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Sep 26, 2013 5:03 PM by Juice Godfrey

Congress approves bill to avert helium shortage

WASHINGTON (AP) - 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 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.

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