s earthquakes are linked to oil and gas activity.
In 2008, Oklahoma had two earthquakes with a magnitude 3.0 or higher. In 2014, that number jumped to 585.