Another Look at Professional Certification
Something interesting is happening in the California Assembly. What it will ultimately mean for erosion and sediment control practitioners—if anything at all—remains to be seen, but it does raise, once again, some important questions about the profession and what qualifies someone to practice it.
The issue is California Assembly Bill 1210, which was introduced in February of this year. Here’s an excerpt from the bill as it was amended in March:
SECTION 1. Section 6730.4 is added to the Business and Professions Code, to read:
6730.4. Notwithstanding any other law, all civil engineering activities performed in the preparation, submission, execution, and enforcement of stormwater pollution prevention plans pursuant to the General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Construction and Land Disturbance Activities (Order No. 2009-0009-DWQ of the State Water Resources Control Board), and all amendments to that order, shall be prepared and performed under the responsible charge of a licensed civil engineer.
What this means depends somewhat on interpretation. Some take this wording to indicate that, if the bill passes, only civil engineers will be able to design and sign off on erosion control plans or stormwater pollution prevention plans (SWPPPs)—something that CPESCs (Certified Professionals in Erosion and Sediment Control) and others with similar professional certifications can now do in many instances. Others think that the definition of civil engineering activities will be limited to things like—as outlined elsewhere in the Business and Professional Code—locating or relocating “fixed works” on a site, verifying map accuracy, and so on, and that those with certifications like the CPESC will continue to be able to operate much as they have been in California. (The full text of the bill is available at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/index.html.)
There is a long history between licensed professional engineers and those with professional certifications in terms of who is allowed to do what. Many states now recognize CPESCs’ ability to design sediment control plans and approve SWPPPs; it’s been a hard battle from the early days, when such certifications were not widely recognized or understood. As the CPESC designation has become better known, though—along with other, more recent certifications, including the CPSWQ (Certified Professional in Storm Water Quality, which, like CPESC, is offered through EnviroCert International Inc.) and the CISEC (Certified Inspector of Sediment and Erosion Control, offered through CISEC Inc.)—state agencies, urban planners, city engineers, and others have given them more credence.
We posted information on the bill to Stormwater’s website a few weeks ago, and it generated some interesting discussion from all sides—from certified ESC professionals, from licensed professional engineers, and from people who hold both qualifications. Some of the arguments: An engineering degree does not necessarily give one the specialized knowledge or experience needed to design or approve erosion and sediment control plans; on the other hand, licensed professional engineers can be held legally accountable for the failure of a design. You can see the full range of comments—and add your own—at http://www.erosioncontrol.com/blogs/ec-editors-blog/professional-certification-and-licensed-engineers-80129.aspx.
And, if you want to express your views to the California Assembly, the bill will be heard in May in the California Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee. You can find contact information for members of that committee at http://www.assembly.ca.gov/acs/newcomframeset.asp?committee=129.
Author's Bio: Janice Kaspersen is the editor of Erosion Control magazine and Stormwater magazine.