Idaho Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo today joined an overwhelming majority of their Senate colleagues in supporting the Helium Stewardship Act, authored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Risch, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, along with Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Murkowski, had approved the legislation at the committee level.
The bill, which passed the full Senate on a 97-2 vote and now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives, authorizes continued sales from the Federal Helium Reserve which was scheduled to close in October 2013.
"Helium is critical to the Idaho economy as well as the national economy," said Risch. "It is an essential component to the work being done by high-tech manufacturers and the medical industry. By passing this bill, the Senate has come together to avoid a worldwide helium market disruption. Additionally, I am pleased to note that a portion of the revenue generated from this bill will pay for one year of Secure Rural Schools, with another portion of revenue from the bill being used to pay down our nation's deficit."
"Passage of the Helium Stewardship Act is a victory for the entire state of Idaho," Crapo said. "Idaho's rural communities, with limited revenue due to the large amounts of neighboring federal land, will be able to continue providing for schools, road maintenance, law enforcement, emergency response and other various needs. This fix does not change the need for a long-term solution that provides a consistent mechanism for the federal government to meet its obligation to rural communities accommodating federal lands and I will continue to work with Senator Risch and all of my colleagues to achieve this objective."
The Secure Rural Schools program was reauthorized for around $270 million for Fiscal Year 2014 as part of the amended H.R. 527, the Helium Stewardship Act. Risch, a senior member of the U.S. Senate Energy Committee, and Crapo are co-sponsors of the amendment. Under provisions in the legislation, sales from the proceeds of the nation's helium reserves could go to select programs plus pay down the federal debt.