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Helium Stewardship Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, this bipartisan legislation being considered by the House this evening, H.R. 527, the Helium Stewardship Act, is a commonsense action plan to protect our economy from the impending helium shortage and to inject free market principles into our Federal helium program.

The House must take action today on this legislation before time runs out. Under current law, the Reserve must cease operations on October 1--that's only 6 days from now, Mr. Speaker. The Federal Helium Reserve supplies one-third of the world's helium, and a disruption would cause real harm to our Nation's economy.

Helium is essential to our 21st century economy. Without it, we wouldn't have lifesaving MRI machines, we wouldn't have computer chips, we wouldn't have fiber optic cables or other devices used for our defense needs. Unless Congress takes immediate action, tens of thousands of American jobs and critical technologies would be put at risk.

The bill before us today is truly a bipartisan, bicameral plan that I'm pleased to have worked on with both my Senate and House colleagues.

This bill would implement a new operating system for the Federal Helium Reserve on October 1 that would include semiannual auctions. This will ensure that we prevent a crippling helium shortage and that the reserve stays open until 2021, when then nearly all of the helium supply is sold. That will give us enough time for the market to supplant this helium that will go away. Mr. Speaker, it also ensures that this program, Federal program, is ended.

A little history: on April 26, the House passed H.R. 527, the Helium Stewardship Act, by a vote of 394-1. Last week, the Senate passed H.R. 527 with an amendment by a vote of 97-2.

This final text of House Resolution 354 makes several necessary, minimal adjustments to the Senate-passed version of H.R. 527 to ensure it abides by budget rules and laws so that it does not increase deficit spending.

Prompt action of this final text will maintain a flow of helium for the reserve after October 1 and prevent economic disruptions to American jobs manufacturing critical technology and medical devices.

Mr. Speaker, nearly 100 groups representing the end users of refined helium--and these groups are high-tech manufacturers of semiconductors, aerospace technologies, medical devices, chemicals, fiber optics, and science research--all have called for passage of this legislation.

We have an opportunity today to preserve our economy, bring real reforms to a Federal program, get a better return for the taxpayer, and in the end truly shut down an outdated Federal program. These are all wins that we should pass this bill and celebrate these successes.

I urge adoption of the resolution, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, virtually all of my colleagues have expressed gratitude for this bipartisan-bicameral effort, and I want to add my words to that also.

I particularly want to thank two members of the House Natural Resources staff--Tim Charters and Amanda Tharpe--because they worked diligently on this, especially this last week in getting the final language together.

It's not often that you get to thank one person who now has served in both bodies, but former Ranking Member Ed Markey was a cosponsor originally of H.R. 527. Senator Markey has now been a big advocate over in the Senate, and I want to thank him and his staff.

I particularly want to thank again Senator Wyden and Senator Murkowski and their staffs because we recognized earlier on that this had to be done before a date certain.

Obviously, as we've said many times on this floor, there are differences between the two bodies in how they approach different issues--and that was certainly true with this one--but we knew we had to get this done, so we have a piece now that, I think, both sides and both Houses can agree on.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I urge the adoption of the resolution, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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