Helium is now partially responsible for funding rural schools in Southeast Alaska.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama signed the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act. The act effectively reauthorizes for one year the Secure Rural Schools Act, which expired in 2006 but has been extended at slightly lower funding levels every year since.
The Secure Rural Schools program has been a way to stabilize funding for schools and roads in rural areas where logging activity has declined. The Helium Stewardship Act was created to deal with the impending shutdown of the United States’ Federal Helium Reserve; reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools was tacked onto the bill. The federal government expects the act to bring in about $495 million, of which about $270 million with go to America’s rural schools. Southeast Alaska is expected to receive about $16 million.
The act also includes provisions to pay $90 million toward reducing the federal debt, $50 million to clean up and close so-called legacy wells in Alaska, $60 million to the Abandoned Land Mine fund and $50 million for fiscal year 2018 to pay for deferred maintenance in National Park Service facilities.