EPA Proposes PEs on Risk Management Teams

May/June 2016

PE Report
EPA Proposes PEs on Risk Management Teams

Professional engineers may gain a greater oversight role at chemical facilities and others that handle hazardous materials if a proposed rule increasing safety requirements is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Consistent with NSPE’s past requests, the EPA proposes requiring the use of PEs in its Risk Management Programs. This action is in response to catastrophic chemical facility incidents in the US, including an explosion that occurred at the West Fertilizer facility in West, Texas, on April 17, 2013, that killed 15 people.

On March 14, the EPA asked for comment on a proposed rule (Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act) that would require PEs on the audit teams involved in third-party certifications. The aim of the proposed requirement 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 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 the PE’s unparalleled commitment to the public health, safety, and welfare, as well as demonstrated expertise and dedication to compliance with safety rules. At minimum, a PE should serve on the audit team, but preferably as the lead.

In response to the EPA’s question about whether there are sufficient numbers of licensed engineers to conduct third-party audits, NSPE stated that the supply of PEs will meet the agency’s demand. According to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, as of 2015 there were more than 474,000 resident PE licenses in the US and its territories. In addition, many PEs are licensed in multiple states.

NSPE is working with state societies to demonstrate the solidarity of PEs on this issue. Fifteen state societies, including California, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia, have submitted comments to the EPA.