Helium Stewardship Act Heading to President for Signature [UPDATE]
Update: 926 @ (4:15 p.m.)
WASHINGTON, DC –Today, 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.
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.
U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis voted for H.R. 527, the Helium Stewardship Act, and the U.S. House passed it 367-0. The Act, in addition to securing a stable supply of helium, restores $60 million of the money owed to Wyoming by the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Fund and reduces the royalty rate on Soda Ash from 6 percent to 4 percent for the next two years.
Lummis says the bill ensures a steady supply of helium, tapping the federal helium reserve built up during the Cold War, which will phase out by 2021 while opening helium supply to private markets. She says this averts the otherwise impending helium shortage and does so to the benefit of the American taxpayer, with tens of millions of dollars going towards reducing the federal budget deficit.
Helium - best known as the gas used to fill party balloons - is a critical product in the aerospace and defense industries and also used in the manufacture of smart phones and medical equipment, among other things