July 30, 2014
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) released the following statement regarding the first helium auction at the Federal Helium Reserve near Amarillo, TX.
“Today’s helium auction is the realization of the promise of the Helium Stewardship Act which for the first time establishes a public, transparent, and open process for the sale of helium from the Federal Reserve in Texas. This sale is critical to ensure that taxpayers get a fair return for their resource. Participants are expected to include refiners, non-refiners, end-users, and producers. This auction, which was the centerpiece of the reforms to the helium program, will allow a broader segment of interests to finally compete and will allow an open free market to dictate prices. I look forward to the outcome of this first of its kind event”
On October 2, 2013, H.R. 527, the Helium Stewardship Act that was signed into law, Public Law 113-40. This bipartisan legislation is a common-sense plan to sell helium from the Federal Helium Reserve in a responsible manner to prevent a global shortage, protect jobs and the economy, and ensure a fairer return for taxpayers.
The Federal Helium Reserve in Texas, operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is currently responsible for 30 percent of the world’s helium supply and more than 50 percent of our domestic helium supply.
It was originally created in 1926 to help the U.S. keep pace with global advancements in military technologies, such as blimps. As we all now know, blimps failed to become essential to our national defense purposes and the U.S. was left with a large reserve of helium that had declining usefulness. But in classic government form, the government kept spending money to fill the Reserve until the 1980’s, even when it was very clear that the original need for the Reserve was no longer necessary. By the 1990s, the helium program had racked up a $1.3 billion debt and Congress voted in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion to privatize the program.
Helium is essential to the manufacturing of computer chips and fiber optic cables, is used by hospitals for life-saving medical tests like an MRI, and is critical to national defense efforts.
Earlier this month, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing on the “Implementation and Administration of the 2013 Helium Stewardship Act.” At this hearing Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (CO-05) announced that he and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-05) are releasing a discussion draft of new legislation, The American Helium Security Act of 2014. This draft legislation would help solve the need for a more secure and reliable domestic supply of helium to fulfill our Nation’s future needs.