Possible earthquake cover-up revealed

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Okla. -- No one can deny Oklahoma's new role as earthquake capitol of the U.S. But what continues to be debated is the science behind what's causing them.

Now, there are questions about the pressure being put on the scientists who are trying to do their jobs.

The U.S. Geological Survey has said they believe wastewater injection wells - injecting fluid into faults - is the reason for the earthquake swarm.

But, insider e-mails obtained by an energy website suggest the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) is being pressured to stay silent on the issue.

A Tulsa World article on the issue refers to OGS e-mails obtained through an open records request by the website Energywire.

The paper says, "...the (OGS) failed to finish investigations into what caused the state's largest earthquakes - and released reports and statements casting doubt on the connection, instead."

According to an e-mail from 2013, OGS Seismologist Austin Holland was asked to meet with OU President David Boren and Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm.

Holland emailed a co-worker, saying "I have been asked to have 'coffee' with President Boren and Harold Hamm Wednesday."

"Gosh," the co-worker replied... "I guess that's better than having Kool Aid with them."

Mike Soraghan, with Energywire, obtained those e-mails from the University of Oklahoma.

"I can only imagine that it would be kind of nerve-wracking if you're a state employee to be called into a meeting with the richest man in the state and the president of the university," Soraghan said.  "Particularly in this case, where OGS is part of the university."

Soraghan said the e-mails reveal political pressure put on the OGS to stay quiet on any research that indicates wastewater injection wells have caused Oklahoma's earthquakes.

After another meeting, Holland wrote "the basic gist of the meeting is that Continental does not feel induced seismicity is an issue, and they are nervous about any dialog on the subject."

"It's always remarkable to see it in black and white," Soraghan said of the e-mails.

"They're (OGS) working on the problem, but it's hard to tell what their official position is on the problem."

Kim Hatfield, the Regulatory Chair of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, says the energy industry wants the truth as well.

"If we say that it's not possible and it's later established that, well, yeah maybe it is, then we have no credibility," he said.

Hatfield points to a fault line map as proof.

All the red fault lines were discovered by oil and gas companies' research... their contribution to the goal of solving this earthquake mystery.

"We realize that a problem like this is a problem for all of us," Hatfield said.  "If there is a connection, we can modify practices to be able to do this safely."

In a statement, OU President David Boren said

"The meeting with Harold Hamm was purely informational.  Mr. Hamm is a very reputable producer and 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.  In addition, he wanted to make sure that the Survey (OGS) had the benefit of research by Continental geologists.  We are very sensitive at the University of Oklahoma about any possible interference with academic freedom and scientific inquiry. All of those who participated in the meeting understand that."

Holland told NewsChannel 4 he was unavailable for an interview.

Continental did not return our messages.

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