GovTrack’s Bill Summary
We don’t have a summary available yet.
We don’t have a summary available yet.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.
The summary below was written by the House Republican Conference, which is the caucus of Republicans in the House of Representatives.
This summary can be found at http://www.gop.gov/bill/113/1/hr527.
In 1925, Congress created the Federal Helium Reserve to ensure a supply of helium sufficient to meet national defense needs. From 1929 to 1960, the federal government was the only domestic producer of helium. Federal demand for helium increased during World War II and the following years, prompting Congress to amend the Helium Act to incentivize private natural gas producers to strip helium from natural gas and sell it to the federal government. The Secretary of the Interior was authorized to borrow money from the Treasury to purchase the helium and pump it into the Reserve. In the following decades, however, more than $1.3 billion in debt was accrued to purchase helium and construct the Reserve and the necessary pipeline, and the vast supply of helium began to outweigh the federal demand. Congress responded by passing the Helium Privatization Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-273), which aimed to transition the federal government from an active helium purchaser and producer to simply an operator of the Reserve and pipeline system. The measure ordered the sale of all but 600 million cubic feet of the remaining helium in the Reserve by 2015 to recover the accumulated debt.
The pricing formula set forth in the 1996 law was based on the minimum amount needed to repay the $1.3 billion owed to the Treasury, rather than on market prices. As such, users had no incentive to preserve helium, recover it, or search for new sources. BLM will be able to pay off the debt sooner than expected without selling off all of the helium. When the debt is paid off, which is predicted to occur in October 2013, the Reserve will close with helium still remaining in the Reserve and no way to access it. This will result in a 30 percent reduction in the global helium supply, affecting a number of high-tech manufacturing, medical, and national defense efforts. Without new domestic sources of helium available, U.S. industries will be forced to look overseas to other helium supplying countries such as Algeria, Qatar, and Russia.
Further, the 1996 legislation did not adequately conform to free market principles and inadvertently created a monopoly system where the largest beneficiaries of the federal helium were a small number of refiners who received annual allotments of helium at prices significantly below market value.
H.R. 527 would address the impending closure of the Reserve later this year by allowing it to continue supplying helium while also reforming our nation’s helium policy. In reforming the program, H.R. 527 applies free-market principles to the sale of helium from the Reserve, ensuring its continued operation while providing American taxpayers with a more transparent and fairer return on the public’s resources.
 Id. at 9.
 Id. at 10.
H.R. 527 amends the Helium Act to prevent the closure of the Federal Helium Reserve, which is scheduled to close by October 2013. The bill privatizes the Reserve by implementing a competitive market-based cost structure. Specifically, H.R. 527 directs the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) to offer for sale crude helium for federal, medical, scientific, and commercial uses by dividing the sales into three phases over the next decade until the Helium Reserve is depleted.
During the first phase, which is limited to a one year period following the bill’s enactment, the Reserve will continue operating under current law.
During the second phase, a new sale and pricing structure is implemented to maximize the return on sales, and continues until such time that 3 billion cubic feet of crude helium remains in the Reserve. The Secretary is directed to conduct at least two auctions per fiscal year during the second phase, and is required to set a minimum sale price for the auctions by taking a confidential survey of current market crude helium prices and a review of auction prices. H.R. 527 allows the Secretary to change the minimum sales price for crude helium under certain circumstances. The bill also limits the volume of crude helium that can be purchased by any one bidder.
The third phase begins at such time that 3 billion cubic feet of helium remains in the Reserve. After that time, the remaining crude helium will then be provided solely for federal users and researchers. The final phase continues until the recoverable helium in the Reserve is finally expended. H.R. 527 directs all the funds received under the measure to go to the Helium Production Fund. In addition, the bill identifies the authorized uses of the Fund, which include capital investments, administrative costs, and maintenance of the Reserve. H.R. 527 requires that excess funds be directed to the general fund of the Treasury.
H.R. 527 also directs the Secretary to publicize on the Internet information regarding the current refining capacity of the Reserve, and to receive any applications for new refining capacity on the Reserve pipeline. To facilitate the distribution of information along the supply chain, H.R. 527 also directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to establish a real-time reporting process to provide data that will affect the helium industry, including annual maintenance schedules, dates and durations of planned shutdowns, the anticipated impact on the helium supply, and any efforts being taken to minimize that impact.
H.R. 527 directs the Secretary to work with state geological surveys to conduct a national helium gas assessment and to complete an assessment of trends in global demand for helium. Additionally, H.R. 527 directs coordinated research on the extraction and refining of the isotope helium-3 from crude helium, which can be used for national defense and clean energy development.
According to the CBO, “enacting H.R. 527 would increase net offsetting receipts (a credit against direct spending) by $340 million over the 2014-2023 period; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. In addition, CBO estimates that completing the assessments and additional reports required under the bill would cost $11 million over the 2014-2023 period . . . .” Enacting H.R. 527 would not affect revenues. For more information, see CBO’s cost estimate on H.R. 527.
The House Democratic Caucus does not provide summaries of bills.
So, yes, we display the House Republican Conference’s summaries when available even if we do not have a Democratic summary available. That’s because we feel it is better to give you as much information as possible, even if we cannot provide every viewpoint.
We’ll be looking for a source of summaries from the other side in the meanwhile.
The bill contains the following citations to other parts of U.S. law:
The United States Code is the compilation of permanent laws enacted by Congress. Temporary and other non-permanent laws do not appear in the United States Code. (About half of the United States Code is the law itself, called positive law. The other half is merely a compilation of the laws but has no legal significance.)