The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) has released a new advertisement highlighting the effects of Acts on the Federal Helium Program.
H.R. 527, introduced by Representative Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and later passed by the US House of Representatives on April 26, will authorise the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to retain proceeds from the sale of helium to pay for the cost of operating the Reserve. These bills, instead of providing a solution to the current global helium shortage, will impose new bureaucratic requirements and regulations to benefit special political interests and projects, specifically undermining the long-standing support of the CCAGW and its members to privatise the Reserve.
In recent letters to both the US House of Representatives and Senate, CCAGW informed members of Congress of the harmful outcomes of H.R. 527, which will include immediate auctions that violate existing contracts between private companies and the BLM. CCAGW also urged members of the Senate to support elements of S.783 which would attempt to mitigate a helium shortage by enabling the Secretary of the Interior to continue to sell crude helium from the Reserve and not begin an auction process until fiscal year 2015.
Although H.R. 527 presumes maximisation of financial return for US taxpayers through the implementation of a 100% auction, the provisions of the bill will be more expensive to implement than simply leaving the current law unchanged. According to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 527 will cost $11m over the 2014-2015 period, generating less government revenue than the current Program. If left alone, the FHP will instead bring in $150m in revenue for American taxpayers in 2014.
In a June 2013 op-ed featured in Roll Call, CCAGW President Tom Schatz explained the significance of the 1996 Helium Act on Congress’s current decision to deviate from its original plan to end the government’s odyssey of buying, storing, and selling helium. Schatz explained that not only does HR 527 fail to shore up the nation’s supply of helium that is a necessary commodity for items such as MRI machines, semiconductors, and airbags, but it also exposes taxpayers to significant liability for the cancellation of contracts and capture of private property.
“While we at CCAGW appreciate any positive effort to stabilise the helium program, we are disappointed with the added provisions of S. 783 post-markup, as both bills will reduce helium companies’ ability to execute long-term supply agreements,” said Schatz. “With both chambers trying to fix a program that isn’t broken, the same volume of unrefined helium will simply be redistributed to a wider group of purchasers, and 90% of the projected millions in revenue with be purloined for a variety of political pet projects.”
The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) is the lobbying arm of Citizens Against Government Waste, the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organisation dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.