On March 14, the Environmental Protection Agency asked for comment on a proposed rule (Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act) that would require PEs as part of the audit team in third-party certifications. This action is in response to catastrophic chemical facility incidents in the US, including an explosion at a fertilizer facility in West, Texas, on April 17, 2013, that killed 15 people. The EPA's goal is to ensure the involvement of "competent auditors that also have an ethical obligation to perform unbiased work" in the interest of protecting the public health, safety, and welfare.
NSPE filed a comment later in March in support of these provisions. The Society believes that the EPA's proposal to require a PE as a third-party auditor or a member of the audit team is appropriate, given professional engineers' ethical obligation to protect the public health, safety, and welfare, as well as their demonstrated expertise and compliance with safety rules. In the EPA’s proposed rule, the agency specifically references the PE’s ethical obligation as part of the rationale, in addition to expertise and qualifications, for why it is recommending the PE requirement. At minimum, NSPE emphasizes, a PE should serve on the audit team, but preferably as the lead.
Given the potential wide-ranging positive impact for PEs in all states, NSPE is working with state societies on an unprecedented effort to demonstrate the strength and solidarity of PEs on this issue. As of March 30, state societies in West Virginia, Virginia, Connecticut, California, Florida, and Pennsylvania have also submitted comments to the EPA, reinforcing NSPE’s message. NSPE is working with at least half a dozen other states on submissions. Please read NSPE’s public comment to EPA and stay tuned for updates on this regulatory advocacy campaign!