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WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) -- The federal government is hearing from North Carolina residents on surveying for oil and natural gas off the Atlantic coast.

The hearings are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside. Hearings are being held in cities along the East Coast about the proposal to allow energy companies to begin testing.

Companies would use information from the testing to determine where to apply for energy leases, although no leases are available in the region that could be opened for exploration for at least five years.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says he'll decide whether to allow seismic testing by the end of the year. That will follow public hearings in states from Delaware to Florida, where testing would occur.

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