After more than a decade of effort, five
attempts and two near misses in the state legislature, Texas has
become the 26th state to require licensure of professional geologists.
With active support of several professional geological
organizations -- including testimony from an AAPG representative
-- Senate Bill 405 cleared the Senate, 29-2, on Feb. 22, and passed
in the House of Representatives by voice vote on April 26.
Gov. Rick Perry was expected to sign the bill into
law in early May, with a formal signing ceremony tentatively scheduled
for June, according to Rick Ericksen, chairman of AAPG's Division
of Professional Affairs Committee on State Licensing and Registration.
Ericksen and other professionals testified in support
of the legislature before Senate and House committees prior to passage.
The licensure effort had grassroots support among
AAPG members as well as formal encouragement. In addition to Ericksen's
testimony, AAPG provided a position paper by the DPA Governmental
Ericksen said the law is important to AAPG members,
noting that about one-third of the organization's 30,000+ members
reside in Texas.
The law covers the "public practice" of geology,
where some of a geologist's decisions may affect the health, safety
and welfare of the public, environment or engineered works.
While petroleum and mining geologists are exempt
from the requirements, Ericksen said that in other licensing-registering
states, most AAPG members choose to pursue licensure or registration.
In Mississippi, where registration has been required since 1997
and Ericksen is executive director of the Mississippi State Board
of Registered Professional Geologists, the rate has been about 95
percent, he said.
The main reason for this is that in the course of
their careers, petroleum geologists often find themselves practicing
in areas covered by the licensing requirements.
For example, as petroleum companies become leaner,
exploration and exploitation geologists may be called on to handle
environmental remediation or similar practices, he said.
Also, some states currently may disallow the exemption
for explorationists while others may disallow this exemption in
the future. And while AAPG maintains that exploration geology does
not constitute "public practice," heightened public awareness and
concern about environmental issues may put more pressure on this
area in the future, Ericksen said.
The Texas law covers areas of ground water, waste
disposal, land development, environmental and coastal zone management,
The new law becomes effective Sept. 1.
A "grandfather clause" will allow practicing geologists
until Sept. 1, 2003, to acquire licensure without testing by demonstrating
sufficient levels of both education and professional experience,
After that, new licensees will have to pass examinations
administered by a board created by the law.
Ericksen said most licensing states use exams developed
by the National Association of State Boards of Geology. The two-tiered
process usually includes an initial exam on fundamentals of geology,
which qualifies scientists just entering the field to become "geologists-in-training."
A second exam covers practices of geology and usually
requires some years of professional experience, Ericksen said.
Opposition in the past usually has come from related
professions, such as engineering, whose practitioners sometimes
are asked to perform geotechnical chores, he said.
The Texas lobbying effort included acquiring support
from various earth science organizations and "non-opposition" from
engineering groups, he said.
The law does not regulate the engineering profession.
That model is being followed in other states where licensure is
being pursued, including New York, Colorado and Utah, Ericksen said.
The Texas law is modeled on the 1993 Suggested Geologist's
Practice Act, crafted by the Council of Professional Geological
Organizations with AAPG's participation.
Ericksen said that if the current rate of progress
continues, 40 states will require licensing by 2010, and all 50
will do so by 2017.