Wyoming Senators Barrasso and Enzi secured provisions partially restoring AML funding and establishing a competitive royalty rate for America’s soda ash producers in the U.S. Senate Thursday.
(News release from Wyoming’s Congressional Delegation)
(Washington, D.C.) –Today, U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both (R-Wyo.), praised the Senate for passing the bipartisan “Helium Stewardship Act of 2013” by a vote of 97 to 2. The bill will help provide a critical supply of helium by establishing a responsible management strategy for the Federal Helium Reserve and encouraging the private production of alternative supplies of helium.
The bill also raises additional federal revenue that will go toward reducing our national debt, partially restoring funding for the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program, and establishing a competitive royalty rate for America’s soda ash producers, among other things.
“Wyoming industry stands to benefit from this bill that addresses our nation’s critical helium needs. I’m also happy to see the Senate restore money Wyoming is owed through the AML trust fund. Plus, the bill would provide some relief for the Wyoming soda ash industry. It’s a very positive step for our state,” said Enzi. “State AML money was taken unjustly and this partial restoration is a small victory in a long battle that the Wyoming delegation intends to win.”
“The Senate took important action today to ensure we have a stable supply of helium for American manufacturers that develop important technologies, like MRI scanners and semiconductors,” said Barrasso. “By requiring that the federal government sell helium at market prices, it will encourage the exploration and production of alternative supplies of helium such as those in Wyoming. This bill also includes major victories that are important to people in Wyoming. It partially restores Wyoming’s AML funding, establishes a competitive royalty rate for our soda ash producers and reduces America’s debt.”
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. Today, the Senate passed its own version of H.R. 527. It is unclear whether the House will send the Senate-passed bill to the President, or whether the House and Senate will go to a conference committee on the bill.
Background on the Senate’s Helium Stewardship Act:
The Senate’s 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.
This legislation raises revenue for the federal government. This revenue is used to reduce the federal debt by at least $51 million. It also funds critical priorities within the Energy Committee’s jurisdiction, including, among other things:
- · Restores $60 million in AML funding for Wyoming in Fiscal Year 2014.
- · 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.