Helium Reserve Bill Rises Above Partisanship

Congressmen Markey and Holt Work with Republicans, Introduce Bill to Avert National Helium Crisis

WASHINGTON (February 6, 2013) – Bi-partisan leadership of the House Committee on Natural Resources today jointly introduced legislation that will address an impending national helium crisis as supplies of the resource dwindle. Democratic Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Rush Holt (D-N.J.) joined fellow Republicans on the Committee--Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas)--on the legislation that would extend the life of the Federal Helium Reserve in Texas, introduce auctions to ensure a fair return to taxpayers on federally-owned helium, and widen participation and transparency in the helium market.

Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Markey said, “Helium isn’t just for balloons, it’s used in MRI machines and NASA rockets, which is why this issue rises above partisanship. Whether it's spectrum auctions or helium auctions, I believe open and competitive markets are the best way to ensure fairness, stability, and a fair return to American taxpayers. The bill we are introducing today achieves these goals and I look forward to continuing to work with my Republican colleagues to move it forward.”

Energy and Minerals Subcommittee Ranking Member Holt said, “The stability of our helium supply is vital to so many areas of commercial industry and government – from the doctor’s office to the space program to our national scientific research endeavors. I’m pleased we’ve reached a bipartisan agreement that will help ensure a reliable supply of helium for years to come.”

Helium is a unique and finite resource that is critical to applications ranging from MRI scans to NASA rockets. Half of all helium used in the United States—and a third of global helium supply—comes from the Federal Helium Reserve. Under its current legislative authorization, the reserve would close soon after the debt accumulated in filling the reserve is repaid later this year. The legislation introduced today would extend the life of the reserve and allow the remaining helium to be auctioned to refiners and users while still giving priority to critical research that requires helium.

Text of the legislation, the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act (HR 527), can be found HERE.

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