(House of Representatives - April 25, 2013)

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[Pages H2323-H2327]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


                             General Leave

  Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that 
all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend 
their remarks and include extraneous material on the bill H.R. 527.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Washington?
  There was no objection.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 178 and rule 
XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House 
on the state of the Union for the consideration of the bill, H.R. 527.
  The Chair appoints the gentleman from Kansas (Mr. Yoder) to preside 
over the Committee of the Whole.

                              {time}  1403

                     In the Committee of the Whole

  Accordingly, the House resolved itself into the Committee of the 
Whole House on the state of the Union for the consideration of the bill 
(H.R. 527) to amend the Helium Act to complete the privatization of the 
Federal helium reserve in a competitive market fashion that ensures 
stability in the helium markets while protecting the interests of 
American taxpayers, and for other purposes, with Mr. Yoder in the 
  The CHAIR. Pursuant to the rule, the bill is considered read the 
first time.
  The gentleman from Washington (Mr. Hastings) and the gentleman from 
New Jersey (Mr. Holt) each will control 30 minutes.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself as much time 
as I may consume.
  Today, I rise in support of H.R. 527. This bill is necessary to 
protect our economy from the impending helium shortage and to inject 
free-market principles into our Federal helium program.
  The Federal Helium Reserve was first created after World War I, when 
we imagined a world where blimps would be the future of air travel and 
vital to our national security efforts. Although this effort took a 
different course, that didn't stop the Federal Government from spending 
money on this program and stockpiling helium continuously through the 
1980s. By the 1990s, it became clear that the Reserve had a declining 
usefulness and had racked up a $1.3 billion debt.
  In response, Congress in 1996 passed legislation to implement reforms 
to the program and require the sale and privatization of the Reserve by 
2015, or when the debt was paid off, whichever came first.
  However, since this original decision to close the Reserve, both the 
demand and uses for helium have dramatically changed. This has created 
a situation where the Reserve's debt will be paid off sooner than 
expected--nearly 2 years earlier--in October of this year. But, while 
the debt will have been paid off, there will still be helium in the 
Reserve. By law then, the current Federal helium program will end and 
the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, will no longer have the 
authority to sell the remaining 11 billion cubic feet of helium. It's 
important to note, too, Mr. Chairman, that the Reserve contains half of 
our U.S. domestic supply and 30 percent of the world's helium supply.
  If Congress fails to act before October, we will artificially drop 
the helium supply and cause a global helium shortage that will cost 
jobs and severely disrupt our economy. Despite what many think, helium 
is not just used for party balloons. It is essential to our 21st 
century economy. Without helium we wouldn't have lifesaving MRI 
machines, computer chips, fiber optic cables, or other devices used for 
defense needs.
  The bill before us today is truly a bipartisan plan that I'm pleased 
to have worked on with the lead Democrat on the Natural Resources 
Committee, Mr. Markey from Massachusetts, as well as our other 
colleagues on the committee, Mr. Flores of Texas and Mr. Holt of New 
  First, this bill would implement a new operating system for the 
Federal Helium Reserve over the next decade that would include 
semiannual auctions. This will ensure that we prevent a helium shortage 
and that the Reserve stays open until nearly all of the helium supply 
is sold.

                              {time}  1410

  Second, it will build on the reforms made in 1996 and inject more 
free market principles into the sales process to get a better and 
fairer return for American taxpayers.
  Over the last decade, the Federal Government has been selling helium 
from the Reserve significantly below market price. As you can see from 
this chart--and this is based on BLM data--the new demands for helium 
have caused the market price to rise much higher than the Federal 
Government's pricing formula and much faster than BLM's ability to 
track market prices.
  So, as a result, this has cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. 
This has been confirmed by reports and testimony from both the 
Government Accountability Office, the GAO, and the Department of the 
Interior Inspector General. The big gap is right here. This is what we 
are selling it for, and this is what the market price is.
  In addition, the current program restricts sales to only a few 
companies through an allotment system that is essentially an oligarchy 
for Federal helium. Nearly 100 percent of our helium supply is being 
put into the hands of four refiners that directly benefit from the low 
Federal pricing formula while other competitors are locked out. The 
current cheap price of helium gives an unfair market advantage to these 
handful of companies.
  Implementing semiannual helium auctions will inject much-needed 
competition into the program and help establish a fair market price for 
helium. According to the CBO, this bill will bring in over $340 million 
to the Treasury over the next 10 years. The bill also includes 
important reforms to increase transparency and to prevent supply 
  Now, Mr. Chairman, over 20 groups representing the end users of 
refined helium--and these are high-tech manufacturers of 
semiconductors, aerospace technologies, medical devices, chemicals, 
fiber optics, and scientific research--all have called for the passage 
of this legislation. Although this bill enjoys broad bipartisan 
support, I do want to take a moment to directly address some concerns 
that have been raised throughout this legislative process.
  First, doing nothing is not an option. While I recognize that many 
people don't believe that the Federal Government should be in the 
helium business--and I would agree--we must recognize the realities of 
our current situation. Helium is too essential to our economy to 
essentially cut off the valve at the Reserve. We need this bill to 
protect our economy from severe disruptions and to provide additional 
time for the new development of alternative domestic helium resources 
so that our country and economy are prepared for when the Reserve does 
close. However, this bill will make sure that we are building on the 
reforms of the 1996 act and that we are managing and selling the helium 
in a more responsible manner.
  Second, maintaining the status quo is not an option. Under conditions 
in the current law, the entire program comes to an end this October. 
Simply authorizing the continuation of the current program does nothing 
to address the current issues with the Federal pricing formula and the 
need to implement free market reforms. We cannot keep selling helium to 
a handful of companies. Instead, we need an open helium market that 
encourages more bidders, more competition, and more accurate pricing in 
order to get the best return for the taxpayers.
  What we need then, Mr. Chairman, is no more lucrative handouts, no 
more government picking winners. What we need is good ole American 

[[Page H2324]]

  Finally, this bill will do absolutely nothing to interfere with 
private business contracts, and it will not create instability within 
the helium market. With or without this legislation, the existing 
helium program and existing contracts all will end in October of this 
year. This bill violates no contracts because none will exist when 
certain conditions in current law expire, which we think will be this 
October. This is why Congress must act before October to establish a 
new helium program to finalize the sell-off of the helium from the 
  The bill will protect our economy from a harmful helium shortage and 
implement much-needed reforms to update the Federal Helium Program so 
that it better reflects the uses and demands for helium in the year 
  Mr. Chairman, this is a good bill, and it's a bipartisan bill. I'm 
glad I had support in working with my colleagues across the aisle on 
the committee, and I urge the passage of this legislation.
  With that, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  I rise in support of H.R. 527, and I begin by commending and thanking 
Chairman Hastings for his outstanding bipartisan leadership on this 
legislation and on other things before the committee. This bill was 
drafted in close cooperation with the Democratic minority, and I thank 
the chairman of the committee. He worked with Ranking Member Markey and 
me and with Representative Flores; and we've put together, I think, a 
solid piece of legislation. The legislation is an example of how we can 
work together. I wish it were moving faster on the floor today and 
tomorrow, but it is a cooperative undertaking.
  As the chairman said, helium is critical for magnetic resonance 
imaging, MRI machines; for NASA rocket operation; for high-tech 
manufacturing; and for all sorts of scientific research. For many of 
these applications, there is no replacement for helium with its truly 
unique properties. Farsighted legislators established a Federal 
stockpile many decades ago, which was good; and as important uses of 
helium were recognized over the decades, we can be thankful that the 
stockpile existed.
  The frenzy of privatization under the Gingrich era in Congress has 
now made this legislation necessary. Our Nation's Federal Helium 
Reserve supplies nearly half of the helium used in the United States; 
and if Congress fails to pass this legislation, by the end of the 
current fiscal year, the Interior Department's authority to continue 
operating the Reserve will expire. If this is allowed to happen, nearly 
half of America's helium supply would be cut off overnight, creating 
truly a crisis in health care, in research, in electronic 
manufacturing, and in many other areas. That's the immediate problem 
that this legislation would solve; but there is a second, potentially 
more severe, problem to be addressed.
  At the current withdrawal rates, we have only 5 to 7 years of helium 
available from the Reserve. Reviews by the National Academy of 
Sciences, by the Government Accountability Office, and by the Interior 
Department Inspector General's Office have all concluded that we are 
not selling the Nation's helium at market prices. Since Federal helium 
comprises such an enormous percentage of the global supply, with the 
price set and controlled by the Interior Department as required under 
the guidelines established some years back, the global price of helium 
is artificially low.
  The current system isn't just a bad deal for taxpayers; it has also 
distorted the global helium market. If we continue to avoid a solution, 
as some have advocated, we could find ourselves facing even more severe 
helium shortages and price spikes when the Federal Reserve is largely 
exhausted a few years from now and when there may be insufficient 
alternative supplies to turn to.
  That's why we must reform our Nation's helium policy, put the market-
based signals in place that will help provide an incentive to bring new 
supplies on line. The failure to enact reforms of the helium program, 
such as those contained in this legislation, could mean an increased 
reliance on insecure and irregular helium supplies from Russia, 
Algeria, Qatar, and other foreign sources. It could mean higher prices 
for American industry and for researchers.
  There have already been interruptions in supply. National labs have 
testified before our committee that helium deliveries necessary for 
their research have already been subject to interruptions.

                              {time}  1420

  The bipartisan legislation before us today would address both of 
these impending crises. H.R. 527 would extend the life of the Federal 
Helium Reserve past the end of this year and ensure a fair return to 
taxpayers on this federally-owned resource. It would generate more than 
$300 million for American taxpayers as estimated by the Congressional 
Budget Office. The bill will increase competition, transparency, and 
participation in helium markets, which will help shift commercial 
helium reliance from the Reserve to private sources.
  The principles of this bill are consistent with the recommendations 
made by the National Academy of Sciences in 2010 to improve the helium 
program by expanding participation and openness in helium markets.
  It will protect Federal users, such as NASA and the National Labs, as 
well as the scientific community by ensuring that they have priority 
access to this federally-owned resource in the short term and exclusive 
access in the longer term.
  This bill was created with input from the Department of the Interior, 
the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and many 
scientific researchers. It has the support of the American Physical 
Society and many other groups and many helium users, such as 
corporations like General Electric, Siemens, Philips, Intel, Applied 
Materials, Dow Chemical, IBM, Texas Instruments, and many others. It's 
a product of close work between the majority and the minority members 
of the committee.
  Again, I thank the majority for providing that collaboration with us. 
It's a good bill. It provides a workable solution to a real problem. I 
urge its adoption.
  I wish we could deal with this bill promptly and all the amendments 
promptly. We could be done in less than an hour, and then we could turn 
our attention to other concerns that Americans have, such as jobs and 
education, training for workers, a conference committee to reconcile 
the differences between the House and the Senate budget resolutions, 
removing the thoughtless sequester that the majority imposed on the 
country affecting air traffic control and food inspections and Head 
Start slots and medical research and many other things. But instead, we 
will postpone the consideration of the amendments until tomorrow, I'm 
sorry to say, and eat up valuable time that we could spend dealing with 
America's pressing problems. Nevertheless, I look forward to the 
passage of this bill, and I urge my colleagues to support it.
  With that, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I'm very pleased to yield 2 
minutes to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Wittman), a valuable member 
of the Natural Resources Committee.
  Mr. WITTMAN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of H.R. 527, the 
Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act.
  H.R. 527 is important legislation for our Nation's high-tech, 
defense, medical, and scientific industries. It will ensure the 
continued operation of and sales of helium from the Federal Helium 
Reserve, providing a stable and secure supply of a critical material 
for the next several years.
  This legislation represents a significant step forward in addressing 
the concerns associated with the helium supply from the Federal Helium 
Reserve. This also creates a situation where we have a reliable source 
of helium that's critical to the strategic interests of this Nation.
  This bill also provides for the continued operation of the Reserve 
and the sale of helium to private entities, thereby helping to ensure a 
stable and secure supply of helium in the near term.
  It provides price transparency through clear reporting requirements

[[Page H2325]]

for both the Bureau of Land Management and for those who purchase 
helium. And for many industries throughout the United States, this 
reliability and transparency is absolutely critical.
  H.R. 527 is important and is urgently needed to address this Nation's 
helium supply in making sure, too, that we keep in mind the 
implications it has for both our national and our homeland security.
  I'd like to applaud Chairman Hastings and Ranking Member Markey for 
their work on this bill, and I urge my colleagues to support it.
  Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from 
Georgia (Mr. Johnson).
  Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. I thank the gentleman.
  Mr. Chairman, like a kid at a carnival, I rise in full support of 
H.R. 527, the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act of 
  Mr. Chairman, I'm relieved, and I'm sure that the American people are 
relieved as well, that Congress is finally going to do something about 
one of the most pressing issues of the day, that is, we've got to 
ensure access to helium for all.
  Surely, those harmed by sequestration and those harmed by the 
Republican failure to appoint budget conferees appreciate the House 
spending 2 full legislative days on this most critical issue. The 
American people certainly understand the fact that 48 hours of this 
House's precious time was necessary to pass such a noncontroversial 
  I'm pleased to support this bill, which shows that this Tea Party 
Congress will make the tough choice to keep children's birthday parties 
on schedule and give industries that rely on helium the lift that they 
deserve. Imagine, Mr. Chairman, a world without balloons. How can we 
make sure that there is not the injustice of there being no helium for 
comedians to get that high-pitched voice that we all hold near and dear 
to our hearts? Imagine a world without balloons. To date, the House has 
chosen to just simply float above it all.
  Finally, we are going to do something for the American people, and we 
should all pat ourselves on the back for that. Too often lately, this 
body has sat deflated, not for a lack of hot air, mind you, but 
seriously, ladies and gentlemen, unlike a noble element, this House has 
failed to act on Americans' real concerns.
  There are serious reasons to support this bill, and I do look forward 
to supporting it. The substance of this bill is not the focus of my 
sarcasm today, Mr. Chairman. My point is that America would be much 
better off if this Tea Party Republican Congress brought to the floor 
issues that mean the most to Americans, like appointing a conference 
committee to work out a budget with the Senate.
  The CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. HOLT. If the gentleman needs more time, I gladly yield an 
additional 30 seconds.
  Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Sadly, Republicans are just blowing in the 
wind and can't seem to tether themselves down to take on such an 
important task. They float off in different directions unable to 
appoint conferees to negotiate with the Senate.
  Yesterday, despite the gravity of the matter, the Tea Party 
Republicans couldn't even agree on their own health care bill, which 
was named the Helping Sick Americans Now Act. With a title like that, 
I'm helium flabbergasted that they could not pass that bill.

                              {time}  1430

  Yesterday we spent all day debating that bill, and today after their 
failure to pass it, they've pretty much decided that sick Americans can 
wait. We need laughing gas because of the inability of the Republican 
House to deal with the difficult issues. It's real sad; we need some 
laughing gas. The sequestration is delaying flights and harming our 
  The CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has again expired.
  Mr. HOLT. I yield an additional 15 seconds to the gentleman.
  Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. With sequestration delaying flights and 
harming our economy, our Nation needs a little gas. Say what you will, 
but this is just the best thing that we can do here. So I'd like to 
float a simple idea: stop wasting our time. Let's get to the business 
that is meaningful for Americans. I support this bill.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I want to ask my friend 
from New Jersey, I have at this point no further requests for time. One 
additional speaker may be coming, but I'm prepared to close.
  Mr. HOLT. We have at least one more speaker, and my closing.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. HOLT. I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. 
Tonko) who counts among his constituents many who work in technical 
industries and laboratories who depend on helium and understand that 
although there are a lot of easy jokes about helium, this is a serious 
matter. It is a serious matter that we should move along with promptly.
  Mr. TONKO. Mr. Chairman, I thank Representative Holt. I want to thank 
Chairman Hastings and Representative Markey and Representative Holt and 
other members of the Natural Resources Committee for working 
steadfastly together to bring this important bill to the floor.
  The Federal Helium Reserve was created in 1925, long before today's 
many uses of helium were envisioned. Now this element has become an 
essential ingredient to our Nation's research, medical, technology, 
manufacturing, space, and defense activities. Helium is used in welding 
and in the manufacturing of fiber optic cable and semiconductors. 
Medical imaging has become a vital tool in the health care system, and 
every MRI requires helium. The list of applications for this element is 
long and touches many important industries.

  When the current law passed in 1996, the situation with respect to 
helium's value and usage was quite different, and there was an 
expectation that additional private sources of helium would be 
developed and then of course enter the market. For a variety of 
reasons, that has not yet happened on a sufficient enough scale to 
ensure a stable supply of helium to meet our national demand for this 
basic element.
  The Federal Government, through the Bureau of Land Management, needs 
to remain engaged in this market for an additional period of time. The 
United States reserve is about 40 percent of the worldwide supply of 
helium. The many industries and research institutions that rely on 
helium cannot afford a disruption in its supply.
  The national storage facility is unique, and there are many 
characteristics of the helium market that are distinctly different from 
the markets of most commodities. These factors are likely the reasons a 
more robust private supply of helium has not yet emerged to replace our 
Federal Government's role. H.R. 527 provides additional time to phase 
down the Federal Government's role in the helium market and to allow a 
private market to develop.
  There is no substitute for helium in many of its crucial 
applications. Passage of this legislation is critical to maintaining 
high-wage, high-skilled jobs in my district, the 20th Congressional 
District of New York, throughout New York State for that matter, and in 
many other States across our great country. It is essential that we 
work with the Senate to get a law signed this year to provide certainty 
to helium suppliers and users.
  I recognize there are some who are uncomfortable with certain aspects 
of this legislation. It is not a perfect bill, and if the expected 
development of private supplies of helium does not occur, we need to 
revisit this issue in the future.
  For the present, though, this bill offers a reasonable compromise 
that keeps helium flowing onto the market, and that is what we need 
now. I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 527 and maintain a reliable 
supply of this vital ingredient for the sake of research and industry.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I'm pleased to yield 3 
minutes to the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Lamborn), the chairman of 
the subcommittee dealing with this issue.
  Mr. LAMBORN. I thank the chairman of the full committee for allowing 
me to speak. I rise in strong support of H.R. 527, the Responsible 
Helium Administration and Stewardship Act.

[[Page H2326]]

  Our House Natural Resources Committee passed this bipartisan 
legislation by voice vote, and I encourage my colleagues in the full 
House to do the same. The Responsible Helium Administration and 
Stewardship Act adds free market reforms to the current system. The 
current system allows a small number of companies to have access to and 
benefit from the taxpayer resource, which is helium, but it's a good 
thing to broaden the base of those who are most benefiting from this 
  There is currently some instability in the marketplace for American 
companies that are the end users of helium. These companies employ 
thousands of Americans, and they rely upon a dependable supply of 
helium for their business every day. This includes defense companies, 
medical companies, manufacturing companies, and a variety of users.
  Numerous government reports--from the Department of Interior 
Inspector General to the Government Accountability Office to the 
National Academy of Sciences--have all come to the same conclusion: we 
need to reform the current system.
  The current system allows a select group of companies to buy a 
critical Federal resource at significantly below market value to the 
exclusion of other companies. There are historical reasons how this 
situation developed, but we have to look to the future and what's best 
for the economy moving forward.
  As a result, the American people are potentially being denied tens or 
even hundreds of millions of dollars of additional revenue because this 
Federal taxpayer resource is sometimes being sold at under-market 
  It should be noted that over 20 organizations and end-user companies 
representing high-tech manufacturers of semiconductors, aerospace 
technologies, life-saving medical devices, chemicals, fiber optic, and 
scientific researchers who require helium as an essential part of their 
daily business support this bill. H.R. 527 will ensure that these 
industries employing thousands of Americans and vital to the United 
States can obtain a reliable and secure source of helium while ensuring 
American taxpayers that they receive the best possible market value for 
this taxpayer resource.
  H.R. 527 will end the current allotment system and add free market 
components to the BLM helium program. This will increase transparency 
between companies and the BLM and ensure that purchasers of helium will 
have timely access to the pipeline to ensure delivery of the helium 
that they have purchased.
  This bill is supported by the ITI, and I urge your support of this 
                                            Information Technology

                                             Industry Council,

                                   Washington, DC, April 25, 2013.
     Hon. John Boehner,
     Speaker of the House, House of Representatives, Washington, 
     Hon. Nancy Pelosi,
     Democratic Leader, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
       Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi: On behalf of the 
     Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), I write to 
     express the importance of H.R. 527, the Responsible Helium 
     Administration and Stewardship Act to the high-tech industry. 
     ITI supports the passage of H.R. 527 and we will consider 
     scoring votes in support of final passage of the bill in our 
     113th Congressional Voting Guide.
       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 Government controls 
     40% of the world's helium supply, and without Congress 
     enacting legislation by the end of this fiscal year, the 
     Federal 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. H.R. 527 would 
     prevent such a problematic situation by ensuring the Federal 
     Government has authority to continue selling helium to the 
     private sector through an auction process.
       The United States' information technology industry is the 
     strongest in the world, driving economic growth, creating new 
     businesses, and generating jobs. On behalf of ITI's member 
     companies, I thank you for bringing this legislation to the 
     floor to prevent any possible helium supply disruptions, and 
     urge you and your colleagues to pass H.R. 527, the 
     Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act.
                                                 Dean C. Garfield,
                                                President and CEO.

  Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the comments of the gentleman 
from Colorado, the chair of the Energy and Mineral Subcommittee. He 
reiterates the important uses of helium, and I would add that any 
American patient or doctor who uses MRIs, which depend on helium, or 
any American who uses modern electronics whose manufacture depends on 
helium, or anyone who depends on so many other things for which helium 
is essential, should be grateful that decades ago farsighted 
legislators created the stockpile to preserve helium.
  We now have before us the need to make sure that helium isn't sold at 
fire-sale prices. We need to make sure that we have a reliable supply 
for these important uses. We need to make sure that the Interior 
Department is not forced out of the business prematurely. The Interior 
Department has expressed support for the approach taken by this 
  Again, I commend and thank the chairman for his bipartisan leadership 
to bring this sensible legislation to the floor. I hope that the other 
body will act quickly and follow our lead and pass this legislation so 
we do not experience supply disruptions and price spikes later this 
year. I urge passage of this bill.
  I yield back the balance of my time.

                              {time}  1440

  Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as 
I may consume.
  Mr. Chairman, as has been pointed out on both sides, this is a very 
important piece of legislation. Our free economy is made up of a lot of 
different parts, and it's hard--as a matter of fact, it's impossible--
to regulate all of those parts. The market does it a whole lot better.
  But in this situation, because of past actions of Congress, there was 
a stockpile of Federal helium, and it became more and more valuable; 
but market prices weren't being got for that available commodity. This 
issue addresses that until the markets can catch up in several years in 
order to make sure there is a supply of helium.
  And I'm glad to have worked in a bipartisan way with my colleagues on 
the Natural Resources Committee. We'll deal with the amendment process 
tomorrow. That's why we have a rule. There are several Members who 
wanted to improve, from their point of view, this piece of legislation, 
and you can't do that, obviously, on a suspension calendar, as has been 
suggested. You have to go through the rule process, and we will do that 
  So, in the meantime, Mr. Chairman, I urge adoption of this 
legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chair, I rise in support of the Responsible 
Helium Administration and Stewardship Act, a bipartisan bill that will 
prevent a global helium shortage that could limit high-tech 
manufacturing and critical scientific research.
  Recognizing the value of our helium resources, the government 
established a Federal Helium Reserve in the 1960s. In 1996, Congress 
enacted legislation to privatize the Reserve and sell off its supply. 
Unfortunately, that sale has been conducted at below-market rates even 
as demand for helium, which is critical for hospitals, manufacturing, 
and research, has increased. Moreover, under that 1996 law, the Reserve 
will have to stop operations this October, cutting our domestic supply 
by nearly half and causing a worldwide shortage.
  Today's legislation creates a new, auction-based program for selling 
helium from the Reserve, preventing the shortage and ensuring that 
taxpayers get fair value for this resource. It's a common sense 
solution to a serious problem and I urge my colleagues to support it.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chair, I rise today in support of H.R. 527, the 
``Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act,'' which will 
renew the Department of the Interior's (DOI) authority to continue 
operating the Federal Helium Reserve beyond this fiscal year.
  I want to thank Chairman Hastings and Ranking Member Markey for their 
hard work in shepherding this legislation, which enjoys strong 
bipartisan support, to the floor.
  Mr. Chair, I support H.R. 527 because it is an important first step 
in updating our nation's helium policy by increasing transparency and

[[Page H2327]]

fostering competitive helium markets, while providing a better return 
for American taxpayers.
  Currently, the United States is the largest helium producer in the 
world. The most recent data from the United States Geological Survey 
indicates that at over 20 billion cubic meters, the total helium 
reserves and resources of the United States represents roughly 40 
percent of the world's helium supply.
  Helium is primarily used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) devices 
in hospitals, but is also used as a coolant for superconductors, as 
well as in cryogenics, welding, chromatography, and various other uses.
  The Federal Helium Reserve is a strategic reserve located at the 
Cliffside Storage Facility in Potter County, Texas, near the city of 
Amarillo. Created in 1925, its original function was to ensure supplies 
of helium to the federal government for defense, research, and medical 
  Through the Helium Privatization Act of 1996, the Federal Helium 
Reserve evolved to serve four purposes: (1) operating and maintaining a 
helium storage reservoir and pipeline system view map; (2) providing 
crude helium gas by contract with private companies; (3) evaluating the 
Nation's helium-bearing gas fields; and (4) providing responsible 
access to federal land for managed recovery and disposal of helium.

  While the Interior Department currently has the authority to continue 
funding and operating the Federal Helium Reserve, this authority is set 
to expire at the end of this fiscal year. Upon expiration, and absent 
Congressional action, our national supply of helium faces severe 
turmoil in the form of substantial price increases and market 
disruptions for American consumers and businesses.
  Moreover, the Federal Helium Reserve, which constitutes a large 
portion of the global supply, is instrumental in controlling price. The 
large quantity of helium in the reserves means that the Interior 
Department effectively determines prices paid for helium around the 
  Numerous reports indicate that the Interior Department may be selling 
helium at below market value, which may have the effect of stifling 
private investment in new helium supplies. As a result, we risk facing 
a shortage in coming years as helium supplies diminish.
  H.R. 527 addresses this problem by transitioning helium sales to a 
competitive auction system, thus ensuring a steady supply of helium and 
allowing users to bid on crude helium from the reserve. Consequently, 
the law of supply and demand would dictate price rather than having the 
price controlled by a central authority.
  Ideally, I would have liked to see more discretion afforded to the 
Secretary of the Interior in this bill, particularly with respect to 
the minimum price charged for crude helium.
  The bill requires the Secretary to make a determination as to the 
minimum sale price at auctions in accordance with various factors, 
including a confidential survey of domestic helium transactions with 
the reserve, as well as recent market prices as reflected by auction 
  Currently under the bill, the Secretary would have the discretion to 
adjust the minimum price by up to 10 percent if the survey is not 
reflective of the current market value of helium or if a higher minimum 
price may result in greater conservation of helium.
  However, market fluctuations in recent years have often been in 
excess of 10 percent. Providing the Secretary with greater discretion 
to adjust the minimum price in accordance recent trends is desirable to 
ensure that prices track market value as closely as possible.
  In my view, the bill would be improved if the Secretary's discretion 
were enlarged to authorize adjustments to the minimum price by an 
amount not to exceed 20 percent.
  But taken as a whole, H.R. 527 is a positive step in the right 
direction. And I want to express my appreciation again to Chairman 
Hastings and Ranking Member Markey for their good work.
  Mr. Chair, I urge my colleagues in joining me in voting for H.R. 527, 
``Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act.''
  Mr. PAULSEN. Mr. Chair, I rise in support of this important 
legislation which will ensure U.S. manufacturers of medical devices, 
computer chips, and balloons continue to have reliable access to 
helium. Helium is a critical element to the manufacturing and operation 
of these innovative and competitive industries and their products.
  The Federal Helium Reserve is scheduled to close this year. If that 
should happen, a global helium shortage would disrupt business in these 
industries and could cause the loss of thousands of American jobs.
  In my home state of Minnesota, a large balloon company continues to 
manufacture their products here in the United States. They depend on 
reliable access to helium not only to stay in business, but also to 
continue research and development, innovative engineering, 
manufacturing, and quality control for their balloon products.
  But a helium shortage would negatively impact more than just balloon 
manufacturing. It would also harm the high tech and medical device 
communities as well. Approximately 250,000 Americans are employed in 
the manufacturing of computer chips using helium. These chips are used 
in GPS, smart phones, and MRI machines. Helium is also used to cool the 
magnets in MRI machines.
  We must pass this legislation to prevent major shocks to these 
important industries. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act soon to 
ensure critical access to helium for the medical device, IT, and 
balloon industries and to protect these American jobs.
  The CHAIR. All time for general debate has expired.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee 
do now rise.
  The motion was agreed to.
  Accordingly, the Committee rose; and the Speaker pro tempore (Mr. 
Bridenstine) having assumed the chair, Mr. Yoder, Chair of the 
Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union, reported that 
that Committee, having had under consideration the bill (H.R. 527) to 
amend the Helium Act to complete the privatization of the Federal 
helium reserve in a competitive market fashion that ensures stability 
in the helium markets while protecting the interests of American 
taxpayers, and for other purposes, had come to no resolution thereon.