In late September, the Division of Professional Affairs, through past president Rick Ericksen, was contacted by the California Association of Professional Geologists (CAPG), which is seeking support to block a move by the state of California to eliminate the Board of Professional Geologists and Geophysicists (BGG) and merge it into the Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (BPELS).
Even though the BGG is self-supporting through dues, this cost-saving effort is an attempt by the cash-strapped state to consolidate boards and capture revenue to the state coffers. The merge leaves licensed geologists and geophysicists subject to a review board without representation, as this action did not require any change to the structure of the BPELS.
The following quote is from the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists Southern California Section:
“... The BGG has been eliminated effective October 23, 2009, and its responsibilities transferred to the engineer’s board, BPELS. This action was taken by legislators under pressure to reach a budget compromise. Unfortunately, the action had no impact whatsoever on the budget, and the BGG was abolished suddenly and without due process, eliminating any open, fair and transparent review of the potential consequences. Existing law that carefully and deliberately outlines the specific measures and the timetable necessary for the elimination of boards and commissions was ignored entirely.”
The CAPG filed a lawsuit attempting to block the action through an injunction and sought the support of professional organizations. The DPA filed a “declaration of support” of this application for injunction, and the AAPG Executive Committee, upon review, filed a similar declaration. Both also have agreed to provide financial support of this initiative.
The following was taken from the BPELS Web site:
“Legislation enacted during the 4th Extraordinary Session of 2009 eliminated the Board for Geologists and Geophysicists and transferred all of the duties, powers, purposes, responsibilities and jurisdiction to regulate the practices of geology and geophysics to the Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. The transfer of authority became effective October 23, 2009.
The Geologist and Geophysicist Act … and the Rules and Regulations pertaining to the practices of geology and geophysics ... remain in effect. The practices of geology and geophysics are still regulated. Individuals must still obtain licensure and practice in accordance with the laws and professional standards relating to geology and geophysics. The only change is that the Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors will now be enforcing those laws.”
The BGG was created in 1968 and the DPA was formed in 1967. The Geologist Suggested Practice Act did not come into existence until 1993, and that act states that all petroleum geologists “are suggested to be exempt from licensure/registration”; the California legislation exempts only those petroleum geologists and geophysicists who work for companies – if they are in public practice they must be registered; the Texas licensure law for geoscientists that was endorsed by both the DPA and AAPG, exempts those geoscientists who work for petroleum companies, but like California, Texas requires those in public practice to be licensed.
California’s action to abolish the BGG without due process should be a concern to all geologists, regardless of your opinion on licensing. Subjecting geologists to review by a non-geological board diminishes the profession of geology.
Would they make CPAs subject to review by the lawyer’s State Bar?
In fact, the BGG is the only board that was merged into another board, and the anticipated budget savings are basically non-existent. The BPELS will preside over any geological or geophysical review, but may not, and does not have to have, the expertise on the board to make a qualified scientific decision. Each of us needs to ask ourselves if this smacks of “taxation without representation,” or in this case, “licensure without representation?” A violation of state law carries potential criminal liability, yet those presiding may not have to have geological expertise.
The DPA will continue to actively monitor and inform the membership on California’s activities.
Paul W. Britt is DPA President, 2009-10.
The Division of Professional Affairs (DPA), a division of AAPG, seeks to promote professionalism and ethical standards, provide a means for professional certification of petroleum geologists, coal geologists, and petroleum geophysicists, assist in career planning, and improve the professional well-being of AAPG members. For more information about the DPA and its activities, visit the DPA Web site.