FIGURE 5.1 Crude helium recovered and removed from storage in the Bush Dome Reservoir, 1960-2008. A positive difference between the amount of helium recovered and sold in a given year constitutes an increase (by the amount of the difference) in the amount of helium stored in the Bush Dome Reservoir; a net negative difference constitutes a decrease (by the amount of the difference) in the amount of stored helium. SOURCE: U.S. Department of the Interiors BLM.

FIGURE 5.1 Crude helium recovered and removed from storage in the Bush Dome Reservoir, 1960-2008. A positive difference between the amount of helium recovered and sold in a given year constitutes an increase (by the amount of the difference) in the amount of helium stored in the Bush Dome Reservoir; a net negative difference constitutes a decrease (by the amount of the difference) in the amount of stored helium. SOURCE: U.S. Department of the Interior’s BLM.

Figure 5.1), plus a large and growing debt to the Treasury. That amount far exceeded the approximately 650 MMcf of crude helium being used each year.3 Given those circumstances, the federal government cancelled the long-term contracts with private suppliers, resulting in litigation that lasted for several years. As shown in Figure 5.1, from that time until the mid-1990s the amounts of helium placed into storage at the Bush Dome Reservoir roughly equaled the amounts withdrawn.

The 1996 Privatization Act

In 1996, Congress sought to resolve outstanding issues regarding the federal government’s role with respect to helium through the Helium Privatization Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-273). The 1996 Act, as it is known, has four principal components:

  • It directs the Secretary of the Interior (“Secretary”)4 to close all government-owned facilities for refining helium and to terminate the marketing of refined helium.

3

Bureau of Mines, 1973.

4

Shortly before enactment of the 1996 Act, Congress closed BOM. In that legislation, BOM’s responsibilities with respect to the federal helium program were transferred to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which also operates under the Department of the Interior. Available at http://www.doi.gov/pfm/par/acct1995/ar1995bom.pdf.



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