BLM’s Implementation of the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013

The Department of the Interior’s (Interior) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has taken a number of actions to begin implementing the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013, including estimating volumes of helium that can be produced from the federal helium reserve each year, preparing for and conducting helium sales under the act’s Phase A transition period, and initiating planning for the act’s Phase B, which introduces a competitive auction process for crude helium along with continued sales. First, BLM estimated the amount of crude helium that can be produced from the reserve each year based on a geologic model. Second, under Phase A, BLM determined sale volumes, set the sale price and required participants to disclose certain information, among other things. Third, BLM has begun planning for the required Phase B auction and sale of helium for fiscal year 2015 and a one-time sale of a portion of the helium that will be made available in fiscal year 2016. BLM plans to hold this auction and these sales in July 2014 to comply with an August 1, 2014, statutory deadline. BLM officials told us the agency plans to offer for auction or sale most of the helium estimated to be produced in fiscal year 2015 and use the remainder to meet federal users’ needs and to deliver privately owned helium to refiners for processing. However, refiners disagree with the agency’s approach, stating the act requires BLM to offer for auction or sale the maximum amount that it can produce from the reserve each year. BLM officials said they are taking this approach to help ensure that the agency can deliver the privately owned helium that remains in storage before the end of fiscal year 2021.

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