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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — The new commission that’s writing rules to allow natural gas fracking in North Carolina while protecting neighbors and the environment is getting down to work.

The Mining and Energy Commission created by state lawmakers this year is holding its first orientation meeting on Thursday.

The 12-member panel and state employees working with it will develop new rules on a process called horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that frees untapped underground deposits of oil and gas.

North Carolina’s environmental agency said in a report earlier this year that fracking could be safe if regulated properly.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimated this summer that North Carolina has enough natural gas trapped in shale rock to supply the state for less than 6 years. Earlier estimates were there was a 40-year supply.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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