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Will Louisiana Act to Remove the PE Exemption?

The National Transportation Safety Board has identified Louisiana and 30 other states that currently do not require a licensed professional engineer on natural gas pipeline projects. The NTSB sent a letter to the governors of each of the states in the fall, urging them to end exemptions for gas pipeline operators and asking for an update within 90 days.

The NTSB issued an investigation report on the September 2018 Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions with two critical recommendations: first that all the states with license exemptions for public utilities eliminate the exemption, and second that a professional engineer be required to review and approve gas pipeline construction and maintenance documents.

When the NTSB began its investigation, staff reached out to NSPE seeking information about licensing exemptions. Through a series of conversations and emails, NSPE shared report data, information on the licensing process and requirements, and its position statement on licensing exemptions. As a result of conversations with NSPE and other organizations, the NTSB adopted a policy of addressing and eliminating engineering license exemptions within the gas pipeline industry.

NSPE’s national staff continues to be in conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board and state societies on this issue.


Baton Rouge Red-Light Camera Contract Raises Licensure Concerns

A case of potential unlicensed engineering practice and red-light camera installation strikes again—this time in Louisiana. Efforts to renew a Baton Rouge red-light camera operations contract has come with some controversy over a firm unlicensed to practice engineering in the state.

Vera Mobility, formerly known as American Traffic Solutions, operates 24 red-light cameras in 16 intersections in Baton Rouge. The city’s previous professional services contract with the firm specified that installation drawings be stamped by a civil engineer licensed in Louisiana according to an article published by The Advocate on November 19.

Louisiana state statute requires firms that practice engineering to be licensed in order to safeguard life, health and property, and to promote the public welfare. Vera Mobility isn’t licensed with the Louisiana Professional Engineering and Land Surveying Board.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council voted to extend the firm’s contract until 2023 despite a pending lawsuit that seeks to take the red-light cameras out of operation, according to The Advocate.

The case is similar to one in which the North Carolina engineering licensing board concluded, after an investigation in 2018, that American Traffic Solutions Inc., violated the law when it installed red-light cameras and produced survey data without a license to practice in the state.

In August 2019, the Colorado State Board of Licensure for Architects, Professional Engineers, and Professional Land Surveyors issued a cease and desist order to Redlex Traffic Systems for practicing engineering without a license in the state. Redlex Traffic Systems provided professional services to the city and county of Denver in July 2008 in violation of state engineering law.


NTSB Report and NSPE's Action on this Issue

Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent letters to the governors of 31 states named in its final report on the Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions, including Louisiana. The letter requests an end to the engineering license exemption for gas pipeline operators in these states, and asks for governors to provide an update to the NTSB with in 90 days.

When the NTSB began its investigation of the Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions, investigative staff reached out to NSPE seeking information about licensing exemptions. Through a series of conversations and emails, NSPE shared report data, information on the licensing process and requirements, and its Position Statement on licensing exemptions. Consequently, NSPE was successful in getting the NTSB to adopt a policy of addressing and eliminating engineering license exemptions within the gas pipeline industry.

NSPE’s national staff continues to be in conversation with NTSB staff, and will continue to share updates as they happen. We are happy to support state efforts at eliminating this exemption.

Read the full report from NTSB.

NTSB Report and Recommendations

Pipeline explosionA BURNED-OUT MASSACHUSETTS HOME AFTER THE GAS EXPLOSIONS
CREDIT: NTSB

NTSB has released an abstract of its forthcoming final report on the fatal Merrimack Valley pipeline explosion from September of last year. Final revisions are being made to the report, but in the report’s synopsis/executive summary, NTSB states that “requiring a licensed professional engineer to stamp plans would illustrate that the plans had been approved by an accredited professional with the requisite skills, knowledge, and experience to provide a comprehensive review.” Acknowledging the importance of the role of the PE in preventing an event like this from occurring, NTSB recommends the elimination of the licensing exemption on natural gas pipeline projects in the 31 states that have the exemption in place, including the state of Louisiana.

Read the synopsis of the report.