(78e) The California Divide – And Why You Need To Engage Your Legislators | AIChE

(78e) The California Divide – And Why You Need To Engage Your Legislators


Miller, E., Professional Engineer

California is crippled with a great divide which has nothing to do with tectonic plates. California’s professional engineering statute gives civil engineers free reign, allows electrical and mechanical engineers to work in their disciplines so long as that does not conflict with civil engineering, and acknowledges by title that other engineering disciplines do exist.  This division has presented problems for engineers whether they have a professional engineering license or not. Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plans are mandated by federal regulations and such plans are prepared by chemical engineers all over the country, but NOT in California. SPCC plans are part of the exclusive domain of civil engineers. A fire protection engineer was once told he could not design a fire suppression system because that was the exclusive domain of mechanical engineers. A chemical engineer was once told he could not submit a Risk Management Plan (RMP) (required by Cal EPA) without a civil engineer stamp because even the hazard analysis on a facility that uses chemicals is the civil engineer’s domain.  These are just a few examples where engineers are not allowed to work on projects that similarly trained engineers are expected to do in the rest of the country and the rest of the world.

Other engineering disciplines suffer similar problems as chemical engineers. So how do engineers in California navigate this regulatory nightmare? And how do we influence the legislators, board of professional engineers, and others to nudge the statute in the right direction? California’s answer included forming a coalition of professional engineering societies that work together to present a united voice. The California Council of Professional Engineers (CLCPE) not only represents the profession to the legislature, they are a resource for the legislature on technical issues.

This paper will discuss our lessons learned from working with legislators, California’s professional engineering statute and why it is written as it is, and why you need to be engaged in the legislative process. Professional Engineers are entrusted with protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Getting engaged has the benefit of letting legislators understand the impact of their decisions and allows engineers to serve the communities where they live, and provide a safer better community for everyone.


This paper has an Extended Abstract file available; you must purchase the conference proceedings to access it.


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