[Federal Register Volume 65, Number 244 (Tuesday, December 19, 2000)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 79325-79327]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 00-32291]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Bureau of Land Management

43 CFR Parts 3195, 3196

[NM091-9971-EK-HE16]
RIN 1004-AD35


Federal Helium Program Regulations and Public Meetings

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior.

[[Page 79326]]


ACTION: Advance Notice of Proposed Rule Making and Public Meetings.

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SUMMARY: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) requests comments and 
suggestions to assist in the writing of its regulations governing the 
Federal Helium Program. The rule would establish regulations for crude 
helium sales, helium pipeline and storage operations, helium reporting, 
and gas analyses to determine helium content. The rule would also 
revise and extend existing regulations for helium on Federal lands and 
for in-kind crude helium sales. The rule would help to manage the 
Federal Helium Program and to fulfill the requirements of the Helium 
Privatization Act of 1996. We encourage members of the public to 
participate in public meetings and to provide comments and suggestions 
to help to clearly define the requirements for the Federal Helium 
Program. Your help is specifically requested to identify and to offer 
comments and suggestions about conflicts between helium processes and 
procedures and those of other fluid minerals. We also ask you to 
request to be placed on BLM's mailing list if you wish to receive 
additional information.

DATES: We will accept comments and suggestions on the advance notice of 
proposed rule making until 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time on March 26, 2001. 
See the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for the dates of the public 
meetings.

ADDRESSES: Commenters may mail written comments to the Bureau of Land 
Management, Administrative Record, Room 401LS, 1849 C Street, NW, 
Washington, DC 20240; or hand-deliver written comments to the Bureau of 
Land Management, Administrative Record, Room 401, 1620 L Street, NW, 
Washington, DC 20036. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for the electronic 
access and filing address. Comments will be available for public review 
at the L Street address from 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Eastern Time, 
Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. Comments will also be 
available for public review at 801 South Fillmore, Suite 500, Amarillo, 
Texas, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Central Time, Monday through Friday, 
except Federal holidays.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: You may contact Jeanne McCubbin, at 
(806) 324-2655, Connie Neely, (806) 324-2635, or Shirlean Beshir, (202) 
452-5033. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf 
(TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-
877-8330, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to contact the above 
individuals.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
I. Public Comment Procedures
II. Background
III. Description of Information Requested

I. Public Comment Procedures

    Your written comments should:
     Be specific;
     Explain the reason for your comments and suggestions;
     Be about the issues outlined in this notice; and
     Where possible, reference the specific section or 
paragraph of existing regulations which you are addressing.
    The comments and recommendations, which are most useful and likely 
to influence decisions on the content of the proposed rule, are:
     Comments and recommendations supported by quantitative 
information or studies, and
     Comments which include citations to and analyses of the 
applicable laws and regulations.
    We are particularly interested in receiving comments and 
suggestions about the topics listed under section III. Description of 
Information Requested.

Electronic Access and Filing Address

    Commenters may transmit comments electronically via the Internet to 
WOComment@blm.gov. Please submit comments as an ASCII file and avoid 
the use of special characters or encryption. Please include ``ATTN: 
AD35'' and your name and address in your message. If you do not receive 
a confirmation from the system that we have received your Internet 
message, contact us directly at (202) 452-5030.

Public Meetings

    The following topics will be covered at each public meeting: (1) 
Helium on Federal lands; (2) pipeline and storage facility operation 
and maintenance; (3) crude helium sales; (4) reporting and data 
collection; and (5) gas analyses to determine helium content.
    We will conduct public meetings on the following dates at the 
specified locations and times:
     Amarillo Field Office, BLM, 801 S. Fillmore, Room 447, 
Amarillo, Texas, on January 8, 2001, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
     Houston, Texas, Crowne Plaza (near Gallaria), 2222 W. Loop 
South, on January 10, 2001, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
     Portland, Oregon, Doubletree Lloyd Center, 1000 NE., 
Multnomah, on January 17, 2001, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
     Aurora, CO (Denver area south of airport), Marriott, 16455 
E. 40th Circle, on January 23, 2001, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.`
     Washington, DC, Capital Hilton, 16th & K Street, NW, on 
January 25, 2001, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
    The sites for the public meetings are accessible to individuals 
with physical impairments. If you need a special accommodation to 
participate in one or all of the meetings (e.g., interpreting service, 
assistive listening device, or materials in alternative format), please 
notify the contact person listed in this notice no later than two weeks 
prior to the scheduled meeting. Although we will attempt to meet a 
request received, the requested accommodation may not be available.
    The meetings will be recorded by a stenographer and will become 
part of the formal Federal helium regulation record. If you plan to 
present a statement at the meetings, we will ask you to sign in before 
the meeting starts and to clearly identify yourself for the record. 
Your speaking time at the meeting(s) will be determined before the 
meeting(s), based upon the number of persons wishing to speak and the 
approximate time available for the session. You will be provided at 
least five minutes to speak.
    If you do not wish to speak at the meetings but you have views, 
questions, and concerns about regulations for the Federal Helium 
Program, you may submit written statements for inclusion in the public 
record at the meeting. You may also submit written comments and 
suggestions regardless of whether you attend or speak at a public 
meeting. See the ADDRESSES section of this notice for the procedures.

II. Background

    The Federal Helium Program has undergone many changes since its 
inception in 1925. Its original purpose was to ensure supplies of 
helium to the Federal Government for defense, research, and medical 
purposes. With time, the program evolved into a conservation program 
with a primary goal of supplying the Federal Government with high-grade 
helium for high-tech research and aerospace purposes. The most recent 
adaptation of the program was through the Helium Privatization Act of 
1996, which redefined the primary functions as:
     Operating and maintaining a helium storage reservoir and 
pipeline system;
     Providing crude helium gas by contract with private 
companies;
     Evaluating the Nation's helium-bearing gas fields; and
     Providing responsible access to Federal land for managed 
recovery and disposal of helium.

[[Page 79327]]

III. Description of Information Requested

    We are committed to carrying out the provisions of the Helium 
Privatization Act of 1996 (50 U.S.C. 167). Topics we are considering 
for the proposed regulations include, but are not limited to the 
following:
    Helium on Federal Lands: We will enter negotiated agreements with 
private parties for the recovery and disposal of helium produced from 
Federal leaseholds. The agreements will primarily be with:
    (1) Existing gas processing plants which extract and sell Federal 
helium;
    (2) Parties building plants with helium extraction capability.
    We want commenters to clarify topics on the processes and 
procedures which would enable economic helium production, extraction, 
and sales.
    We will also strive to establish regulations to facilitate 
coexistence of the Federal Helium Program with that of the Federal Oil 
and Gas Program. We seek comments about the following:
     Method of determining Federal ownership percentage of 
helium produced from secondary unit areas containing Federal helium. 
Can the process used for Federal leaseholds (based upon acreage and 
mineral ownership) be used for secondary units?
     Allowable production losses. Is it reasonable to allow an 
8 percent loss of helium from the wellhead to the point of sale before 
seeking compensation?
     Helium drainage protection. Can we use a method similar to 
the one used to protect oil and gas to protect helium?
     Bonding for payment default and reclamation. Should we 
require a separate bond to cover helium production? Should we allow 
operators to transfer oil and gas bonds to provide bond coverage for 
helium?
     Plugged oil and gas wells. Is there a way to encourage and 
enable economic helium production and extraction when oil and gas wells 
are plugged or targeted for plugging?
     Incentives. What incentives should we establish to 
encourage helium production from gas streams in close proximity to 
extraction plants or in areas with low British Thermal Unit (BTU) gas 
content?
    Crude Helium Sales: We would like to receive comments and 
suggestions about the existing regulations for in-kind crude helium 
sales (43 CFR 3195). In addition, we request your questions, concerns, 
comments, and recommendations of ways to meet the requirements for 
disposition of the Federal crude helium in storage (stockpile) (50 
U.S.C. 167).
    Reporting and Data Collection: We would like to receive comments 
and suggestions about the helium data collection and reporting 
processes. Specifically, we seek comments and suggestions about the 
following:
     Is there a way for the oil and gas industry to include 
helium in their standard gas analysis process to enable better data 
collection of helium content of gas fields?
     What are the best ways for BLM to determine and confirm 
the location and amounts of helium resources outside the United States?
    Gas Analyses to Determine Helium Content: We seek comments about 
the following:
     Would it be feasible for BLM to send a helium sample to 
your company lab or company contract lab for analysis and report the 
helium results? The lab analysis data would be compared to BLM's 
analysis.
     Could members of the oil and gas industry send replicate 
gas stream samples to the BLM laboratory, if requested?
    Additional information about the Federal Helium Program is 
available on the Internet at Helium--Regulations@nm.blm.gov.

    Dated: December 12, 2000.
Sylvia V. Baca,
Assistant Secretary, Land and Minerals Management.
[FR Doc. 00-32291 Filed 12-14-00; 3:47 pm]
BILLING CODE 4310-84-P