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Senate passes bill to avert helium shortage

First Published Sep 19 2013 02:37PM      Last Updated Sep 19 2013 02:38 pm

WASHINGTON • The Senate has approved a bill to avert an impending shutdown of the federal helium reserve, a key supplier of the lighter-than-air gas used in a wide range of products, from party balloons to MRI machines.

The Federal Helium Program, which provides about 42 percent of the nation’s helium from a storage site in Texas, is to shut down Oct. 7 as a result of a 1996 law requiring the reserve to pay off a debt by selling its helium.

The debt is paid, but billions of cubic feet of helium remain. Closing the reserve would cause a worldwide helium shortage — an outcome lawmakers from both parties hope to avoid.



The bill the Senate passed Thursday differs slightly from a House-approved bill. President Barack Obama favors the Senate version.

 

 

 

 

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