AIPG Members and fellow Alaskan Geologists,
As many of you are aware, the State of Alaska’s Board of Architects, Engineers, and Land Surveyors (AELS) is investigating the possibility of incorporating the licensing of geologists into AELS statutes and regulations in response to concerns geologists are conducting the work of mining engineers. Furthermore, the State is proposing to recognize new branches of engineering and redefining some existing branches. These actions may place legal limits on our profession and the way we practice. Without a clear definition of geology and the various areas of practice, geologists may be at risk of being issued a notice of violation for practicing engineering. Without some definition of the practice of geology in the state regulations, geologists would have little basis for appeal.
Currently, Alaskan geologists are issued licenses under the centralized licensing statutes and regulations (AS 08.01-08.03; 12 AAC 02); however, there is no license requirement to practice geology in Alaska — anyone can call themselves a geologist. There is no explicit definition of “geology” or the “practice of geology” in the Alaskan statutes. Other states have established definitions of “geology” and the “practice of geology” in their statutes. It may be time to consider requiring a license to practice geology in Alaska to protect the integrity of our profession.
The “practice of engineering” is defined in the Alaskan statutes (AS 08.48; 12 AAC 36); the AELS is in the process of further subdividing their disciplines. According to AELs regulations, “Mining engineering means that branch of professional engineering which embraces studies or activities relating to the exploration, location, and recovery of mineral commodities; it is concerned with research, design, construction, and development of structures, devices, and facilities of production and the economic aspects related to these studies and activities.” This is a broad definition overlapping with geology. Other states (33) have statutes and regulations to define overlapping areas of practice and several states have reached memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between geologists and engineers, establishing procedures to reconcile issues related to overlapping areas of practice.
Another area of practice where there may be overlap is in the newly defined branch of environmental engineering, which lists environmental site assessments as an area of engineering practice. This broad definition may be interpreted to preclude geologists from this area of practice. The State of Alaska recognizes, through regulation (18 AAC 75 and 18 AAC 78) professionals other than engineers are qualified to conduct environmental assessment and remediation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also recognizes professional engineers and professional geologists as being equally qualified to conduct environmental site assessments.
The Alaska Section of the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) will offer our webpage (www.aipgalaska.org) to facilitate a discussion among the geologic community in Alaska. This is a subject that will not be settled overnight. Please use this website as a forum to discuss this complex issue. We are in the process of compiling background information to provide facts for our discussions; and will post the documents on the downloads page. For details regarding the AELS actions, review the AELS November 2008 meeting minutes [page 4], in which the special AELS subcommittee on geologist licensure was established, and the AELS May 2010 meeting minutes [page 90] for recent discussions (http://www.commerce.state.ak.us/occ/pael20.htm) .
Feel free to login and leave a comment or drop me an e-mail. We will be scheduling meetings in Fairbanks and Anchorage to discuss this topic. I hope to hear from you soon.
Mark Lockwood, C.P.G. AIPG Alaska Section President