Heard in Washington


May 2013

Heard in Washington

Engineering news from around the nation's capital.

U.S.CapitolPEs on Capitol Hill
NSPE leaders brought the Society's key legislative priorities to Capitol Hill on March 21, visiting six Congressional offices and meeting with legislators and their staff to discuss several key legislative issues currently before Congress. NSPE Executive Director Mark Golden; NSPE Treasurer Leanne Panduren, P.E., F.NSPE; Karen Moran, P.E., F.NSPE; and NSPE Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur Schwartz visited the offices of House members Paul Tonko (D-NY), David Reichert (R-WA), Candice Miller (R-MI), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) to discuss support for STEM education, Good Samaritan laws affecting professional engineers, qualifications-based selection, and professional engineer involvement in nuclear safety.

NSPE representatives stressed the vital role that professional engineers play in protecting the public health, safety, and welfare. In particular, Golden highlighted to the legislators and their staff that "PE licensure laws are already in place to protect the public health and safety and that Congress and federal agencies need to incorporate into federal statutes and regulations provisions that recognize the unique talents and skills possessed by licensed and qualified professional engineers to ensure public safety." NSPE stressed that its members represent a wide array of engineering disciplines and that many NSPE members would be pleased to offer their engineering expertise to legislators and their staff as they deliberate these critical issues.

NSPE Backs Federal Engineers
In March, the Senate dropped a continuing resolution amendment that would have arbitrarily restricted the number of government employees who can attend a meeting or conference. NSPE opposed the amendment, arguing in part that it would have resulted in fewer opportunities for federal engineers to learn and exchange information with the private sector. 

Lesson in Infrastructure
Politicians in Washington are getting a close-up look at the consequences of aging infrastructure. On March 30, the Washington Post published an article about the deteriorating Capital Beltway. The 64-mile highway, completed in 1964, carries about a quarter-million cars per day and is nearing the end of its lifespan. Closing large sections of the road for reconstruction, however, would have unbearable consequences; closing smaller sections and working only at night would increase the costs. One estimate put a $3 billion price tag on rehabilitating only the 41.7 miles of the Beltway in Maryland. A deputy highway administrator in Maryland said that eventually in-depth reconstruction will be necessary instead of resurfacing.

Clean Water Collaboration
The National Science Foundation has announced a new effort to encourage collaborative research on clean water issues between researchers and students in the U.S. and the U.K. The effort was inspired by the Global Grand Challenges Summit in London in March. The summit was held by the National Academy of Engineering and its counterpart academies in the U.K. and China and was designed to bring together engineers and policymakers to share ideas on solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. In 2008, the NAE announced 14 grand challenges. Among them was the goal of providing people around the world with access to clean water.

Areas of particular research interest include water treatment and purification, water reuse, stormwater use, the water-energy nexus, urban water sustainability, and the resilience of water infrastructures, according to NSF's announcement.