Letter to Governor Haley from Paul M Weaver, Chair-Carolina’s Section of AEG

by Brian Chew on January 31, 2012

Paul Weaver, Chairman of the Carolina’s Section of AEG, wrote a letter to Governor Haley about the South Carolina LLR 2012 Regulatory Report. The letter addresses his concern for the reports recommendation to eliminate the professional licensing of geologists in the State of South Carolina.  Here is the PDF version of his Letter to Governor Haley, or read below:

[January 30, 2012]

Dear Governor Haley:

I am writing in response to the December 19, 2011 report sent to you by Catherine B. Templeton, Director of theSouth Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR) recommending the elimination of professional licensing of geologists in the State of South Carolina. The Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists- Carolinas Section (AEG), is very concerned about the recommendations made to you by the Director. We also find it of great concern that no members of the South Carolina Board of Registration for Geologists were consulted by the Director or her staff regarding the report prior to its issuance. We believe if this consultation had taken place, the misconceptions in the report would have been eliminated and the recommendations for eliminating registration of geologists may not have been included in the report. Attached is my rebuttal to the issues raised by the Director’s report. I hope that this rebuttal will make it clear that eliminating the registration of geologists in South Carolina would be detrimental to the preservation of the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

I sincerely believe that the elimination of the registration of geologists in the State of South Carolina would be a grave mistake. It will not save South Carolina tax payers any money, since the Board of Registration for Geologists is self-funded through licensure fees. Instead, registration elimination will result in increased costs to the State due to many individuals and agencies having to institute geologists’ competency investigation procedures that are now provided through registration. Even more importantly, the protection of the health and welfare of the public, the primary goal behind geologists’ registration, will be seriously diminished without the registration of geologists in place in South Carolina. The vast majority of geologists who work in the State of South Carolina support registration/licensure and the protection to the public health, safety, welfare, and the environment that it provides.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Please do not go forward with eliminating the registration/licensure of geologists in the State of South Carolina.

Sincerely,

Paul M. Weaver, P.G.
Chair – AEG Carolinas Section

Rebuttal to Director Templeton’s Report Regarding the Need for Registration/Licensing of Geologists
It appears from the Director’s report that she needs more information about the Geologists Registration Program she is responsible for administering. Following are just a few of the things Licensed Geologists do:

  • Registered geologists are the professionals called upon when hazardous or potentially hazardous materialsare discovered in soils or groundwater. We analyze the extent of the contamination, coordinate with state and federal agencies to ascertain the potential harm to the public, and we design and implement the cleanup of the contamination so that the future health and safety of the public is assured.
  • Registered geologists evaluate and analyze the below ground conditions prior to the design and construction of buildings, bridges, tunnels, roadways, and retaining walls. We then use these evaluations and analyses to provide critical information to engineers that enable them to design foundations, drainage, and slopes that are appropriate for conditions encountered. Should the information and analysis geologists provide be inadequate or erroneous, the integrity of the completed facilities and infrastructure could be at risk.
  • Registered geologists evaluate and analyze soil and rock slopes for stability and provide critical information for the design solutions to stabilize potentially hazardous slopes. Slope instability, as evidenced in numerous instances, can result in catastrophic consequences including loss of roadways, structures, and human life.
  • Registered geologists serve as the eyes and ears of engineers and architects during foundation installation on structure construction projects. In this capacity, they verify that foundations are constructed according to the specifications, and they use their expertise to troubleshoot when unanticipated subsurface conditions are encountered to assure that the completed foundations can support without failure the completed structure. Inadequately or improperly constructed foundations may result in structural failure resulting in great property damage and loss of life.

The Director’s report states that since the establishment of the South Carolina Board of Registration of Geologists in 1986, it has “run roughshod over the statutory threshold for professional licensure” based on the assertion that licensure is not necessary for the “preservation of the health, safety, and welfare ofthe public”. We herein assert that the registration procedures for geologists followed by the State of South Carolina, specifically the requirements that all applicants have sufficient education, work experience, and knowledge as evidenced by having passed the rigorous National Association of Boards of Geology (ASBOG) exam, set a qualification threshold that is necessary to preserve the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

The Director’s report also states that “each project for which a license to practice public geology is required is a project that is already subject to another independent regulatory scheme which is structured to provide primary protection for the environment”. This is a fallacious assumption. Regulatory agencies depend on the regulatory boards to verify that the professionals providing reports and information are qualified to practice. Administrators of “regulatory schemes”, as cited by the Director, do not have the expertise, staffing, orfunding to perform an in-depth background, experience, and recommendations investigation of every geologist who performs work coming under their jurisdiction; the geologist registration verifies that the professional performing the work possesses the necessary skills and experience to perform the work. If these administrators are forced to perform competency investigations on every geologist under their jurisdiction due to the elimination of registration of geologists, then the number of administrators will have to increase with administrators in each department duplicating the work done by administrators in other departments thus leading to a larger state payroll (note that the Board of Registration for Geologists is self-funded from licensing fees requiring no outlay of public money).

Another statement made in the report is the “low risk of unregulated practice and absence of any residual threat to public health, safety, or welfare is supported by low levels of complaint and disciplinary action”. Forgive me if I misread this statement, but it appears to say that since registered geologists are well behaved, perform their work with professionalism and attention to detail, and do not invite public criticism, that there is no reason to have a system in place (registration) to help assure that only qualified geologists are able to practice geology. I would think instead that the fact that only one individual has been cited for unlicensed practice and that no disciplinary action has been taken against any registered geologist for professional negligence or unethical conduct, is a verification that the registration of geologists in South Carolina has been very successful and has accomplished exactly what it was intended to accomplish.

The Director states that “experience shows consumers rarely rely on licensure in selecting a geologist” and that “only” 1501 general searches for geologists were performed on the LLR website in 2011. That may be due to the fact that individuals advertising their services as geologists are registered. Considering there were 575 licensees as of September 2011, 1501 searches for registered geologists cited in one year is not a small number.

Another argument used by the Director is that “Geologists typically work for sophisticated or institutional clients capable of safeguarding their own interests without reference to licensure or government intervention” and that “less than 2.4 percent of geoscientists are self-employed”. “Sophisticated or institutional clients” rely on the registration of geologists when hiring geOlogists in order to safeguard their interests. The burden of sophisticated testing like that utilized for geologists licensure would be too much for most of these institutions or companies to undertake. Imagine the costs and lost productivity that would result from every governmental agency and private company instituting procedures to verify experience and competency to the extent that is verified through the geologists registration procedure! This cost is presently covered by the licensee from the licensing fee. Even if “less than 2.4 percent of geoscientists are self-employed”, it is important to verify their competency to protect the public.

The final argument used by the Director is that “professional associations certify the education and experience of geologists independent of state licensure”. The example cited is the “Certified Professional Geologists” designation offered by the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG). AIPG is the only professional association that “certifies” geologists, and the “certification” is based on the recommendation of three other geologists and paying a fee rather than an exam to test competency as is required for state licensure. AEG and the majority of other professional associations representing geologists fully support state registration/licensure of geologists in conjunction with ASBOG.

What are your comments?  Also, see the LinkedIn discussion about this subject.

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Brian E. Chew Sr. P.G. has been Vice President, Enviro Equipment, Inc. since 1993. His list of accomplishments include… Bachelors Degree In geology (Indiana University, 1979) --- Licensed Geologist in Indiana, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee --- 17+ years experience in environmental consulting industry with LAW\GIBB Group --- Specialized in petrochemical release assessment, remedial design and plan implementation, RCRA, CERCLA, and UST Sites.

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