WASHINGTON, D.C.—April 26, 2013—The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), representing U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing and design, today commended members of the U.S. House of Representatives for approving bipartisan legislation to secure the supply of helium, a critical gas used in the semiconductor manufacturing process and for other types of advanced manufacturing and scientific research. H.R. 527, the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act, passed the House today with near-unanimous bipartisan support.
“House passage of H.R. 527 marks an important step toward addressing the global helium shortage, which threatens to undermine advanced manufacturing of semiconductors and other products that are critical to sustaining the strength of the U.S. economy,” said Brian Toohey, president and CEO, Semiconductor Industry Association. “SIA commends House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Ranking Member Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) for introducing this critical legislation, and we applaud the House for approving it with overwhelming bipartisan support.”
Companion legislation to secure the supply of helium now awaits action in the Senate. Earlier this month, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced S.783, the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013, legislation that would help ensure a steady stream of helium supplies.
Helium is essential for a range of advanced manufacturing sectors, including semiconductors, fiber optics, medical imaging, chemicals and aerospace. It also has important applications related to scientific research, national security and space exploration, among many others.
Due to its strategic importance to the military, in the 1920s the U.S. established the Federal Helium Reserve, which now holds about 30 percent of global helium supplies. Unfortunately, the Reserve is scheduled to stop supplying private entities later this year, which is contributing to a shortage of reliable helium supplies in the U.S. and has resulted in dramatic price increases over the past several years. The helium supply shortage also has caused significant uncertainty in important industrial sectors and the research community, where currently there are no substitutes for helium.
“Congress faces many complicated and controversial challenges every day, but this is not one of them,” Toohey said. “Senate leaders should follow the House’s lead and act swiftly to approve legislation to secure the supply of helium. And both the House and Senate should immediately convene a conference to reconcile their two bills and get bipartisan legislation to the President for his signature.”