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What's behind Oklahoma's surge in earthquakes?

Earthquakes in Oklahoma have skyrocketed. Before 2008, there was one per year. Now, there is about one per day
Earthquake surge rocks Oklahoma 03:01

Since January, there have been nearly as many earthquakes in Oklahoma than all of last year. With the sudden spike, residents in Oklahoma are questioning whether fracking is behind the change, reports CBS News' Manuel Bojorquez.

It was clear at a town hall gathering Thursday night in Edmond, Oklahoma, that rattled nerves are starting to fray. Hundreds of people crowded into a church demanding to know why the ground keeps shaking.

"The risk is all taken over the homeowner, it's our lives, it's our property," a resident said.

This year Oklahoma has had more than 230 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater. Prior to 2008, they averaged just over one per year. Now they're averaging one per day.

Scientists in Ohio link fracking to earthquakes 01:35

The state is now looking into a possible connection between either hydraulic fracturing or fracking, the process of extracting natural gas from underground wells, or wastewater from oil and gas production being pumped back into the ground.

"All through the house we're having crown molding separating from the walls," said Rod Magee, a Guthrie, Oklahoma, resident.

CBS News toured the home of Magee and his wife Lisa Liebl. During the visit, a 3.8-magnitude earthquake struck 10 miles away.

"My gut is just spot on that its fracking and injection wells that the oil and gas companies are doing around the area," Liebl said.

In a statement, oil and gas advocacy group Energy in Depth told CBS News, "The best science available to us right now suggests strongly that fracking has nothing at all to do with these small seismic events."

Austin Holland of the Oklahoma Geological Survey has documented only a small percentage of recent quakes with a link to fracking.

So far, he said he hasn't been able to conclusively link the quakes to fracking or wastewater injections.

"Not all of it. We certainly at this point cannot explain the entire sequence through man's activities," Holland said.

Though seismologists and the oil and gas industry agree that fracking does not definitively cause quakes, some Oklahomans don't think that's enough to rule out the possibility entirely.

"We don't want to hurt our economy, but we also don't want our houses to be crumbled one boom at a time," an Edmond resident said at a town hall meeting.

Some residents called for a temporary halt to fracking and wastewater injections, but a state official said the law doesn't allow for such a sweeping move without legal justification.

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