Government Update - March, 2005

Government Updateby Henry M. Wise, P.G. and Arlin Howles, P.G.PE Board Water Quality Planning Stakeholders MeetingThe stakeholders meeting on the proposed Texas Board of Professional Engineers (TBPE) Policy Advisory Statement on water quality planning was held on January 11, 2005 and was heavily attended by approximately 30 people.  The TBPE had also received a large number of written statements, including one from the HGS Board of Directors.  With the large stakeholder response, the TBPE will rewrite the policy opinion and hold another stakeholders meeting in February.  See the separate article for a more in-depth review by Arlin Howes.From the Texas Register The January 7, 2005 Texas Register contains an opinion that may be relevant to the use of the Professional Geoscientist Seal.  The question was whether the seal of a professional engineer licensed in Texas may be placed on engineering plans, specifications, and other documents relating to projects not to be constructed in Texas (RQ-0244-GA).  The opinion’s summary states, “A professional engineer licensed in Texas must place his seal on engineering plans, specifications, plats, and reports prepared under authority of his Texas license, even if the project will not be constructed in Texas.  Whether documents prepared and sealed by an engineer under authority of his Texas license may legally be used for construction in another state or country depends upon the laws of that jurisdiction.”TCEQ Applications for Air Permit by RuleThe Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) now provides a new service for facilities applying for an air authorization under a Permit by Rule (such as used for permitting soil vapor extraction equipment).  Applicants can now complete the PI-7 form on-line and submit it, along with a Core Data Form, checklists, and other supporting documents.  The signature line has been removed from the form PI-7 to accommodate electronic submittals of the form.  These forms can be found on their Website. DOI Estimates More Natural Gas ReservesThe Minerals Management Service (MMS) announced an interim update of offshore energy resources that estimates undiscovered technically recoverable offshore gas resources at 406.1 trillion cubic feet.  This mean estimate for 2003 is 12 percent higher than MMS''s 2000 national assessment of 362.2 tcf.MMS releases the broad national assessments every five years, while offering the interim updates "in response to significant information obtained from new exploration and development activity, and on occasion to incorporate major improvements in methodology and modeling."Gas resources in the Gulf of Mexico account for much of the increase, with the new interim update showing total Gulf reserves at 232.5 tcf, compared to roughly 192 tcf in the 2000 national assessment.  Increased estimates of so-called deep shelf recoverable resources, which are gas reserves more than 15,000 feet below the sea floor, contributed to the new estimates, according to MMS.In other news, the interim update and information provided by MMS shows a 1 percent increase in offshore oil resources, to 76 billion barrels.  That includes a jump of 1.2 billion barrels of estimated resources in the Atlantic Ocean based on the information gained from recent Canadian drilling, bringing the Atlantic total to 3.5 Bbbl.Other areas were nearly unchanged, with the Gulf and Pacific Ocean mean oil estimate slightly lower, while the Alaska estimate was a tad higher.  The assessment cautions that some resources were not included in the new estimate because the figures take into account 2 billion barrels of oil and 8 tcf of gas that "were discovered and moved to the reserves category during this time period."  The interim update does not address what portion of the reserves are currently commercially viable to extract.  The update is available online.  Education/Evolution UpdatePennsylvaniaOn December 14, eleven parents from Dover, Pennsylvania, represented by the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and attorneys from Pepper Hamilton LLP, filed suit in federal court to overturn the "intelligent design" policy of the Dover Area School Board.  The plaintiffs in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District argue that teaching intelligent design, which consists of creationist criticisms of evolution that are supposed to lead to the conclusion that supernatural intervention by an "intelligent designer" must have been responsible for the history of life, is government establishment of religion when taught as science in a public school science class.  Vic Walczak, attorney for the Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU, said that "Teaching students about religion''s role in world history and culture is proper, but disguising a particular religious belief as science is not," at the press conference announcing the suit.  He added, "Intelligent design is a Trojan Horse for bringing religious creationism back into public school science classes."Reaction to the complaint was swift.  A trenchant editorial in the York Dispatch began by observing, "The intelligent design/creationist clique on the Dover Area School Board now have the national media attention they''ve been angling for -- and so much for their mandated responsibilities to the students and district residents," and went on pointedly to describe the procedure for running for school board. Angie Yingling, a member of the Dover Area School Board who initially voted for the policy but later reversed her position and threatened to resign over the policy, told the Associated Press, "Anyone with half a brain should have known we were going to be sued."  The Discovery Institute issued a press release calling on the board to withdraw and rewrite its policy. But Richard Thompson, an attorney for the Thomas More Law Center, which describes itself as a "not-for-profit public interest law firm dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life," indicated that his firm would represent the Dover Area School District to defend the "intelligent design" policy.  Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, Thompson acknowledged that "religious implications" of "intelligent design," but expressed confidence in the prospects for a legal victory.  NCSE''s Nicholas Matzke took a different view, saying, "Evolution is great science and this intelligent design stuff is religiously motivated pseudo-science," adding, "it seems like a pretty clear-cut case to us."

HGS Bulletin - March, 2005
Monday, February 28, 2005
Government Update