I agree to Idea Licensing Geoscientists is good practice
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I disagree to Idea Licensing Geoscientists is good practice

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Licensing Geoscientists is good practice

Maintaining a licensing program like the current TBPG is good for the public and is needed to maintain a certain standard of practice.

Submitted by 2 years ago

Comments (37)

  1. Pinned Moderator

    The two identical ideas submitted on the Texas Red Tape Challenge regarding the preservation of the regulation of geoscientists have been merged into the same idea. This idea includes the votes and comments submitted within the idea of "Licensing Geoscientists is Good Practice" and "Science to Protect the Public". Rather than have two separate idea threads centered on the same subject, this allows for discussion to continue on the same idea. Please note that this moderation action is not an endorsement of one policy idea over another. Rather, the intent is to consolidate and focus participants' discussions where practicable.

    2 years ago
  2. As a practicing geoscientist for over 20 years in Texas, I have often seen many examples of how our profession directly impacts public health and safety. Poorly perfomed environmental and geologic assessments of land to be purchased and developed for park or residential use results in signifcant risk to human health, the environment, and the natural resources of Texas. Often licensed Geoscientists are the only unbiased protection between the unsuspecting public, a bank/financial institute, and a developer.

    2 years ago
    1. This is adding red tape, not removing it. Bad idea, we dont need to increase the regulatory environment, we need to decrease it. This sounds like a liberal tree-hugger idea.

      2 years ago
  3. This all sounds nice and gives me a sense of well-being, and I respect your opinion and your profession but if you drill down to the details, the public didn't ask for this protection, it is more of a union and there are other mechanisms and agencies in place that do a better job of protecting the public with regards to issues cited like the health of the environment (TCEQ already regulates this).

    The minimum standards cited as the means for protecting the public are lax such that >90% of those licensed didn't have to pass an exam to get a license and then by virtue of having that license (with no exam) they are then also exempt from other state license exams like the TCEQ CAPM that others are required to pass. If anything this would seem to put the public more at risk. The program is stacked with exemptions intended to benefit the licensed group not the general public. Without examination being required, the minimum standard used then is basically having a degree in geology and a few years experience which anyone in the public acquiring geoscience services can ascertain by looking at a resume or transcript etc without maintaining a government agency to verify this. There are also well-established private certifications for geologists that could be relied upon for this.

    The "recourse for terrible geoscientists" provided by the program is things like issuing a disciplinary action for someone who continues to use the P.G. letters with their name after their license expires even though that is against state law. It would be silly to file a complaint about such an infraction wouldn't it? The other disciplinary actions filed (only 8 actions in 10 years and >$11,000,000 spent) are for things like not notifying the board of a change of address. These things have nothing to do with public safety and are no real recourse for performing bad geoscience.

    Regarding costs, the board claims to be self-funded with license fees but there are many undisclosed costs to taxpayers such as the fact that a portion of the license fees generated come from employees of other state agencies whose license fees are paid by those taxpayer funded agencies. This statistic does not show up in the legislative budget board balance sheets as costs attributable to TBPG. In addiiton, there are other state agency costs in the attorney general's office, the governor's office etc to support the geoscience license board that are not attributed to the TBPG on the balance sheets. In addition, the total number of licensees is falling off steadily (due to the fact that the majority of the licencees are actually exempt because they work in oil and gas and have been holding their licenses voluntarily) which will eventually lead to a situation where there are not enough licensees remaining to support the costs of the program. In addition, as noted in the Texas Register posting on a separate thread the P.G. fees in Texas are already the highest in the nation, a fact protested almost universally by P.G.s at the time of the last fee increase.

    2 years ago
    1. Many real estate land transactions prior to development are closed with no TCEQ/governmental oversight (example Phase II ESAs). They are performed by ill-trained con artists eager to make a quick dollar and they work cheap. I review their work on a daily basis and am horrified by the conclusions drawn without use of good geoscience, the scientific method, or ethics.

      Keith, licensure may not be the end all answer but don't depend on other governmental oversight. The TCEQ outsources compliance and review of reports as it is and is sadly under-manned. Stop throwing rocks at a system that could work if we all support and guide it. It is operated by peer scientists not the government - I know- I was there.

      The number of licenses is steady at about 5000 and the cost to the licensees is minimal for anyone who has a viable practice. I am sure that you can bring up and have brought-up many smaller issues - real and perceived, about the license. The PG license system is certainly no perfect. But I can guarantee, if detractors put effort into improving it instead of pulling it down, everyone would be better off.

      2 years ago
  4. brianh Idea Submitter

    I am not so sure the public didn't ask for this protection. We as geoscientists are part of the public and understand what geoscientists do, and how actions based on their advice affects the public at large. Most citizens are ignorant of what geologists do and what impacts they can have. I have worked more than 10 years in groundwater issues and have seen less and less of those doing the work, that should not. I think the practice is being raised, thanks to the Act. So I would say that Geoscientists observing shoddy work asked for this. I personally have spoken to those that worked on the Act for years. You hint that you believe this act is really self-serving, but you miss the point that the effort is to raise the standard of practice. To that end it serves everyone, especially the public at large. One might ask, is it self-serving to want the practice of geoscience unlicensed? I think it's a fair question.

    To say that the TCEQ, a regulatory agency, protects the public is correct on one level. But they respond and react to a problem--usually after it occurs. That is not the way to manage resources. I would argue that the regulatory agencies set the bar (most would argue its pretty low) for the various environmental standards. But the work of qualified geoscientists advising clients is the best approach to achieving that goal and avoiding the costly and usually ineffective response from the TCEQ. The TCEQ could not remove someone's ability to practice geoscience.

    The idea is that gradually all geoscientists will have taken the exam over time. Grandfathering is pretty common and I don't think I need to argue about the rational behind it. Sure it could have been a bit more onerous to qualify for grandfathering. You forget the new GIT program that is an additional way to raise the standard every year as a new crop of geoscientsts come into the profession. The standard might not have been raised immediately with licensing, but I have seen a gradual improvement in the practice, which will only increase over time.

    The board is set up to receive complaints about "conduct detrimental to public health, safety and welfare or that may be a violation of the Texas Geoscience Practice Act." Yes, administrative violations appear to dominate, but the fact is that one does have recourse beyond litigation.

    Finally, you are right that the total cost is partially hidden by those fees paid by State institutions. But I would bet they are relatively small number compared to the total number of PGs. Recall that they don't need a PG to work for the State. Eventually it might cost more to license fewer. But I see the value in that and still support licensing the practice of geoscience.

    2 years ago
  5. Its no surprise that the people that benefit from the program support the program. I’m here to note that there are detrimental effects to others, perhaps unintended. In 2003 Mr. Peter Rose published an article in support of the licensing program but noted this: “one of the admitted down sides to state licensure -- the state-reinforced suppression of free trade by those who are licensed, of those who are not. The new Texas board of geoscientists must be alert not to allow such abuses to occur.” Here we are 10 years later explaining exactly that with documentation (see other threads) and no one of the board supporters here wants to consider it legitimate or work to address it.

    Your goal of “raising the standard of practice” to some unnoticeable degree or benefit is causing someone else to have to abandon the career path they invested in because they took a different path than you to the same occupation, and then the rules were changed after arrival. I think such programs are likely doing more harm than good to the overall quality of life for the citizens of the state. Our government officials should be looking to protect us from that type of suppression.

    2 years ago
  6. brianh Idea Submitter

    It is now clear to me what you take issue with in regard to the TBPG. I wish you had lead off with this last comment, as that is really the central, and in my opinion, most relevant critique. All those other appear to me as a smoke screen around your central criticism--that the Act prohibits qualified folks from doing their job.

    I would fully support other pathways to license the practice of geoscientists. Every year there are more multidisciplinary degree programs and integrate all the sciences, and not just geology. I think environmental scientists would certainly fit that category and the Act should not be so limiting as to just cover geoscientists, soil scientists, and geophysicists. I would support including other qualified professions such as Environmental Scientists. As you say the rules were changed after your arrival into your profession, and that is not fair--but there is a solution. Rather than dissolving the licensing, why not start the idea to have the Act amended to include those other professions? I would bet you could get a lot of PGs behind you. Perhaps this has been tried. But I think this forum is for ideas.

    I think you make a much more compelling argument to say that the Act excludes qualified professionals (be explicit as to what kind) from practicing geoscience, and the Act should be amended to include them.

    You would have my vote.

    2 years ago
    1. I would not support the addition of Environmental Scientists to the list of PGs. They simply don't have the geological education needed to properly evaluate geology. Keith's stated earlier (elsewhere) that he believes that you have to be a PG or PE to do any environmental work, and that's simply not so. It only pertains to the geologic portion of any work performed. An Environmental Scientist certainly may perform any biological, life science, etc. study they want.

      2 years ago
    2. The TBPG can create and offer disciplines of geoscience in which a person may be licensed. Examples of these could be Hydrogeologist, mining geologist, and engineering geologist. But note the commonality, geology. Environmental Scientist is not a geologist. Their education does not meet the criteria for being a geologist.

      When licensure was being discussed in the 1990's the idea of adding environmental scientist to the list was considered. But it was decided that they do not have enough commonality with the geosciences to be included. That commonality took into account education and testing.

      If a person feels that their education meets the requirements set forth and they have the experience then they can apply to take the examine and be licensed.

      2 years ago
  7. It was my original critique but the other issues are also legitimate. I appreciate the sincerity of the suggestion but think it may address just one small issue within a larger policy dilemma. This solution just transfers the problem of excluding qualified professionals to somebody else and perpetuates the expansion of state regulation (not to mention the other issues discussed).

    Geology is the first of the physical and life sciences to license. The logic for licensing geologists would also hold for chemists and biologists and toxicologists and ecologists and.... If the geoscience board were to license environmental scientists would they also license chemists or will that board be separate? Will the geologists then not be allowed to review chemical data? Maybe the attorney general's office needs some extra work to help sort that out like they do between the architects and engineers etc. Obviously this model is too rigid and would not be productive. If anyone who whose job has the potential to impact the public must have a license to work, it would make more sense to have an umbrella "board of professional sciences" then, or "board of professional engineering and sciences". But I don't think we can imagine all the implications and complications associated with increasing government regulation of people's occupations. I think its the wrong direction.

    We need the flexibility to move with the economy to where the jobs are. A college education equips people to learn related new things on the job. There are mentors and seminars and on-the-job training. Professional licensing of this nature limits people to what they studied in college which as you gain more experience becomess a smaller and smaller part of what you have learned overall. Let the free market determine who is qualified to do these things. This will help the economy and jobs. Generally the appropriate college education and/or experience will be there or they won't get the job or the business. Government regulation is not an effective way to deal with this. The public is already amply protected with other existing regulatory bodies like the TCEQ, Water Development Board and Railroad Commission etc where geosciences and the like are involved.

    2 years ago
    1. Geology involves more than simply the knowledge of different rock types. It involves the process in the creation of those rock types, including weathering and erosional characteristics. It involves an understanding of fluid flows (both in the ground and above it) and chemistry. I wouldn't support all chemistry to fall under the auspicies of the PG board, but do believe that those aspects that involve geology should be.

      2 years ago
  8. brianh Idea Submitter

    I didn't read all the other threads, so that was the first I had heard. It's a valid point about where one would draw the line among the professions that are increasingly multidisciplinary. That is why I would support being more inclusive among the professions. I think that is a valid point.

    I guess I disagree that licensing is doing more harm that good as you assert.

    You may feel particularly targeted by this. But I have to wonder, why didn't you get grandfathered in when you had the chance? That was precisely what that was for. Your criticism still holds for the future environmental scientists that would be restricted from signing off on a geoscience final report (ultimately, that is what we are talking about).

    2 years ago
    1. Whether future environmental scientist would be restrict or not is no more an issue that a geologist who does not purse licensing. We each make our own choices when we get our education. Just because I have biology and chemistry background does not make me qualified to be a pharmacist. If I wanted to be a pharmacist, I would have pursed the education track for that just the same as for Lawyer, Doctor or Engineer.

      When the Act was passed in 2001, it provided for a grandfathering period so that those who were already practicing and were are qualified via education and experience may license. This manner of enacting licensure is not new or novel to geologist or for Texas. It has occurred in virtually all jurisdictions with many different practice fields. AS I have said before, anyone who thought they were qualified to obtain a license prior to Sept 1, 2003 could have applied.

      2 years ago
    2. Actually Brian they aren't "geoscience reports", they are environmental assessment reports. The fact that we are debating whether environmental scientists are qualified to perform environmental assessments is pathetic.

      2 years ago
    3. And since the geomilitia here wants to keep harping on who is qualified to perform geoscience, conversely most licensed geoscientists are not qualified to perform environmental assessments, they don't even work in that field.

      2 years ago
    4. Keith, the only reason for discussing who's qualified to perform geologic studies is because you and others insist that everyone is qualified, which isn't true. Also, geologists, like engineers, are only supposed to perform in those areas they are qualified for. For example, a mechanical engineer wouldn't claim to be able to do chemical engineering, yet there's no differentiation between the two in the PE rules.

      2 years ago
  9. I've asked this before, but the question keeps being dodged or ephemeralized to 'the public good' (there is no such thing, and the implication is a perversion of morality).

    Please provide specific, explicit examples of the good licensing is doing?

    Conversly, what are the specific ill effects of governmental licensing? I've already beaten to death the perversion of fundamental principles it represents, and don't care to do it any longer. There is no argument that can prove me wrong on this point.

    I'll start the specifics:

    1.) One tangible negative is extortion of money from private citizens to obtain permission to work in a certain field.

    Your feelings of importance, lack thereof, powerlessness, desire for power, hatred of engineers, etc, are not valid arguments for or against the board.

    Appealing to logic on the most basic level hasn't worked, so let's get simple and specific: list specific, tangible good and bad effects.

    2 years ago
    1. tangible bad effect - I can go to another state and start a small business in the field I am educated and experienced in, but not in Texas due to restrictions imposed by the Texas Geoscience Practice Act.

      2 years ago
    2. I have, as have others, described specific, explicit examples of where bad geology led to bad decisions in both the public and private sectors elsewhere and feel no need to repeat them here. How many examples do you need before you realize that the PG license is a good thing?

      2 years ago
  10. brianh Idea Submitter

    I agree, in part, with Keith that the Act is limiting to some who are qualified. I think the Act could be amended to include other professions if a certain level of geology is part of that curriculum.

    As we learn more about the world, the profession becomes more and more interdisciplinary. I am thinking right now of the new UT Austin Environmental Science degree that has three tracks, one of them is geology. I would argue that ES graduate of that program could become a GIT and then take the exam and become a PG.

    To try and answer jmdumoit's comment I can personally attest to witnessing incompetent geologic work that was done by someone that was not a geologist, but was practicing as such. This was a few years before the Act. Other than the client just walking away from the project realizing they were ill-advised (after the fact), there was really no recourse other than litigation. That didn't happen. The licensing sets a standard of practice, in my opinion, that will generally solve this issue. Prior to the Act there was really now way to keep this person from practicing and literally providing false information. They believed it wasn't false and were not doing something unethical, but it was because they were not qualified and didn't have the background. They couldn't have possibly got it right since their training was inadequate. This is one example. I actually have others examples, but less egregious. I realize there are still PGs out there that could be considered less than competent, or may provide the wrong information or interpretation, but as a whole that number will be smaller if those without the background are not PGs, and the number will get smaller as time goes on. I see this as a benefit. Therein is an example of the "public good".

    2 years ago
    1. Brian, I agree whith the second half of your statement. However, if someone is qualified then they should be able to obtain the PG license.

      2 years ago
    2. wkc

      Brian, The PG Board does not regulate environmental work. I thought we had cleared this up. It regulates the practice of geoscience; sets qualification standards for practicing geoscience in Texas, and determines who is qualified to practice. Through continuing education requirements, TBPG makes sure licensees remain qualified to practice geoscience.

      TCEQ will grant a CAPM certification to both licensed P.G.s and P.E.s. The quality of environmental reports arriving at TCEQ has improved significantly since TCEQ implemented this practice.

      2 years ago
  11. ---

    Licensing does not guaranty competence. There is an alternative.

    QUESTION FOR YOU:

    Are we brave enough to take back control and begin by taking away the decisions from state regulators as to whether we are qualified and competent, and put those decisions in the hands of our peers and clients who are in the best position to judge?

    ---

    2 years ago
    1. Ralph, we have been over this before. You suggest that certification through AIPG is the way to go and yet AIPG disagrees with you. In fact they hold out that State Licensure is preferable.

      You say you want the decision in the hands of our peers to judge qualifications. That is what we already have in the State Board. We are judged based upon the recommendation in our application by our peers and our application is judged by our peers who sit on the state board.

      2 years ago
    2. --

      Yes, we professional geologists are brave enough to take back control and allow our peers, and not the regulators and not members of a Board TBPG appointed by a politician, to decide whether we are qualified to practice geology.

      Don't you agree?

      --

      2 years ago
    3. Who is this "We" you are referring to Ralph? Last time I check the geoscience community, including the Geologic Societies and Associations, support licensing. Also the "geoscience community" never did or have the authority to determine who was qualified or competent. So by doing what you want we would return to the same ole' method prior to licensing where nothing was done!

      Furthermore, the professional members on the Board ARE our peers. So are the people who provided you references in you application or are you saying that those that vouched for you were NOT your peers?

      2 years ago
  12. Where are the 371 entities/people that so strongly opposed the actions of the board last year? See "SIPES power grab" article attached above. They got what they wanted - confirmation that they are not regulated by this board. They are content to let it exist as long as it doesn't apply to them.

    2 years ago
    1. They are content to support licensure based upon the original understanding of the Act when it was passed in 2001. Just because 371 people were against the proposed rules does not mean that SIPES or other organizations that support the license are turning against it. The acknowledge that they as others have a role to play in providing timely input. They system works.

      2 years ago
  13. It's protectionism, pure and simple, designed to limit the competition as much as possible.

    2 years ago
  14. wkc

    Exploration and Development of oil and gas, and other minerals is exempted....same as with the engineers board.

    2 years ago
  15. The PG Act came about because prior to its existence, geoscientific reports came under of the seal of PE's, who often had little geological experience. Environmental, groundwater, near surface fault studies and others were often inadequate or erroneous. The PG Act allows PG's to sign off on geoscientific material without the need for a PE oversight, or at least ensured good geoscience was provided even if coming under the purview of a PE.

    The mineral resource geoscientist was excluded by the act partly as a practical move to get the act through Legislature, and because the mineral (includes petroleum) geoscientist is already subject to scrutiny by other agencies such as the FTC and SEC under real estate law. The Act is focused on the need for protecting the public health safety and welfare, which is focused on groundwater, near surface hazards, and other geological conditions, their evaluation, interpretation and resolution. The Act does not allow a PG to sign off on many of the aspects of an environmental report, just those pertaining to geoscience. The other topics discussed throughout this dialogue in fact frequently do not require a seal, and their inclusion in these discussions serves to obfuscate the issue.

    There have been events that have been controversial in the evolution of the PG Board, and the various responses from stakeholders, including many of the contributors to these discussions, have kept the Board within the original intent of the Act. The AIPG, AAPG and other professional societies formed Certification as early as the 1960's to circumvent state licensure. They all failed in this endeavor. I know this, being a past President of the AAPG's Division of Professional Affairs, the body responsible for AAPG Certification, and am familiar with the history of these efforts. Hence, the development of state licensure, much like the licensing of other professionals such as doctors, nurses, dentists, engineers and more. Licensure is to ensure that proper science is applied, and that there may be penalties for violations that threaten public health, safety and welfare.

    Do I like licensure? As a primarily petroleum based geoscientist, I see less need for it perhaps, but have used my license for qualifications in testimony in both regulatory hearings and depositions for civil cases, as well as public petroleum reserve reports. Its elimination would have a minimal effect on my business. But I do understand the need for it in the environmental, land use, and groundwater arenas. And too often, multidiscipline science training touches only the surface of the problems encountered, where more specialization through training and experience is needed to recognize the all too often unique or unexpected situation encountered in a heterogenous Earth. The problem with relying on a close-knit community of peers and clients is that the public and less tight-knit industries do not have access to this word-of-month referral system. That argument is a very myopic view. And all too often, the recourse for bad science is litigation after the fact.

    I do find it curious that these discussions have frequented geological topics apparently because of the perception that geology is nothing more than common sense. And none of these discussions have appeared to challenge the PE, though many of the same arguments against the PG could also be applied to the PE. The difference is experience, and a multi-disciplined scientist by nature cannot have the same level of experience in a particular subject matter.

    I believe that the PG serves its intended purpose, and that its elimination would logically precede the elimination of other licensed professions, such as PE, and ultimately DDS, RN and MD. Would anyone really want to go to an unlicensed doctor? Where do you draw the line?

    2 years ago
  16. Paul,

    Hold the engineers responsible.

    That is happening this week in New Orleans, in the US District Court of Judge Stanwood Duval, Jr.

    I have seen no comment herein these Red-Tape-Challenges, until yours Paul, that there is already a system in place to protect the public; and as you say, it does not work all the time. I am talking about the Texas PE Board and complaints that should have been filed against an engineer by a geologist or a Texas citizen with knowledge of the violation. If an engineer isn’t qualified to report and task the work, he then is in violation of the Texas rules.

    The Texas TBPG will do the same thing; rather not do what is really asked of them: to protect the public. The complaints will be trivial and none-effective.

    I do like your comment about the AIPG and AAPG-DPA being ineffective in their work to certify professional geologists. When private industry fails, the State and local and federal government steps in. Why did this happen?

    Xoxo

    2 years ago
  17. You can only hold the Engineer responsible if the work done is actually Engineering. The case you cite is not about engineering design but the work done be a construction contractor.

    Funny how you like the comment about private certification being ineffective and yet you were preaching the virtues of AIPG certification. That is why AIPG supports state licensure! It realized that only state licensing is enforceable!

    2 years ago
  18. Ralph, are you suggesting that the engineers should oversee geology? The PG board was designed to oversee geology because most engineers aren't qualified to do geology. Having the PE board oversee geology just doesn't make any sense.

    2 years ago
  19. wkc

    Ralph, You have ignored Paul's point here, in order to try to make your own. You can't hold engineers responsible for something they are not trained to do. That in itself is irresponsible. AAPG DPA certifies petroleum geologists who are exempt. That practice is industry and economically driven, and has nothing to do with protection of the public. If one of their members becomes unpopular for something he or she has done, it is easy enough to blackball them. No one will buy their product. However, when peoples health and safety are at risk, regulation is the only answer. Only regulation can prevent unqualified individuals from practicing before the public where health and safety is concerned.

    2 years ago
  20. As per the moderator’s instructions that this tread and one other will be viewed pertaining to the issue, I am reiterating my comments from a previous thread.

    Describe your experience with this regulation.: I am a geologist with 18 years of professional experience and have been a PG since inception here in TX. I am also licensed in other jurisdictions. I practice in the area of environmental geology in relation to subsurface investigations. When I first moved to Texas, I was troubled that no licensing board existed for geoscientists. Many other jurisdictions require such licensing and I have seen firsthand the necessary requirement to do so due to cases of unqualified professionals practicing the profession and causing ill effects to the public, specifically in the contamination of groundwater.

    How does this regulation serve the public?: I completely concur with statements that “Licensing of geoscientists employed in jobs that affect the public encourages a better work product and good professional ethics. It helps reduce the possibility of errors that cause loss of life or property, lowers the cost of repeating incorrect and incomplete work,” as I mentioned above in the case of groundwater contamination that I have witnessed firsthand with respect to unqualified persons practicing geology. The regulations ensure continuing education of the professional and that a code of ethics is followed.

    Is there an alternative way to achieve the statute's purpose?:No. Similar to licensing of PEs and as mentioned by others, “The statute and TBPG are modeled on well-established and successful licensing programs for geologists and engineers in many other states.” If there were another way, other professions around the world, like PEs, would do so.

    2 years ago

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