Idaho First District Congressman Raúl Labrador released the following statement in support for H.R. 527, the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act, after the House Committee on Natural Resources hearing about the Federal Helium Reserve:
"Congress must act soon to ensure a reliable supply of helium is available for American businesses. Although most people don't realize this, the same gas used in party balloons is actually critical for some high tech manufacturing processes. The federal government's current policy to close the Federal Helium Reserve this year with still plenty of helium left is alarming. Today, I heard from Micron how current policy would negatively impact their business because of a disruption in consistent helium supply. The legislation would update our national helium policy and let companies in Idaho and across the country have access to this important American resource. I support this market-oriented reform because it incorporates the needs of our country's helium demands in the 21st century."
Owyhee County Idaho Rancher Brenda Richards, Public Lands Council Vice President and National Cattlemen's Beef Association member, commented on the bill: "Operations like ours are the backbone and the main economic drivers of many rural communities. The Grazing Improvement Act as introduced by Congressman Labrador would add certainty to the grazing permit system and decrease the risk of losing access to lands where our families have grazed livestock for generations, benefiting the environment and enhancing wildlife habitat. The Grazing Improvement Act will help to ensure the continued success of our families, the foundation of a healthy, working landscape in the West."
The Federal Helium Reserve was established in 1926 to ensure our country had access to a safe and secure supply of helium. However, the government racked up over $1 billion in debt by 1996 from constructing the reserve and connecting pipelines. In order to pay off this debt, the federal government passed a law in 1996 to redefine its role as simply maintaining the helium reserve while letting private companies purchase crude helium to refine and distribute it. This law included a provision to close the Federal Helium Reserve after the debt has been paid off, regardless of how much helium still existed in the reserve. The current estimate has the government paying off the debt earlier than expected, by October 2013, without having sold off all the helium. The amount of helium in this reservoir amounts to 50 percent of the domestic supply and 30 percent of the world's supply.