Lawmaker from natural-gas district snags House Energy subcommittee gavel

Murphy said in a Wednesday statement that he is excited to take on his new role.

“I’m honored to serve as Subcommittee Chairman under the skilled and accomplished leadership of Chairman Fred Upton," Murphy said.

E2-Wire previously reported that Murphy was considered a candidate for the position. Still, many Capitol Hill insiders believed Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) — who will serve as subcommittee vice chairman — was in line for the post.

But that was contingent on Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) giving up his Communications and Technology subcommittee chairmanship. Though Walden will now head the National Republican Congressional Committee, he will also retain his subcommittee chairmanship.

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Murphy represents a western Pennsylvania district at the forefront of the natural-gas boom, possibly a key reason for his selection.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting a national study of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process credited with igniting the nation’s shale gas boom. 

That practice injects a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals into tight rock formations to tap natural gas.

EPA is looking into claims that the technique contaminates groundwater, and is expected to release a progress report on its study by the end of the year.

Industry, along with its Republican and Democratic allies, worry the results of the report could stymie natural-gas drilling and lead to unnecessary regulations.

And with Energy and Commerce devoting considerable time to fending off regulations and promoting newfound domestic fossil fuel reserves, Murphy could offer perspective on both, according to energy insiders.

Environmentalists and many Democrats have urged the administration to block fracking for environmental and public health reasons. But industry and many lawmakers argue the fracking is safe. They have questioned a December 2011 EPA report that first linked fracking to potential groundwater contamination.

The administration has issued draft regulations for fracking on federal lands, while at the same time praising states for their oversight and monitoring of the practice.

The proposed federal rules would require drillers to disclose chemicals used in the fracking process — though not before engaging in the activity, to the chagrin of environmentalists.

The plan also would require drillers to verify fluids don’t escape into water supplies, and would impose provisions for managing large amount of so-called flowback water.

— This story was updated at 5:10 p.m.

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