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Submitted by Chris Phillips on Mon, 02/11/2013 - 10:33pm.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Permits for companies to carry out a form of underground natural gas exploration in North Carolina could begin in March 2015, under a bill offered by Senate Republicans. The measure filed Monday would authorize regulators to issue horizontal drilling and fracking licenses five months after a regulatory panel is supposed to finish work on rules for those activities. The Legislature authorized fracking in 2012 but said permits couldn't be issued without the express consent of legislators. Senators also want shale gas taxes increasing annually to encourage early exploration. The bill mirrors a 2011 law vetoed by then-Gov. Beverly Perdue but not overridden. Gov. Pat McCrory would be authorized to work with Virginia and South Carolina governors to persuade the federal government to open the Atlantic coast to natural gas drilling. (Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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