NSPE President Urges Agencies to Strengthen Engineering Standards After Mine Disaster

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On November 9, NSPE President Tim Austin, P.E., F.NSPE, sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and the Department of the Interior’s Secretary Sally Jewell urging them to strengthen federal engineering standards by mandating the role of the licensed professional engineer in federal engineering projects. The letter was sent in response to the Department of the Interior’s technical assessment of the Gold King Mine blowout, which found that the EPA could have prevented the blowout that resulted in a three-million gallon toxic-spill. The Bureau of Reclamation, a division of the Department of the Interior, determined that the absence of a standardized set of rules and the lack of proper engineering expertise was a systemic issue for the agency.

In his letter to McCarthy and Jewell, Austin wrote, “We all share a common goal: to protect the public health, safety and welfare. As such, NSPE is concerned that the technical report’s recommendations unfortunately do not directly address the urgent issue, the need for an improved, standardized requirement.” Austin calls for collaboration between NSPE, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of the Interior “to establish standards and best practices so that, in moving forward, we can work to ensure that the proper engineering expertise, which can best be provided by licensed professional engineers, is applied to all federal projects.”