Congress keeps Federal Helium Reserve open

On October 1, President Barack Obama signed the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act, H.R. 527, which authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to continue to sell crude helium from the Federal Helium Reserve . The act averted the shutdown of the Federal Helium Reserve, which would have dramatically reduced and destabilized the global helium supply.

Helium is critical to research at the UO; more than a dozen UO research labs use it. The Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry, UO chemistry teaching programs, and the UO Graduate Internship Program all rely on helium. It is also critical to the operation of the university’s CAMCOR Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Facility, and it cools the UO’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology. The UO supported the extension of the Federal Helium Reserve by signing on to a letter to Congress, working in coalition with AAU and APLU member universities to advocate for the extension, directly communicating with the Oregon congressional delegation, and involving faculty whose research relies on helium in support of the extension.

US Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, played a key role in passing helium legislation. He was also able to include a measure in the act to renew payments to counties through the Secure Rural Schools program. This program supports county services and other programs in Oregon, particularly those in counties experiencing the fiscal impact of sustained reductions in federal timber payments. Oregon counties will receive approximately $100 million in federal assistance under the legislation.