University of Oklahoma benefactor Harold Hamm, the billionaire founder and CEO of Continental Resources, told a dean he wanted scientists fired who were researching links between fracking for oil and the state’s earthquake surge.
“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,a geology dean, in a July 16, 2014, e-mail.
The emails were obtained through and Open Records Act request, 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 was very involved in stifling research into quakes being caused by oil companies as he also expressed an interest in joining a search committee to find a new director for the geological survey, according to Grillot’s e-mail.
When he didn't seem to be getting his way, Hamm threatened that he would be “visiting with Governor [Mary] Fallin on the topic of moving the OGS out of the University of Oklahoma.”
While Hamm's request wasn't fulfilled, it shows the lengths to which rich, powerful patrons of education will go to make sure academic research doesn't impact their business interests.
The new story comes just days after Hamm defended another scrutinized meeting with OU officials — a 2013 “coffee” attended by Hamm, state seismologist Austin Holland of the OGS and OU president David Boren. Hamm claims he wasn’t there to “bully” a scientist studying earthquakes linked to fracking and disposal wells, but his past conduct suggests otherwise.