Today, the House Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved bipartisan legislation to extend the life of the Federal Helium Reserve in Texas that will address a looming national helium crisis, reform the system to ensure a fair return to taxpayers on federally-owned helium, and widen participation and transparency in helium markets. Democratic Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Rush Holt (D-N.J.) joined Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) to introduce the legislation that was agreed to during a full committee markup by voice vote.
Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Markey said,"Helium plays an integral role in our nation's economy. This essential resource is used by high-tech manufacturers, medical device suppliers and other scientific industries throughout our country. This bill will help prevent disruptions in helium supplies and ensure a fair return to American taxpayers. I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues to move this bill forward."
Rep. Holt, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources said of the committee's approval, "Anyone who has ever had an MRI scan, used a computer microchip, or accessed the Internet has -- perhaps without even knowing it -- relied upon technologies made possible by helium. Yet fire-sale pricing of this gas has squandered a relatively rare and valuable resource, reduced returns to taxpayers, and led to an unreliable supply."
Helium is a unique and finite resource that is critical to applications ranging from MRI scans to NASA rockets. Nearly half of all helium used in the United States--and a third of global helium supply--comes from the Federal Helium Reserve. Under current law, the authority for the Interior Department to continue funding and operating the reserve would end later this year, thus cutting-off one half of the nation's helium supply. The legislation passed today would extend the life of the reserve and implement reforms to create more competition and transparency while still giving priority to federal users and research that requires helium.