The leaders of the House Natural Resources Committee announced the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act late last week, according to William Bonner at the American Geosciences Institute. He tells us it would prevent the shut down of the Federal Helium Reserve in Texas which, as of now under current law, would be closed later this year. The reserve was opened in 1926 for the country's defense needs but incurred a $1.3 billion debt. In 1996, Congress opened it to privatization until the debt could be repaid, which is expected to be done by October.
Section 5 of the bill calls for a national helium gas assessment "that identifies and quantifies the quantity of helium, including the isotope helium-3." The Secretary of the Interior is instructed to do this "in coordination with appropriate heads of State geological surveys." [What a good idea!]
There is optimism that this bill might be approved because it's cosponsored by Committee Chairman Hastings and Ranking Member Markey and it's very similar (and contains almost identical language in some sections) to Senator Bingaman and Senator Barasso's bipartisan bill last Congress. However the bill last session was stalled because of 'holds' placed on it by anonymous members.
Our assessment is that this will be good for development of the St. Johns helium-CO2 field in eastern Arizona. Some of the richest helium-bearing gas in the world was produced from fields completed specifically for helium in northeastern Arizona in the 1960s and 1970s, and is summarized in AZGS Open file Report 03-05, "Review of helium production and potential in Arizona"[right]