BLM takes step to implement Helium Stewardship Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consistent with the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013, which directed the sale of the Federal Helium System, the Bureau of Land Management today published a final rule to remove obsolete regulations for the In-Kind Crude Helium Sales Contract Program and associated provisions.
Under the Federal In-Kind Program, Federal agencies using helium were required to purchase their refined helium from private suppliers. Those private suppliers, in turn, were required to purchase an equivalent amount of crude helium from the Federal Helium Reserve. The BLM ended in-kind crude helium sales on September 30, 2022, when Federal users began acquiring helium on the open market instead.
“BLM is proud of our many decades ensuring a reliable helium supply for the U.S. government and private industry, and we thank the dedicated staff who made this mission possible,” said BLM New Mexico State Director Melanie Barnes. “We will continue to produce and deliver helium while the General Services Administration moves forward with selling the Federal Helium System.”
U.S. interest in helium began during the Civil War, when lighter-than-air helium lifted military scouting devices high above battlefields. After World War II, Federal helium use shifted toward space exploration. The 1960 Helium Act Amendments changed the program’s mandate from exclusive government production to conservation, encouraging private natural gas producers to sell extracted crude helium to the Federal Government for storage.
Helium is used in MRI machines, specialized welding, low-temperature research, in missiles, rockets and observation balloons. Federal users, including the Department of Defense, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security tapped into reserves in times of shortage. The last few years of work shifting away from Federal helium management gave users time to seek new sources on the open market to meet their helium requirements.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.