NSPE Today: Policy Perspectives
Volunteers Needed for Advocacy Campaign
By now, most NSPE members should have received at least one email inviting you to become a PE Day advocate. On August 7, in addition to celebrating the professional engineer and the engineering profession, NSPE invites members to participate in in-district meetings, where you’ll have the opportunity to express support for an important federal bill, and promote the value of licensed professional engineers.
The bill, which some of you are already familiar with, is H.R. 2139/S. 1097, the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act. It is named after the teenager who was killed in the Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosion last fall in Massachusetts.
The bill requires gas pipeline utilities to develop and submit (1) an “evaluation of risk” related to the presence of cast iron pipes, (2) an emergency response plan, (3) a procedural manual for “operations, maintenance and emergencies,” (4) a pipeline safety management systems framework, and (5) up-to-date records of gas distribution systems, including information about high-, medium-, and low-pressure systems.
Additionally, the bill requires
- state authorities to ensure they have enough inspectors;
- the secretary of transportation or state authority to evaluate the adequacy of safety management systems;
- the review and approval of “covered tasks” by a licensed professional engineer;
- gas distribution operators to employ at least one person who is qualified to carry out covered tasks, who will monitor gas pressure and have the ability to cut off gas flow in the event of an emergency;
- district regulator stations to be upgraded to prevent over-pressurization;
- the secretary of transportation to develop regulations ensuring staffing is sufficient for adequately monitoring and regulating gas pressure; and
- the raising of civil penalty caps for certain violations to $20 million and $200 million.
We are, of course, especially interested in the required inclusion of professional engineers, though many of the provisions would be positive changes. On August 7, you all have an opportunity to voice your support for the professional engineer requirement, talk about the value of professional licensing, and begin building good relationships with your members of Congress and their staff.
Why In-District Meetings?
You may be wondering why we’ve chosen to hold in-district meetings on PE Day. There are several reasons.
1) Because Congress is in recess, you have a better chance of meeting with your elected officials, as they’ll likely be in your district;
2) Members of Congress need to know why professional licensing is valuable, and they need to know that their constituents are paying attention to the issue and watching how they respond. This is especially important because, as we’ve seen, there is a concerted and ongoing effort to undermine licensure. Members of Congress and their staff need to hear from you. They need to hear and understand why the licensing of engineers benefits the public. You, as licensed engineers, are the best messengers for this issue. You can speak from experience and share your expertise; and
3) It’s also a chance to begin, or further develop, positive working relationships with your members of Congress and their staff.
How Will This Work?
We’ve set up a registration page where you can enter your information and sign up to participate. When you register, be sure to use your home address so we can match you with the right representative, and find the closest in-district office.
Once you’re registered, we’ll begin contacting district offices on your behalf to schedule meetings. A week to 10 days before PE Day, we’ll host a webinar for all PE Day advocates. During the webinar, we’ll provide details about the bill, give best practices for holding a meeting and following up, discuss the talking points, and answer your questions.
Then, a few days before PE Day, we’ll email you an information packet, including talking points, a schedule of your meetings (including contact information for the staffer you’re meeting with), and a legislative summary. You’ll have time to review the information and contact us with any questions. We’ll do everything we can to prepare you, so that your meetings are productive and positive.
About a week after PE Day, we’ll send you a follow-up email. We’ll share the numbers (how many participants, how many meetings), stories from members who had successful meetings, and next steps we’ll be taking with the members of Congress whose offices were contacted.
This PE Day, I hope you’ll all take advantage of the opportunity to advocate for your profession and educate elected officials on the important role PEs play in protecting the public.
Stephanie Hamilton is NSPE’s manager of government relations and advocacy.