May 2, 2016
On April 29, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement completed a process six years in the making: developing comprehensive safety regulations in response to the Deepwater Horizon blowout disaster in 2010. The initial explosion aboard an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in 11 deaths and the discharge of more than three million barrels of oil.
April 25, 2016
In an April 13 letter to NSPE President Tim Austin, P.E., F.NSPE, the Environmental Protection Agency requested that NSPE review and provide input to a best practices report and checklist the agency is developing in response to the Gold King Mine disaster. Last year, a blowout at the Colorado mine resulted in the release of more than three million gallons of toxic wastewater that polluted rivers in three states. NSPE has played a leading role in the aftermath to minimize similar incidents and to require a licensed professional engineer in responsible charge of all federal engineering projects. NSPE contacted EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to offer NSPE’s expertise. This latest development is an important step forward as the public and federal stakeholders gain greater understanding of the value and necessity of the PE to protect the public health, safety, and welfare. NSPE will continue to report updates as this situation develops.
April 14, 2016
On April 13, the National Society of Professional Engineers and Alaska Society of Professional Engineers submitted a joint letter regarding comments made by the Rural Utilities Service, an agency of the Department of Agriculture, as part of its final rule for Section 306D Water Systems for Rural and Native Villages in Alaska. NSPE and ASPE recognize that the rule in question is final. However, the substance of the rule challenges the value and integrity of the licensed professional engineer (PE) in such a way that a response was necessary to clarify the role that PEs can and do play in helping rural villages. NSPE and ASPE therefore submitted further comment.
April 11, 2016
On April 8, NSPE Executive Director Mark Golden presented NSPE’s position and provided input on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed rulemaking for autonomous vehicles at a national hearing convened in Washington, DC at the Department of Transportation. In late January, the Department of Transportation announced that NHTSA would develop and publish federal regulations for deployment of fully autonomous vehicles within six months.
NSPE has been a leading advocate on the need to place the public health, safety, and welfare first by requiring a licensed professional engineer to play a key role in the development, testing, and safety certification of autonomous vehicles. Recognizing the promise of autonomous vehicles, NSPE also recognizes the major engineering, technological, and ethical limitations that have yet to be addressed as part of the rulemaking process.
March 31, 2016
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.
March 21, 2016
On March 18, NSPE submitted a letter to Louisiana Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, and International Affairs Committee Chairman Danny Martiny to oppose Louisiana S.B. 59 and asked him to withdraw the legislation. The bill, if enacted, would waive the FE exam for certain out-of-state PEs, weakening Louisiana’s licensure requirements and undermining the process that has been in place for four decades. In the letter to Martiny, NSPE President Tim Austin, P.E., F.NSPE, explains that in order to earn a PE license one must graduate from an accredited four-year engineering program, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam, and earn four years of experience under the supervision of a licensed PE. “The FE exam is the first step in the licensure process. Therefore, passage of such legislation would seriously undermine a critical foundation of professional engineering practice,” Austin wrote.
March 4, 2016
On March 2, NSPE Vice President Tom Roberts, P.E., F.NSPE, testified before a Kansas House subcommittee on the importance of protecting and promoting the continued use of qualifications-based selection in Kansas. In response to an audit recommendation suggesting that the state move away from QBS, Roberts, a former president of the Kansas Society of Professional Engineers, testified on the tremendous value of using the QBS method.
February 18, 2016
On February 11, NSPE President Tim Austin, P.E., F.NSPE, sent a letter to Kansas state legislators in response to a report claiming that the Kansas Department of Transportation could save money by eliminating qualifications-based selection in the department’s procurement of architectural and engineering services. NSPE strongly opposes efforts to erode QBS. In his letter to state legislators, Austin clearly established that QBS protects the public health, safety, and welfare. He also noted that QBS protects taxpayers, benefits small firms, and promotes technical innovation. Read the full letter.
February 11, 2016
Embracing its Grand Challenge to foster ethical innovation, NSPE has been working on multiple fronts to promote and protect the public health, safety, and welfare in the development and deployment of autonomous vehicle technologies. The Society is taking action to give professional engineers a leading voice in ensuring that the same attention to safety and reliability that went into the built transportation infrastructure is incorporated into autonomous vehicles and smart transportation systems. NSPE has been collaborating with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which has been tasked with developing the nation’s first deployment regulations (including both functional operations and behavioral competencies for autonomous vehicles). NSPE has been at the forefront, participating in recent stakeholder meetings in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. The Society has provided formal written input to the California DMV urging a comprehensive and informed approach.
February 2, 2016
On February 1, NSPE President Tim Austin, P.E., F.NSPE, called on Michigan legislators to support Michigan House Bill 5238, the Local Government Professional Services Selection Act. If enacted, the legislation will set procedures for local governments to procure architectural, engineering, and land surveying services using a qualifications-based selection process. NSPE believes qualified professional engineers should be selected to perform all engineering services on the basis of design ability, experience, integrity, and other key professional factors—rather than price.