U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., wants to extend the life of the nation’s helium reserve, keeping Montanans’ access to the life-saving element from disappearing into thin air.
Tester is backing a bipartisan bill that would allow the Federal Helium Reserve to continue selling helium to meet the needs of businesses and the scientific community. Currently, the reserve is required to sell off all of its crude helium by Oct. 1, which would force businesses and manufacturers to depend on less reliable foreign suppliers.
The Federal Helium Reserve supplies nearly half of the nation’s helium and one-third of worldwide demand. Helium is a critical component in MRI machines, semi-conducting chips and aerospace equipment.
“Businesses need helium to operate everything from high-speed internet to life-saving medical equipment,” Tester said. “This common-sense bill will make sure Montana businesses can reliably access helium so they can keep us healthy, grow their companies and create jobs.”
Tester’s bill, which also ensures that U.S. taxpayers receive a fair price for the reserve’s helium, will use revenue from selling helium to support rural school districts in states like Montana.
Weil Helium LLC is developing and extracting helium in Rudyard, near Havre. Helium is extracted when natural gas is refined.
Tester’s bill will ensure a stable, long-term market for Weil’s helium.