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Major Industry Associations and Organizations Call on the White House to Halt Sale of Federal Helium Reserve System

[McLean, VA] – In a united and urgent appeal to protect American industries, AdvaMed, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the Compressed Gas Association (CGA), the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA), and the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) have jointly sent a letter to Dr. Lael Brainard, Director of the National Economic Council, calling for the suspension of the impending sale of the Federal Helium Reserve System (FHR). The undersigned organizations, which collectively represent a broad spectrum of industries, assert that the sale, as currently proposed, threatens the integrity of the U.S. helium supply chain, posing significant risks to American businesses and national security.

Helium, a finite and indispensable natural resource, plays a pivotal role in various sectors, including healthcare, semiconductor manufacturing, defense, and aerospace. The FHR is a cornerstone of the U.S. helium supply, providing between 21-30 percent of the nation’s helium. In light of recent restrictions by Russia and China, on U.S. access to the global helium supply, it has become increasingly vital to ensure the reliable and secure access to domestic helium sources.

The undersigned organizations, while supportive of the FHR’s transfer to private ownership, emphasize the critical importance of a responsible and seamless transition. They have identified several key issues that must be addressed before the FHR sale proceeds:

  1. The Cliffside Helium Enrichment Unit (CHEU), integral to helium extraction and enrichment, is privately owned and not part of the GSA disposal process. The new owner must negotiate a contract to operate the CHEU or build a new unit.
  2. The FHR pipeline extends through three states, each with its own regulatory requirements. A private sector purchaser would need to comply with state laws and regulations, including those governing natural gas wells.
  3. Historical examples of operational delays following the transfer of facility management to private contractors highlight the need for meticulous planning in the FHR sale.
  4. The “as is where is” qualification in the Invitation for Bid allows the GSA to overlook concerning issues within the FHR, which may require production interruptions for remediation. This includes issues with the gathering system’s corroded pipes, a flooded well, and land easements with legal challenges.

The undersigned organizations contend that a poorly executed sale could adversely impact American competitiveness, including hindering semiconductor production essential for national and economic security. They stress that a supply chain disruption in helium access could jeopardize the goals set forth in the CHIPS and Science Act, a piece of legislation prioritized by the Administration.

For more information on this critical issue, please contact Paul Pflieger at the Compressed Gas Association at ppflieger@cganet.com.

The letter can be viewed here.