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Selling the Nation’s Helium Reserve
The committee concludes that without such careful and purposeful management of the Federal Helium Reserve, the Reserve is not being exploited as well as it could be for the public good. It is clear to the committee that selling substantially all of the federally owned crude helium in the Reserve in the manner prescribed by the 1996 Act has had and will continue to have an adverse effect on U.S. users of helium.19 A new approach is required, and the committee believes that the actions recommended here are the first steps in that direction. The committee also concludes that regular and careful reviews of the program by an independent body would be valuable. Moreover, the affected interests are sufficiently broad that agencies other than BLM (including research funding agencies, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and congressional committees) must be involved in periodic reviews and in the establishment of a long-term strategy for U.S. helium reserves in the Bush Dome Reservoir and elsewhere. The stewardship of this valuable national asset could be much improved.
In making this determination, it is not the committee’s intent to state that the decision made in 1996 to substantially sell off the Helium Reserve was wrong. Rather, the focus of this report is on the present and near future. The committee believes that because conditions have changed, the 1996 Act no longer meets the nation’s needs.