State Societies Back NSPE Opposition to Federal Rule to Weaken PE Role

July/August 2015

PE Report
State Societies Back NSPE Opposition to Federal Rule to Weaken PE Role

Three state societies have joined NSPE in opposition to a proposed rule that would weaken certain requirements for a professional engineer to oversee parts of the licensing process of deepwater ports.

The Connecticut Society of Professional Engineers, the Florida Engineering Society, and the Virginia Society of Professional Engineers recently submitted public comments to express their disapproval of the proposal.

The proposed regulation, issued on April 9 by the Coast Guard of the Department of Homeland Security, includes two provisions that gravely concern the Society because of their tremendous impact on the public health, safety, and welfare: a change to allow unlicensed engineers from within the US, as well as foreign engineers, to perform engineering services that only a licensed PE can perform and a change to allow these unlicensed engineers to submit design and construction plans on behalf of the licensee.

In its response to the Coast Guard, NSPE submitted a public comment on April 21 urging that the final rule reflect the important role of the professional engineer “by maintaining the requirements for a professional engineer and not ‘providing an alternative…[through] the use of foreign engineers who may not be registered professional engineers.’”

In its comment, the Connecticut Society emphasized that the public is best served by having qualified licensed professional engineers in responsible charge of the engineering services. Licensure as a professional engineer is the highest credential an engineer can attain, CSPE wrote. The equivalent education, examination, and experience requirements, if met, would result in licensure as a professional engineer. To encourage bringing in foreign engineers who lack these qualifications and are less familiar with local conditions, local building codes and standards, state environmental requirements, and statutes endangers the public health and safety.

FES stated that it has a long history of working with state and federal agencies on rulemaking through its Conservation and Environmental Quality Committee. Since the state is home to 15 designated deep water ports, the committee is concerned that the proposed added flexibility comes at the expense of protecting the public health, safety, and welfare. FES also stressed that the use of unlicensed personnel to perform services designated as professional engineering services goes against state law. Unlicensed individuals will be subject to investigation and possible discipline by the Florida Board of Professional Engineers.

The Virginia Society argues that there is simply no shortage of US-based licensed professional engineers to contract for these projects, and no grounds to attribute a shortage of qualified PEs to delays in completing deepwater ports. VSPE pointed out that infrastructure developed on federal installations are required to be designed and sealed by licensed professional engineers, and no building, utility, or structure can be constructed based on plans presented by unlicensed engineers or architects.