HomeTop StoriesCertification rules for Virginia geologists, which help reduce environmental hazards, are changing

Certification rules for Virginia geologists, which help reduce environmental hazards, are changing

The board of professional soil scientists, wetland professionals and geologists discusses the reduction in certification for geologists. (Charlie Paullin/Virginia Mercury)

As part of a request from the Republican government. Glenn YoungkinVirginia’s Professional Certification Agency has scaled back regulations on geologists seeking to enforce workers in that field.

The Appeals Council on Tuesday Soil scientists, wetland professionals and geologists approved regulatory reductions for voluntary certification of professional geologists under Youngkin’s Executive Order 19, intended to reduce “discretionary” regulatory requirements for job certifications by 25%.

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Geologist Certification

The term discretionary regulations refers to existing rules that go beyond what the law that created them requires.

The latest reductions came after the board proposed changes August as part of a Notice of Intended Regulatory Action, or NOIRA, which included a review by Youngkin’s office and administration, in addition to a public comment period that received no responses.

The changes to the certification regulations for geologists have been made as discounts for professionals marshland Delineators and several other certifications have been considered, with workers in those specialties expressing concerns about a weakening of standards for properly performing their duties.

“The changes made to the regulations largely eliminate redundancy,” Drew Thomas, a geologist and chairman of the board, said after the meeting. ‘If it’s in the [law] it does not necessarily need to be repeated [in regulation]. That’s the flavor of the changes so far.”

Geologists study the materials and processes of the Earth. In Virginia, the work requires a wide range of knowledge to address how to build landfills that don’t leak liquids into groundwater, and how to build railroads in more rocky hillside terrain.

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“The last thing you want is for a really big boulder to roll away… crushing your car,” Thomas said.

After Youngkin’s office requested that specific requirements for science and geology education be reinserted into the ordinance, the board considered some final reductions at its meeting Tuesday, including eliminating the certification requirement for geologists in training. Thomas opposed the change, saying that earning that specific award helps employees get promoted in their field.

Another recommendation from the agency was not to allow geologists to place a stamp on development plans, but Michael Lawless, another board member and geologist, stated that landfill programs require the stamp on plans that include location criteria and geological features.

Board Director Kate R. Nosbisch, who initially proposed the reduction, agreed to keep the seal language after recognizing that if geologists cannot seal the plans, an outside engineer should be found to do so.

Another change the board approved was removing detailed language about how a professional whose certification has been revoked can reapply for certification. Thomas said it might be helpful to spell out the process explicitly in the regulations, but Stephen Kirschner, deputy director for licensing and regulations, explained that it’s rare to see that language in detail.

“The process is the same for everyone,” Kirschner said, with people able to appeal the revocation or reapply.

The board also agreed to remove multiple mentions of requirements for educational transcripts so that only one mention is made that a transcript is needed.

“It seems logical to me,” Thomas said during the meeting.

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The board was preparing to cut 4% of discretionary regulations, but that will likely “increase slightly” as a result of the latest changes adopted Tuesday, said Joseph Haughwout, regulatory affairs manager at the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation ( DPOR).

Youngkin’s executive order does not specify what will happen if the 25% goal is not met.

When asked about the consequences if regulatory reductions do not meet that goal, Youngkin press secretary Christian Martinez did not respond directly.

“Before implementing any regulatory change, agencies must ensure that the benefits of the change outweigh the costs while maintaining essential protections for public health, safety, and welfare,” Martinez wrote.

John Robertson, a spokesman for the Department of Professional and Occupation Regulation, said the board members are the experts in their field and “ensure that individuals who enter or wish to enter these professions are suitably qualified… with the fewest possible barriers to protection of the public.”

Robertson also emphasized that the regulatory revisions must be “discussed in full view of the public” to ensure the process is “transparent at every step and open to public feedback.”

A failed 2023 account by Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Westmoreland, sought to eliminate regulatory requirements for several voluntary professional certifications after DPOR said they were not necessary to protect public health and safety, a Virginia requirement law to regulate a profession.

Several members of the professions that Stuart sought to deregulate — including geologists, interior designers and auctioneers — opposed the bill, saying removing the certifications would hinder those industries’ ability to operate.

This year, a bill by Del. codified. Bill Wiley, R-Winchester, and Sen. Aaron Rouse, D-Virginia Beach, expanded the definition of geologists in state law by stating that the “practice of geology” includes working to “protect the health, safety and welfare of the public and the environment.”

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The Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists, of which Thomas is a member, said in a rack on the passage of this year’s bill: ‘We are grateful for that [the] The Governor has responded positively to this legislation, and we are incredibly grateful to our patrons for their hard work on this issue.”

Wetlands delineations

Later during Tuesday’s meeting, professional wetland delineator Robin Bedenbaugh presented the scope of his work to the board. The role has a voluntary certification scheme which is also undergoing some of the reduction assessments proposed in April, similar to what the geologist certification has just received. In one example, Bedenbaugh showed two areas of wetlands initially identified during a drier season on a Richmond-area property that were later determined after a second assessment to be larger, and on which houses were built.

In response to a developer’s question about what would happen to those homes, Bedenbaugh responded, “Well, there hasn’t been any groundwater there for the last three winters, but when we get to a normal, wetter year, their yards will be saturated. soil and they will grow mold in their crawl spaces. He wasn’t really happy to hear that.”

This situation shows why experienced professional wetland delineators are crucial, Bedenbaugh said. “We really care. We want to facilitate responsible development.”

The post Certification Rules for Virginia Geologists to Help Reduce Environmental Hazards first appeared on Virginia Mercury.

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