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US House Energy and Commerce Committee Faces Changes

Reshuffling in the House Energy and Commerce Committee is leaving two key subcommittee posts up for grabs. The chairmanship for the committee’s Oversight and Investigations subcommittee is open. Current Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) will not return to Congress after losing a primary battle.

The subcommittee is key for energy issues, as it handled the House probe of the $535 million federal loan guarantee to now-bankrupt solar panel maker Solyndra. The subcommittee could tackle the debate on the environmental effects from hydraulic fracturing and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air pollution rules.

The Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee will also have an open chair position, as Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) lost her re-election bid to Democratic challenger Raul Ruiz.

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), the next in line for the Oversight position, would rather take the Communications and Technology subcommittee chairmanship. If Terry does snag the Communications and Technology position, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) could end up helming Oversight and Investigations, sources said. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) might also make a move for the position, they said.

Hydraulic fracturing issues could also make Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) a possibility for the Oversight and Investigations gavel. Murphy represents a western Pennsylvania district that has benefited from the shale gas boom, making him a top committee voice on fracking.