WASHINGTON -- Congress has moved to avert an impending shutdown of the federal helium reserve, a key supplier of the lighter-than-air gas used in a products ranging from party balloons to MRI machines. The move also extends the subsidy for Oregon timber counties.
The Federal Helium Program, which provides about 42 percent of the nation's helium from a storage site in Texas, was set to shut down Oct. 7 unless lawmakers intervened. Closing the reserve could cause a worldwide helium shortage.
The Senate unanimously approved a bill extending the helium reserve on Thursday, a day after the House approved the measure, also unanimously. The bill now goes to the president.
The measure includes a $329 million, one-year extension of a federal subsidy for timber-dependent counties, mostly in the West. Oregon would get $100 million.