The following is an excerpt from the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) Board of Directors (BOD) summary report for July of 2017 written by NSPE Executive Director Mark Golden, FASAE, CAE.
NSPE expressed disappointment and concern that a bill on the testing and deployment of highly automated vehicles will allow automakers to deploy the vehicles without first addressing the major safety, technological, and ethical implications.
The draft legislation, the Highly Automated Vehicle Testing and Deployment Act of 2017, is being considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection. Recognizing the promise of highly automated vehicles, NSPE has been a leading advocate on the need to place the public health, safety, and welfare first, and require a licensed professional engineer to play a key role in the development, testing, and safety certification of autonomous vehicles. NSPE is urging defeat of the legislation in its current form until these concerns are addressed. NSPE has been proactively working with Congress to address these vital issues. Rep. David McKinley, PE (R-WV), a longtime NSPE member, has been raising these issues with the subcommittee. In particular, NSPE and McKinley have expressed concerns about the lack of a requirement for a third-party certification by someone in the decision-making chain (i.e., a professional engineer) who has a duty that puts public safety first and overrides competitive pressures. You can watch Rep. McKinley’s remarks on this topic. Update: The Committee did pass the bill.
NSPE will continue to proactively advocate for the role of the professional engineer in ensuring the public health, safety, and welfare is of paramount importance in the deployment of highly automated vehicles.
NSPE is actively working to defeat federal legislation that would undermine the role of the professional engineer in making final decisions about the correct type of piping to use in our nation’s water systems. NSPE and other engineering and water utility associations sent a letter to Congress and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), opposing materials-preference legislation that—under the guise of promoting “open competition”—seeks to legislate technical decisions related to pipes and other materials that should be made by licensed engineers and local communities.
“The marketplace for pipes and other materials is already open and competitive, which calls into question the stated purpose of this legislation,” the letter states. “More importantly, however, technical decisions on materials such as pipes should not be made in the political arena, but rather by professional engineers based on the unique needs of each system, taking into account critical factors such as structural integrity, soil compatibility, maintenance and life cycle costs.”
NSPE has been fighting this issue at the state level, collaborating with our state societies to successfully defeat this legislation. NSPE will continue to fight any effort to undermine the professional engineer and the public health, safety, and welfare.
NSPE is fighting efforts to stop a critical final rule on oil and natural gas emissions that require a professional engineer to perform critical functions to meet performance standards. On July 12, NSPE President Kodi Jean Verhalen, PE, Esq., F. NSPE submitted public comment to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding its reconsideration of the requirement for a professional engineer to certify the closed vent system design and capacity assessment.
In the public comment, Verhalen writes, “There is no reason or basis for displacing properly enacted final rules at this time; to stay the rules requiring involvement of licensed professional engineers creates real and unnecessary risks to the public health, safety, and welfare in the interim.”
NSPE and the professional engineers it represents share a common purpose with the EPA in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public and we strongly urge the EPA to enforce the current requirements until and unless a new rulemaking is undertaken and will be fully engaged in the ongoing proceedings. I had an opportunity to reiterate these concerns when I testified at an EPA hearing regarding this issue on July 10th.
NSPE responded to a July 6th op-ed in the Wall Street Journal attacking the concept of licensure with a letter to the editor on July 13th:
Rule Reversal: How the Feds Can Challenge State Regulation (July 6, 2017) unfortunately perpetuates a common narrative that all licensure requirements are barriers to entry and should be removed. A more informed and deliberative examination of the professional landscape shows that those professions that are necessary to protect the public health, safety, and welfare need licensing requirements to ensure that only technically and professionally qualified professionals individuals are practicing in their fields. While the work of professional engineers (PEs)—like that of doctors and nurses—clearly affects the public health, safety, and welfare, it is not uncommon to simplistically link highly educated and trained PEs with barbers and cosmetologists in the debate over occupational licensure. PEs conceptualize, plan, design and construct bridges, tunnels, buildings, waste-water treatment facilities, plants, factories, processing centers, and many other public and private development projects. The PE license demonstrates a commitment to high standards of engineering practice and ethical conduct by individuals possessing the necessary education, experience, and qualifications to provide these critical engineering services to the public. The narrative around licensure needs to change and recognize the vital role played by our regulatory system in protecting the public health, safety, and welfare.
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