The billionaire CEO of Continental Resources told a dean at the University of Oklahoma that he wanted earthquake researchers fired. In one of the most transparently oligarchic tactics we have seen yet during this ‘recovery’, oil tycoon Harold Hamm demanded certain scientists be dismissed following their findings that fracking wastewater disposal was the cause of the spike in Oklahoma earthquakes. Despite his protestations recently that “I don’t try to push anyone around,” as the following email obtained by Bloomberg, exposes, “Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed.”
As we noted previously, no matter what other problems may or may not be linked to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the disposal of wastewater from oil and gas drilling almost certainly is primarily responsible for the recent spate of earthquakes in Oklahoma, normally a seismologically quiet state.
That’s the conclusion of a report issued April 21 by the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS), in which the state geologist Richard D. Andrews and Dr. Austen Holland, the state seismologist, said the rate of earthquakes near major oil and gas drilling operations that produce large amounts of wastewater demonstrate that the quakes “are very unlikely to represent a naturally occurring process.”
Andrews and Holland concluded that the “primary suspected source” of the quakes is not hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which water and chemicals are injected under high pressure to crack shale to free oil and gas trapped inside. It said the source is more likely the injection of wastewater from this process in disposal wells, because water used in fracking cannot be re-used.
“The OGS considers it very likely that the majority of recent earthquakes, particularly those in central and north-central Oklahoma, are triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells,” the statement said. It warned that residents should prepare for “a significant earthquake.”
Oklahoma recorded 585 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 or greater,the equivalent of the force felt in Oklahoma City at the time of the terrorist bombing in 1995. This is a significant increase from 109 earthquakes of the same magnitude in 2013. Before 2008, when fracking became a popular drilling technique in the state, there were fewer than two earthquakes in Oklahoma each year, on average.
Andrews’ and Holland’s report draws the same conclusions as a study last year by Katie Keranen, an assistant professor of seismology at Cornell University, who found that injecting fracking wastewater into underground disposal sites tends to widen cracks in geological formations, increasing the chances of earthquakes.
Keranen’s study, in turn, reinforces similar conclusions in a previous study by the U.S. Geological Survey, which found that earthquakes in central and eastern parts of the United States between 2010 and 2013 also coincided with the disposal of fracking wastewater.
What’s important about Andrews’ and Holland’s conclusion is that they represent the state of Oklahoma, where energy is an important industry, providing about one-quarter of the state’s jobs. Last autumn,Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, dismissed the problem as speculative and urged further study.
But in a statement coinciding with Andrews’ and Holland’s report, Fallin said their ability to link wastewater disposal with earthquakes was significant and promised unspecified action. “Oklahoma state agencies already are taking action to address this issue and protect homeowners,” she said.
The state’s energy industry also supports further study of the state’s recent uncharacteristic seismic activity. “Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas producers have a proven history of developing the state’s oil and natural gas resources in a safe and effective manner,” Kim Hatfield, regulatory committee chairman for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, said in a statement.
And now, as Bloomberg reports, it is clear the elites were not happy with these findings…
According to the dean’s e-mail recounting the conversation, Oil tycoon Harold Hamm told a University of Oklahoma dean last year that he wanted certain scientists there dismissed who were studying links between oil and gas activity and the state’s nearly 400-fold increase in earthquakes…
He has vigorously disputed the notion that he tried to pressure the survey’s scientists. “I’m very approachable, and don’t think I’m intimidating,” Hamm was quoted as saying in an interview with EnergyWire, an industry publication, that was published on May 11. “I don’t try to push anybody around.”
Kristin Thomas, a spokeswoman for Continental, says the company has no comment.
Worse still the lies and deceit run deep…
Catherine Bishop, the university’s vice president of public affairs and one of the recipients of Grillot’s 2014 e-mail, didn’t respond to requests for an interview, but she defended Hamm in an e-mail: “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 wrote.
Asked about the difference between her statement and Grillot’s 2014 e-mail, Bishop responded: “Please note that the bottom line is that University of Oklahoma will not tolerate any possible interference with academic freedom and scientific inquiry.” She added in a subsequent message: “Neither Mr. Hamm nor anyone from Continental Resources served on the search committee.”
Hamm has been a generous donor to the University of Oklahoma, including a 2011 gift of $20 million for a diabetes research center named after the oilman. University President David Boren, a former U.S. senator, sits on the board of directors of Hamm’s Continental Resources.
In the e-mail he wrote about his meeting with Hamm, Grillot—who himself sits on the board of Pioneer Natural Resources, an Irving (Tex.)-based oil and gas company—noted that he saw Boren leaving Continental’s corporate offices before he went in to see the CEO.
Profits – once again – it would appear come before public safety and while money may not be able to buy happiness, it seems to be able to buy pretty much everything else.