NTSB report on gas explosion emphasizes role of engineering licensure in public protection

The release of the National Transportation Safety Board’s report, Natural Gas Distribution System Project Development and Review, highlights the important protections that licensed professional engineers (P.E.s) provide the U.S. public. In this report, NTSB issued several recommendations concerning professional engineering licensure requirements. With its focus on competency and ethics, licensure is an essential safeguard for the public, and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) supports the NTSB recommendations as necessary steps for public protection.

The safety recommendation report was issued on November 14, 2018, in response to a series of explosions and fires on September 13, 2018, in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts. These explosions and fires followed the release of high-pressure natural gas into a low-pressure gas distribution system. They resulted in damage to 131 structures, including the destruction of at least five homes. One individual was killed, and at least 28 others were injured.

Among other findings, the NTSB report concludes that the gas company would probably have identified the omission of regulator-sensing lines—thereby preventing the error that led to this accident—if the company had performed a comprehensive constructability review that required all departments to review the project plans and had a P.E. approve, or seal, the plans. In sealing such plans, a professional engineer takes responsibility for their accuracy and completeness. The report notes that the company field engineer was not a licensed P.E. and that neither state law nor company policy required a licensed P.E. to develop or review engineering plans for public utilities.

In relation to professional engineering licensure, the NTSB report specifically recommends that Massachusetts eliminate the P.E. license exemption for public utility work and require a P.E. seal on engineering drawings for public utility projects. It further recommends that the gas company revise its engineering plan review process to ensure that a P.E. seals plans before work begins. The NTSB recommendations concerning P.E. licensure requirements are changes that would protect the public, and NCEES hopes that all the proper steps are taken to ensure that these recommendations are addressed.

Massachusetts is not alone in allowing license exemptions for certain groups of engineers. Each U.S. state and territory sets its own licensing laws, and the majority have some type of exemption, including those for engineers working in industrial, manufacturing, public utility, and transportation settings. Some federal agencies also have P.E. license exemptions for federal engineering projects. NCEES encourages other U.S. states, as well as federal agencies, to review this report and consider its recommendations for their own jurisdictions to avoid similar tragedies.

Professional licensing has one purpose: public protection. P.E.s must meet education and experience requirements and pass the required exams to establish that they can practice engineering without endangering the public. To maintain a license, a P.E. must adhere to a strict code of conduct, with the primary charge being to practice the profession in a manner that protects the health, safety, and welfare of the public. A professional engineer who violates this obligation—either through incompetence or unethical actions—is subject to losing his or her license.

While we cannot go back and prevent what has already happened, we can work to ensure that proper steps are taken to prevent similar accidents. Public utilities is one of the many areas in which professional engineers can be called on to ensure that business activities adequately protect public welfare. As an organization committed to advancing licensure for engineers and surveyors, NCEES and its member licensing boards from all U.S. states and territories continue to focus on the fundamental goal of safeguarding the public. NCEES commends NTSB for taking this position to protect the U.S. public from incompetent or unethical practices.

James J. Purcell, P.E.
NCEES President

B. David Cox
NCEES Chief Executive Officer

Download the NCEES news release (PDF).
Read the NTSB safety recommendation report (PSR1802).

For more information

B. David Cox
NCEES Chief Executive Officer

October 2018 Licensure Exchange

Read the latest issue of Licensure Exchange, the NCEES publication dedicated to opinions and ideas regarding the licensure of engineers and surveyors.

  • Delegates debate the issues at 97th NCEES annual meeting
  • Purcell accepts presidency, outlines vision for year ahead
  • Mentoring new MBAs is everyone’s responsibility
  • NCEES recognizes distinguished service
  • Nominations open for NCEES service awards
  • Exam News: PE Nuclear exam completes move to computer-based testing
  • Enforcement Beat: Being ethically responsible to the profession
  • HQ Update: Cox named CEO of NCEES
  • Upcoming events, member board news, and NCEES outreach
  • NCEES installs 2018–19 board of directors

Download the October 2018 issue (PDF).

Browse the Licensure Exchange archives.

Cox named CEO of NCEES

The board of directors of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) named B. David Cox chief executive officer, effective October 1, 2018. The announcement was made on August 16 during the opening business session of the organization’s 97th annual meeting.

As CEO, Cox will serve as secretary of the NCEES corporation and as chief employed officer of the Council, with authority over its daily operations.

Cox is currently the executive director of the Kentucky State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, a position he has held since 2001. During this time, he was also active in the work of NCEES. He served 10 terms on the organization’s Committee on Finances, including two as chair. He also served as a member of the Committee on Member Board Administrators, the Advisory Committee on Council Activities, the Governance Task Force, and the Licensure Qualifications Oversight Group. In 2014, NCEES awarded him the Meritorious Service Award in recognition of his contributions to the organization and the professions of engineering and surveying.

Cox holds a bachelor of science degree in accounting from the University of Kentucky and is licensed as a certified public accountant in Kentucky.

Cox replaces Jerry Carter, who is retiring after serving 11 years as CEO of the organization. The board of directors has named Carter chief executive officer emeritus in honor of his dedicated service, and he will continue to assist with NCEES initiatives as needed.

“The board of directors expects the threats to licensure across the country to continue and feels that NCEES needs a CEO with David Cox’s knowledge and experience in dealing with legislatures,” said 2017–18 President Patrick Tami, P.L.S. “We feel confident that the future trajectory of NCEES, with the addition of David to our excellent staff, is on course to effectively advance licensure for engineers and surveyors.”

Download the news release (PDF) | Photo (JPEG)

For more information

Nina Norris
Director of Public Affairs

Purcell begins term as NCEES president

James Purcell, P.E., began his term as 2018–19 NCEES president at the conclusion of the organization’s annual meeting, held August 15–18 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

A resident of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, Purcell has been a member of the New Jersey State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors since 2005 and is a past board chair. He replaces outgoing president Patrick Tami, P.L.S., of California, who will remain on the NCEES board of directors as immediate past president.

Also during the annual meeting, NCEES members elected Dean Ringle, P.E., P.S., president-elect for the 2018–19 term.

NCEES welcomed Brian Robertson, P.E., of Colorado, and Marlon Vogt, P.E., of Iowa, to its board of directors as well. Robertson and Vogt will serve two-year terms as vice presidents of the Western Zone and Central Zone, respectively.

Rounding out the board of directors are three members serving the second year of their terms: Timothy Rickborn, P.E., of South Carolina, returns as treasurer for 2017–20; Christopher Knotts, P.E., of Louisiana, returns as Southern Zone vice president; and Paul Tyrell, P.E., P.L.S., of Massachusetts, continues as Northeast Zone vice president.

News release downloads

2018-19 NCEES board of directors (PDF)
Jim Purcell, P.E. (PDF) | Photo (JPEG)
Dean Ringle, P.E., P.S. (PDF) | Photo (JPEG)
Brian Robertson, P.E. (PDF) | Photo (JPEG)
Marlon Vogt, P.E. (PDF) Photo (JPG)

NCEES recognizes long-standing service

NCEES recently honored several individuals for their dedicated service to the organization and the engineering and surveying professions. The 2018 NCEES service award winners are:

  • Roy Entz, P.E., P.L.S., emeritus member of the Oklahoma State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, who received the Distinguished Examination Service Award
  • Edwin Huston, P.E., S.E., of Washington, who received the Distinguished Examination Service Award
  • Dennis Truax, Ph.D., P.E., member of the Mississippi Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Surveyors, who received the Distinguished Service Award
  • Bill Dickerson, P.E., emeritus member of the Oklahoma State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, who received the President’s Award
  • Jerry Carter, NCEES chief executive officer, who received the President’s Award
    The winners were honored at the NCEES annual meeting, held August 15–18, 2018, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Learn more about the service award winners.

News release downloads

  • 2017–18 NCEES service award winners (PDF)
  • Roy Entz, P.E., P.L.S. (PDF) | Photo (JPEG)
    Caption: Roy Entz, P.E., P.L.S., (right) receives the NCEES Distinguished Examination Service Award from 2017–18 NCEES President Patrick Tami, P.L.S.
  • Edwin Huston, P.E., S.E. (PDF) | Photo (JPEG)
    Caption: Edwin Huston, P.E., S.E., (right) receives the NCEES Distinguished Service Award from 2017–18 NCEES President Patrick Tami, P.L.S.
  • Dennis Truax, Ph.D., P.E. (PDF) | Photo (JPEG)
    Caption: Dennis Truax, Ph.D., P.E., (right) receives the NCEES Distinguished Service Award from 2017–18 NCEES President Patrick Tami, P.L.S.
  • Bill Dickerson, P.E. (PDF) | Photo (JPEG)
    Caption: Bill Dickerson, P.E., (right) receives the NCEES President’s Award from 2017–18 NCEES President Patrick Tami, P.L.S.

August 2018 Licensure Exchange

Read the latest issue of Licensure Exchange, the NCEES publication dedicated to opinions and ideas regarding the licensure of engineers and surveyors.

  • From the President: Ethics are key part of mission to safeguard public
  • HQ Update: Coming to the end of an unexpected career path
  • Officer Q&A: Nominee for president-elect and incoming vice presidents discuss vision for NCEES
  • Member Board Brief: Annual meeting professional development for MBAs brings focus on enforcement
  • Enforcement Beat: Enforcement—Another tool in the struggle against threats to licensure
  • N.C. State University wins 2018 NCEES Engineering Education Award
  • University of Akron receives NCEES Surveying Education Award $25,000 grand prize
  • Getting to know the annual meeting consent agenda
  • Member board news and upcoming events
  • NCEES app returns to help users navigate annual meeting

Download the August 2018 issue (PDF).

Browse the Licensure Exchange archives.

Winners of 2018 NCEES Surveying Education Award announced

University of Akron receives $25,000 grand prize

NCEES is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2018 NCEES Surveying Education Award. This annual award recognizes surveying programs that best reflect the organization’s mission to advance licensure for surveyors in order to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

NCEES awarded the University of Akron’s Surveying and Mapping program the $25,000 grand prize. Six additional prizes were awarded to qualifying programs to assist with each program’s continued efforts to promote the importance and value of surveying licensure. The award jury considered criteria such as student outcomes and involvement, outreach and recruitment, and the promotion of licensure. The award jury met June 28, 2018, in Clemson, South Carolina, to select the winners.

NCEES Surveying Education Award juror Glen Thurow, P.S, stated, “The University of Akron’s three-pronged approach to program growth is to invest in technology, scholarship support, and strategic marketing. This is an excellent example of how to position an institution for the future.”

The jury selected six programs to receive the following awards:

$15,000 winners
Idaho State University College of Technology Surveying and Geomatics Engineering Technology program

Oregon Institute of Technology College of Engineering, Technology, and Management Geomatics program

University of Maine
College of Engineering Surveying Engineering Technology program

$10,000 winners
Central New Mexico Community College School of Applied Technologies Surveying Engineering program

East Tennessee State University Department of Engineering, Engineering Technology, and Surveying Surveying and Mapping Science program

Troy University College of Arts and Sciences Surveying and Geomatics Sciences program

More information about the 2019 NCEES Surveying Education Award cycle will be posted at ncees.org/surveyingaward when available.

Download the news release (PDF).

N.C. State University wins 2018 NCEES Engineering Education Award

Biomedical engineering department takes $25,000 grand prize for pediatric brain surgery project

NCEES is pleased to announce that North Carolina State University is the grand prize winner of the 2018 NCEES Engineering Education Award. The university received the award for a project completed by the UNC/NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering. The award jury met June 5, 2018, in Clemson, South Carolina, to select the $25,000 grand prize winner.

For the department’s project, Enabling Pediatric Brain Surgery through Head Stabilization, biomedical engineering students collaborated with clinicians and engineering professionals to design a device that allows for complete skull immobilization for pediatric patients during neurosurgery. This innovation allows for the use of neuronavigation technology, opening new possibilities for treatment in pediatric neurosurgery.

The jury praised the project for identifying a problem in need of a solution and for collaborating with biomedical engineering professionals and medical professionals.

The jury selected seven additional winners to receive awards of $10,000 each:

  • Miami University
    Department of Chemical, Paper, and Biomedical Engineering
    Design and Implementation of a Community-Driven Water System in a Rural African Village
  • Seattle University
    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Load Rating and Repair Options for Bridge Connecting Dam and Intake Structure
  • Seattle University
    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Replacement Design of a Culvert to Allow for Fish Passage
  • University of Minnesota Twin Cities
    Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering
    Multistage Drip Irrigation System in Ethiopia
  • University of Nebraska–Lincoln
    Charles W. Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction
    Children’s Hospital and Medical Center Expansion
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison
    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Interlake Lock and Boat Transfer
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison
    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Law Park Revitalization

The NCEES Engineering Education Award recognizes engineering programs that encourage collaboration between students and professional engineers. EAC/ABET-accredited programs from all engineering disciplines were invited to submit projects that integrated professional practice and education.

A jury of NCEES members and representatives from academic institutions and professional engineering organizations selected the winners from the 97 entries. The jury members considered criteria such as

  • Successful collaboration of faculty, students, and licensed professional engineers
  • Protection of public health, safety, and/or welfare of the public
  • Multidiscipline and/or allied profession participation
  • Knowledge or skills gained
  • Effectiveness of display board, abstract, and project description

Profiles of the winning submissions are available online at ncees.org/award.

Download the news release (PDF).

June 2018 Licensure Exchange

Read the latest issue of Licensure Exchange, the NCEES publication dedicated to opinions and ideas regarding the licensure of engineers and surveyors.

  • Committee Focus: UPLG maintains model documents to help boards safeguard public
  • Committee Focus: ACCA considers role of emeritus members
  • From the President: Council continues to focus on cooperation among licensing boards
  • Enforcement Beat: Investigative procedures—It’s in there
  • Member Board Brief: MBA Committee addresses charges for 2017–18
  • HQ Update: Potential changes to NCEES facility
  • Exam News: NCEES seeks volunteers for FE and FS content reviews
  • Member board news, upcoming events, and NCEES outreach
  • NCEES annual meeting registration open online until July.

Download the June 2018 issue (PDF).

Browse the Licensure Exchange archives.

Update on April 2018 exam results

All results from the April 2018 pencil-and-paper engineering exams have been released to NCEES member licensing boards. PE exam results were released on May 24. SE exam results were released on June 14. How and when examinees receive their results vary by state. Some boards use NCEES Exam Administration Services to release the results directly to examinees. Some release them through another testing service such as PCS. Other boards release the results themselves. In addition, some state boards validate the results at a board meeting before they can release them to examinees.

To find out how you will receive your result, select your state (or foreign entity) and exam from the engineering webpage.

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