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Simpson Praises H.R. 354 passing House and Senate

Bill removes gov’t from helium business allowing companies like Micron to still acquire helium for their needs

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson praised the passage of H. Res. 354, by the House and Senate this week; legislation that will address the impending closure of the Federal Helium Reserve in early October by allowing it to continue supplying helium while also reforming our nation’s helium policy. 

"Thousands of high-tech manufacturing jobs in the United States depend on a reliable supply of helium,” Simpson said.  “Micron Technology, which is based in my district, is a large semiconductor manufacturer and a global leader in computer memory technology, and they depend on helium for their manufacturing processes.  If the Reserve stopped making helium available for sale to private entities like Micron, a significant delay might not just slow the production of computer chips, but the computers, life-saving medical devices, and weapons systems that they power.”

The Federal Helium Reserve was created in 1926 to ensure a steady helium supply for the nation’s defense needs.  However, federal demand did not live up to expectations, and by the 1990’s, the Reserve had accrued a $1.3 billion debt.  In 1996, Congress passed reforms to require the sale of the Federal Helium Reserve by 2015. 

The Reserve is expected to pay off the debt earlier than expected, by October 2013, without having sold off all of the helium. As a result, the Reserve, by law, will close and no longer have the authority to sell the remaining 11 billion cubic feet of helium.  This will create an immediate worldwide helium shortage and cut the domestic supply in half. 

“This bill gets the government out of the helium business and moves toward a market based approach,” Simpson said.  “It also reduces the federal deficit by $90 million over 10 years.” 

H. Res. 354 will next be presented to President Obama for his signature.