Latest News

Petroleum Engineering Enrollment Drops

Date: February 10, 2021

Enrollment numbers for petroleum engineering students at LSU and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette have been declining for five years, reports the Acadiana Advocate, due to the deterrent of persistently low oil and gas market prices. LSU and UL Lafayette offer the only petroleum engineering programs in the state. Here’s a look at the numbers:

  LSU    UL Lafayette
Fall 2015 801
Fall 2016 649 551
Fall 2017 478 391
Fall 2018 327 235
Fall 2019 197 163
Fall 2020 129

Among the areas of change raising questions about the discipline are the auto industry’s adoption of new energy sources and the possible deemphasis of fossil fuel by the Biden administration.


Audit: Louisiana needs to improve emissions enforcement

Date: February 10, 2021

State auditors are calling on the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to do a better job of identifying industrial polluters that don’t properly report air emission violations and enforcing those violations more aggressively, reports the Associated Press. The new state audit “found the time it took for the state agency to issue enforcement actions after a known violation more than doubled between financial year 2015 and 2019, from nearly 10 months to nearly 20 months.” Further, the auditors wrote that the department “doesn’t adequately track the penalties it has assessed, whether the penalties were paid or which facilities fail to submit self-monitoring reports on emissions.”


Louisiana Job Opportunity

Date: February 10, 2021

Civil Engineer
Spackman Mossop Michaels

See other engineering job opportunities on the NSPE Job Board.

Army Taps LSU Coastal, Engineering Expertise to Improve Resilience

Date: January 27, 2021

LSU engineering and science experts will receive $9.3 million over four years from the US Army to help make military operations better prepared for and more resilient to climate-induced hazards. The university will focus on ecological, coastal and water resource computational modeling and engineering to improve the functionality and resilience of military installations and operations under present and future conditions. The research is part of a program among the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Environmental Laboratory, LSU, and the University of Delaware. The funding is the largest grant to fund a single-team coastal science and engineering project at LSU.


Federal Funds Slated for Terrebonne Levee System

Date: January 27, 2021

For decades, local advocates have sought federal funds for the levee system that protects Terrebonne and part of Lafourche from Gulf storms. Now that wait is over, reports Houma Today. This year, the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane-protection system is scheduled to receive about $12.5 million from the Army Corps of Engineers. The money will go toward raising much of the levee system to around 20 feet and building two massive floodgates in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, one in Houma and another in Larose.


Corps Calls for Further Study of Dam

Date: December 16, 2020

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to take 3½ additional years and spend an extra $6 million to study the proposed Darlington Dry Dam and better assess the risk of catastrophic failure and its impact on minority communities and archaeological sites,” according to the Advocate. The proposed $1.3 billion dam would reduce flooding of the Amite River Basin, but the project comes with significant life and safety issues as well as environmental justice and archaeological concerns.


Members Contribute to Licensing Board

Date: December 16, 2020

NSPE member Linda Bergeron, P.E., of Des Allemands, has been named as a new board member of LAPELS. She is a senior process engineer at Occidental Chemical Corporation, and she is a Chemical PE Exam development volunteer with NCEES.

NSPE member Alan Krouse, P.E., has left the LAPELS board after completing his six-year term.


LNG Facility in Plaquemines Moves Forward

Date: December 16, 2020

KBR Inc. has won the engineering, procurement and construction contract as lead contractor for Phase 1 of the Plaquemines LNG export project under development by Venture Global LNG in Plaquemines Parish, according to the 10/12 Industry Report. The announcement comes as a surprise. Over the summer, KBR said it would leave the energy business to focus on its technology and government solutions segments. In June, Reuters reported, “If Venture Global goes forward with Plaquemines this year, it could be the only U.S. LNG project to enter construction in 2020 after most other developers delayed their projects as coronavirus lockdowns cut global demand for energy and caused gas prices in Europe and Asia to drop to record lows.”

Plastics and the Public Health, Safety, Welfare

Date: November 18, 2020

The Army Corps of Engineers said it intends to suspend a permit for the construction of a $9.4 billion plastics complex along the lower Mississippi River in St. James Parish, reports Pro Publica. “Last year, an analysis by ProPublica and The Times-Picayune and The Advocate, conducted with an expert in air modeling, estimated that in the community across the river from the plant, hundreds of residents will face double the toxic levels of cancer-causing chemicals than they currently do,” the article says. “One mile east in the predominantly Black community of St. James, those levels could more than triple.”

In a motion filed in federal court, the Corps it needed to reevaluate part of its analysis under the Clean Water Act. The act, according to the article, requires an analysis of all environmental impacts, including air pollution.


Offshore Wind Takes a Step Forward

Date: November 18, 2020

Governor Edwards recently presented his strategies for lowering greenhouse gas emissions, including offshore wind energy, reports WorkBoat.com. Edwards has asked the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for help setting up a task force that will coordinate commercial offshore wind leasing proposals for the federal waters off Louisiana’s coast. Several Louisiana companies have worked on the first commercial offshore wind farm in the U.S., built off Rhode Island.

Louisiana Lawmakers Propose National Disaster Safety Board

Date: October 28, 2020

Two Louisiana legislators have proposed a measure that would create an independent board that would recommend ways local governments could strengthen their resilience to severe weather events, according to Transportation Topics. Sen. Bill Cassidy and Rep. Garret Graves “The board would be modeled after the independent National Transportation Safety Board, which produces reports after investigating plane crashes, and major commercial highway and railroad accidents,” the article states. On October 9, Cassidy said, “Americans across the country from the Gulf Coast to California are dealing with the results of natural disasters. Another hurricane is zeroing in on Louisiana right now. By establishing a natural disaster safety board, lessons learned from past disasters save lives and perhaps even prevent future disasters.”

Interested in taking action on legislative issues of interest to professional engineers? Visit NSPE’s Advocacy Center.


Solar Grows in Baton Rouge Area

October 28, 2020

A new solar facility with nearly 200,000 panels on a former sugarcane field is now plugged into the capital area’s electrical grid, reports the Advocate. The nearly 600-acre facility near Port Allen is part of Entergy’s plan to deliver more renewable energy to customers. The solar panels, according to the article, “face the eastern sky in the morning and track the sun’s path as they rotate throughout the day, which allows them to capture 30% more energy than stationary panels.”

In other solar news, the West Side Journal reports that a San Francisco-based firm has plans to build a solar energy manufacturing facility in West Baton Rouge Parish. The firm has filed an advanced notice with Louisiana Economic Development to begin building in 2022 and complete the project in 2023.


We Want to Hear from You!

Date: October 28, 2020

Do you know of engineering news in Louisiana that would be great for this newsletter? Maybe it’s a project you or your firm is working on, or perhaps you read some interesting engineering news in your local newspaper. Or maybe you know of a fellow PE or student who deserves a little recognition. If so, we want to hear from you. Email your ideas to pemagazine@nspe.org.

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.