Senate Holds Hearing on Bingaman, Barrasso Helium Bill –at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) spoke in favor of his bipartisan bill the “Helium Stewardship Act of 2012” (S. 2374)
BigNews.Biz - May 12,2012 - Senate Holds Hearing on Bingaman, Barrasso Helium Bill
“Helium Stewardship Act of 2012” establishes a responsible resource management strategy for the Federal Helium Reserve.
WASHINGTON, DC –at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) spoke in favor of his bipartisan bill the “Helium Stewardship Act of 2012” (S. 2374)
On April 26, 2012, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Senator Barrasso introduced this bill to establish a responsible resource management strategy for the Federal Helium Reserve. The Reserve provides helium for important technologies – including medical MRIs, fiber optic cables, microchips and semiconductors. The bill will ensure that this critical supply of helium remains available for sale. It will also require the Secretary to sell helium from the Reserve at market rates, which will encourage the exploration and production of alternative sources of helium, including those in Wyoming.
Excerpts of Senator Barrasso’s remarks at today’s hearing:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your leadership on this critical piece of legislation. I greatly appreciate the time that you and your staff have spent working on this bipartisan bill.
“It’s an important step forward to ensuring a stable and a predictable helium market.
“In 1996, Congress passed legislation which required the Secretary of the Interior to sell off the helium in what is known as the ‘Federal Helium Reserve.’
“The Reserve is an underground geological formation which stores crude helium. It’s located, as the Chairman said, in Amarillo, Texas. The Reserve is the one major long-term storage facility in the world. It accounts for about 30 percent of the world’s supply of helium.
“This supply is essential to manufacturers of important technologies—such as MRIs, semiconductors, microchips, fiber optic cables. It’s also critical to the Defense Department, to NASA, to our National Labs, and to the larger scientific research community.
“However, it’s unclear whether this vital supply of helium will be available for sale over the next few years. Loss of this supply would cause a severe disruption in the helium market, and significantly increase costs for American manufacturers.
“Our legislation, the ‘Helium Stewardship Act of 2012,’ will ensure that this supply of helium remains available for sale.
“Specifically, it will extend the Secretary’s authority to sell helium for use in the private sector until the Reserve reaches 3 billion cubic feet. I understand that will take approximately 10 to 15 years.
“Our bill will also encourage the exploration and production of alternative sources of helium, such as those in Wyoming—which has over 50 percent of the nation’s helium reserves.
“For years, the BLM has been selling helium from the Reserve at prices below much of the helium sold in the private market.
“And because the Federal Helium Reserve accounts for such a large portion of the world’s helium supply this BLM’s below-market prices are depressing the prices of helium in the private market.
“As the National Academy of Sciences explained in its 2010 report: ‘market forces that otherwise might…encourage the development of additional sources of crude helium have