Broad SIA-Led Coalition Urges Congress to Enact Legislation to Secure Supply of Helium

Tuesday, Sep 10, 2013, 12:00pm

by David Isaacs, Vice President, Government Affairs

A Semiconductor Industry Association-led coalition of more than 120 technology, business, medical and education leaders today called on Congress to enact legislation to secure the supply of helium, a gas that is essential for semiconductor manufacturing and other types of advanced manufacturing, as well as scientific research. The broad and diverse coalition expressed the urgent need for congressional action in a letter delivered today to House and Senate leadership:

“We urge Congress to act immediately and pass legislation to prevent a needless disruption to the U.S. economy that would put millions of jobs at risk.”

The Federal Helium Reserve – established in the 1920s and operated by the federal government ever since – contains about one-third of the world’s helium supply and roughly 40 percent of the U.S. supply. Under current law, on Oct. 7 the Reserve will no longer be allowed to sell helium to companies and scientists that depend on it.

There is a legislative effort under way in Congress to avoid this needless disruption to the nation’s supply of helium, but the clock is ticking. In April, the House of Representatives passed the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act (HR 527) nearly unanimously. And in June, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the Helium Stewardship Act (S 783) with strong bipartisan support. The bill now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

Both the House and Senate bills would ensure that semiconductor manufacturers have a reliable supply of helium by allowing the reserve to continue selling helium to private entities. Doing so would bolster advanced manufacturing, maintain critical scientific research, and inject hundreds of millions of dollars in sales revenue to the federal government.

The Senate should act swiftly to approve S. 783, and House and Senate leaders should reconcile their versions of the bill and get bipartisan legislation to the President for his signature in short order.