Texas Signs New Law: Geologists'' Work Must Be Approved . . .. . . by Engineers

On March 7, 2000, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) held a public meeting in Austin on the proposed new 30 TAC Chapter 230. Three members of the HGS Environmental and Engineering committee, Glenn Lowenstein (chairman), Arlin Howles, and Henry Wise, were among those who attended. The public meeting was conducted to receive testimony for and against the new law regarding Groundwater Availability Certification for Platting. The proposed rules to implement this law, Senate Bill (SB) 1323, were posted in the February 11, 2000 Texas Register (25 TexReg 1028 to 1140 and 1164 to 1166.) You can view them on the internet at http://www.sos.state.tx.us/texreg/curris.html. OK, so what does this have to do with me, you may ask? The answer is: everything. Bruce Darling, president of the AIPG, has called this new law, "the most offensive piece of legislation I have ever seen in my life." The new law requires that certification of adequate groundwater supplies to a subdivision must be prepared by a Texas licensed professional engineer (PE). Information that must be included in the study includes projected water demand, groundwater resource information, aquifer testing, lithologic and geophysical logs, and determination of groundwater quality and availability. Reviewing the new section's language reveals such words as aquifer, lithology, strata, and structure, to name a few. Words missing are geologist, geology, hydrogeologist, and design. What this means, essentially, is that all new subdivisions that require water wells need to have all of this work performed by a professional engineer. Geologists, hydrogeologists, and other groundwater professionals are excluded. The TNRCC has said that the reason for this is to provide accountability. PEs are accountable because they are licensed. If they make a mistake, they can lose their license. Geologists, hydrogeologists, etc. aren't licensed and therefore aren't accountable. What does this mean for the future? In Houston, where there are municipal utility districts (MUDs), and in other areas of Texas that are within designated priority groundwater management areas, nothing yet. However, this law sets a very dangerous precedent. It excludes those people with the most expertise and who traditionally performed this type of work, geologists, hydrogeologists, and other groundwater professionals. This is only the beginning of a slow erosion of the geological profession and is the direct result of our inability to get a geologist registration law passed. We have only ourselves to blame. It will be another year and a half before the Texas legislature meets again. This time, get involved. Write to your representative and senator when the time comes. Take a day off from work to show your support when the Geological Registration bill comes up. The time has come when we must have registration of geologists, or look forward to playing a technician's role in the environmental and groundwater fields, and remain underemployed and undercompensated (or even unemployed). PostScript While Texas Representative Joe Nixon was able to send a letter to the TNRCC in support of tabling SB 1323, Senator Wentworth did not. The Senator claimed it would not make a difference since the bill had already become law. However, his office has promised to support a bill for the registration of geologists so that the exclusion of geologists in this type of service may never happen again. Now is time to gather the troops to support such a bill. We look forward to your help.

Houston Geological Society
Monday, May 1, 2000
Government Update