House Passes Rep. Cook's Bill to Foster Robust Domestic Helium Production
WASHINGTON- Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) today announced that his bill H.R. 3279, the Helium Extraction Act of 2017, unanimously passed the House of Representatives. The bill amends the Mineral Leasing Act to allow helium extraction from gas on federal lands under the same terms as gas and oil.
Helium is an essential element used in MRIs, air-to-missile guidance systems, and semiconductors. As such, a steady supply of helium is critical for the medical, defense, and energy industries. The United States is currently the world’s largest supplier of helium. The next largest producers are Qatar, Algeria, and Russia.
Historically, much of the American demand for helium has been satisfied by the Federal Helium Reserve. However, there are major concerns about the future of our domestic helium production. According to the Bureau of Land Management, the reserve has enough helium to meet about 40 percent of the domestic demand for the gas. Additionally, the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013 requires that by September 30, 2021, the reserve must be sold and the facility closed. Given the vast political, economic, and diplomatic uncertainty surrounding many the largest foreign suppliers of helium, it would be dangerous for America to become dependent on them.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said, "With this bill, we seek responsible development of another critical natural resource that will provide increased American security, economic stability and domestic job creation. I thank Rep. Cook for his leadership on this important measure and look forward to working with the Senate to get it to the president’s desk.”
Rep. Cook said, “Helium has become irreplaceable in our space, defense, and medical industries. Without this bill, we could become dangerously dependent on unstable foreign countries for our supply of helium. This bill encourages the development of American sources of helium and will boost both our national security and economy. I’m grateful to the House for passing this bill and look forward to it becoming law.”
A member of the House Natural Resources, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.