At a time when Congress is largely gridlocked, APS was one of the leading members of a group of scientific societies, universities, and high-tech companies that successfully got a bill signed into law. The Helium Stewardship Act of 2013 was signed by President Obama on October 2. This law now enables the Federal Helium Reserve—a federal facility that provides approximately 50 percent of the domestic supply of helium—to continue to sell helium to private entities that help drive our economy.
In addition to being used for scientific research at national laboratories, helium is necessary for the fabrication of semiconductors, optical fibers, and in the operation of MRI machines. In an effort that spanned more than a year and included community letters, hearings, meetings with congressional offices, a Department of Interior Inspector General Report, and member alerts, this ad-hoc coalition was able to get a message through to Congress. In anticipation of the President’s signature, APS President Michael Turner made this statement, “I am both elated and relieved that Congress has gotten this done. Helium illustrates one of the many connections between research, the economy, and advanced healthcare in this country. I am proud that the APS played a leading role in getting this done and thank our Public Affairs Office and APS members for their tireless efforts.” AIP, along with Member Societies AAS, OSA, and AVS, also signed on to a letter of support. Detailed information can be found in FYI #144.