Helium Bill with AML funding headed to President’s desk
Delegation secures additional AML funding for Wyoming and a competitive royalty rate for America’s soda ash producers.
by Wyoming Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso media release
September 29, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC –Today (Thursday, Sept. 26), U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both R-Wyo., praised the Senate and House for coming together to pass an amended version of the bipartisan Helium Stewardship Act of 2013. The bill provides a responsible management strategy for the Federal Helium Reserve and encourages the private production of alternative supplies of helium in states like Wyoming which has over 50 percent of the nation’s helium reserves.
The bill also raises additional federal revenue that will go toward reducing our national debt, partially restoring Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) funding to Wyoming, and establishing a competitive royalty rate for America’s soda ash producers, among other things. Wyoming is now set to receive an additional $13 million in AML funding in Fiscal Year 2014 and $60 million in AML funding in Fiscal Year 2015.
Senators Barrasso and Enzi released a joint statement praising the bill’s final passage:
"Congress has just sent the President a bipartisan bill that will ensure America has a stable supply of helium. He should sign it into law quickly to prevent a helium crisis and support important technology like MRI scanners and semiconductors," said the Senators. "Thanks to the revenue raised by this bill, Wyoming will soon start receiving part of its AML funding that was stolen last year. Although it’s not the full amount—it’s a significant step in the right direction. The delegation will continue to take every opportunity to make sure Washington fully restores Wyoming’s AML funds."
On April 26, 2013, the House of Representatives passed a version of H.R. 527 that did not include the Wyoming provisions related to AML and soda ash. On September 19th, the Senate passed its own version of H.R. 527 which included AML funding for Wyoming and a royalty reduction for soda ash producers. The House amended the Senate passed bill to comply with House budget rules on September 25th. The Senate passed the amended bill unanimously on September 26th. It is now on its way to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Background on the Helium Stewardship Act:
The bill will extend the Secretary of the Interior’s authority to sell crude helium from the Federal Helium Reserve. The bill establishes a number of reforms to ensure the Secretary sells crude helium at market prices. For years, the Secretary has been selling crude helium at less than the market value, costing U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars and discouraging the production of alternative supplies of helium, such as those in Wyoming.
Revenue is used to reduce the federal debt by $90 million. It also funds critical priorities within the Energy Committee’s jurisdiction, including, among other things:
• Provides an additional $13 million in AML funding for Wyoming in Fiscal Year 2014 and $60 million in AML funding for Wyoming in Fiscal Year 2015.
• Establishes a competitive royalty rate for America’s soda ash producers of 4 percent over the next two years.
• Provides a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools program.