Interior Secretary Indicates Support for Strengthening Engineering Standards

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

In a House Committee on Natural Resources hearing on the Department of the Interior’s role in the Animas River spill, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell indicated support for strengthening engineering standards in her agency. The spill was caused by a blowout at the Gold King Mine in Colorado. At the December 9 hearing, Rep. Bruce Westerman, P.E. (R-AR), a member of the committee and NSPE, said “professional engineers nationwide have called for improved standardized best practices that must be adhered to for all federal engineering projects.” Westerman was referring to NSPE President Tim Austin’s November 9 letter to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior calling for collaboration between NSPE and the two agencies to establish standards and best practices to ensure that the proper engineering expertise, which can best be provided by licensed professional engineers, is applied to all federal projects. When Westerman asked Jewell why the Department of the Interior did not support this recommendation, Jewell responded: “I think we would support that recommendation…. I think the report clearly indicated that we could have stronger standards across the federal family on the cleanup of abandoned mines.” NSPE is working with Westerman, House Natural Resources Committee staff, and the Department of the Interior to proceed with this initiative.