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Many Scientists Now Believe Humans Are Causing Some Earthquakes

LOS ANGELES ( — Earthquakes are part of living in California.

But Randy Paige, reporting for CBS2 and KCAL9, says Mother Nature might not be solely to blame for the Earth's shaking.

Many scientists are concerned with fracking -- the use of hydraulics to get gas and oil out of the ground -- and suggest the practice might be responsible for increased seismic activity.

"We call this induced seismicity," says US Geological Survey Seismologist Lucy Jones.

She says earthquakes can be triggered when waste water, used in the hydraulic process is disposed of by injecting the water deep into the Earth.

The process, she believes, touched off a 5.6 magnitude quake in Oklahoma, a 5.0 in Colorado, 1 4.8 in Wyoming and a 4.0 in January of last year.

"It's very clear cut that disposing of waste fluids at depth can and does set off earthquakes," Jones said.

Paige asks Jones what the process of fracking would mean to California. Simple, says Jones. "Our hypothesis would be that we could set off earthquakes."

She also believes that the quakes set off in California would be more severe -- our faults are larger and deeper.

Oil industry spokesperson Dave Quast says waste water from fracking has been done in California -- for decades -- with no known quakes triggered by the process.

He believes it is because less water has to be used here to produce oil. "In the east in a hydraulic fracturing operation there might be five million or more gallons of water used. Here in California, it might be a small percentage of that. It might be closer to 115 or 120,000 gallons of water," Quast said.

Oil industry watchdog Judy Dugan is dubious. "We can't depend on the word of oil companies."

Jessica Black and her newborn live directly behind an oil field in Ventura County. State documents show her area was at the center of a fracking operation.

"That's very scary," Black said. "I think we definitely, we need to know more."

Jones agrees the long term impact on fracking in California is not known. "So we have proposed a study and we have a team of people who have been put together," said Jones.

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