The U.S. House of Representatives has taken an important step forward to protect thousands of American jobs at risk by an arbitrary closure of the Federal Helium Reserve. With the House’s unanimous bipartisan approval (367-0!) on an amended version of H.R. 527, the U.S. Senate is given an opportunity to finally bring this matter to resolution and keep American businesses open and American jobs thriving.
It sounds like hyperbole. But, in truth, it’s reality. Helium is critical to a variety of advanced, high-tech manufacturing processes, as well as cutting-edge scientific research. It is irreplaceable in many of these processes, as there is no known substitute. The Federal Helium Reserve accounts for 40 percent of the world’s helium supply and, without Congress enacting legislation before next Tuesday, October 1, the government’s authority to sell helium to the private sector will expire. Such a supply disruption would be catastrophic to the private sector entities that require helium for their manufacturing processes.
The legislation passed by the House would prevent this economic implosion by ensuring manufacturers’ continued ability to purchase supply through an improved auction process that will maximize the return of this important government asset. This new auction system will bring the price of helium closer to market value, incentivizing private investment in helium production that will provide market stability as the federal government winds down and phases out its helium program during the next several years.
We appreciate the House’s strong support for HR 527. And now our focus returns, once more, to the Senate. Last week, Senators voted 97-2 in favor of their version of the helium legislation. We hope that they will show similar support for the House’s compromise version and send it quickly to President Obama to be signed into law before October 1.