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Presentation for the
Texas Commission on
Environmental Quality
May 4, 2016
Environmental Trade Fair - Austin, Texas
Wesley McCoy, P.G.
TBPG Enforcement Coordinator
Why license Geoscientists?
To Protect the Public!
TBPG – Brief History
 The Texas Geoscience Practice Act was enacted by the 77th
State Legislature as Senate Bill (SB) 405 in 2001, and is
found under Title 6, Subtitle A, Chapter 1002 of the Texas
Occupations Code
 From September 1, 2001, until August 31, 2003, Board
Members were appointed, the agency was set up, and a
grandfathering period for licensees was initiated
 On September 1, 2003, the Act became fully effective and
grandfathering of licensees ended.
License Required for Public Practice of
Geoscience (TGPA Sec. 1002.251)
License Disciplines:
- Soils Science
- Geophysics
- Geology
Discipline Examinations
 Soils Science = Council of Soil Science Examiners
Examination (CSSE)
 Geophysics = Texas Geophysics Examination
 Geology = National Association of State Boards of
Geology Examination (ASBOG)
Geoscientist-in-Training Program
 Geoscience Practice Act §1002.352
(eff. September 1, 2009)
 Geoscientist-in-Training Qualifications:
 Educational requirement (30 semester hours)
 Pass any of the following exams:
Fundamentals Examination -
 CSSE Fundamentals Examination - soil
science, or;
 Texas Geophysics Examination- geophysics
Firm Registration
TBPG Rule §851.30
 A Firm or Corporation engaging in the public practice of
geoscience must be registered
 Geoscientific work must be performed by, or be under the
supervision, of a Professional Geoscientist
 Does not apply to unincorporated sole proprietors or
engineering firms that perform service or work that is both
engineering and geoscience (See TBPG/TBPE MOU)
TBPG Advisory Opinions
AOR #12(2014): What is the distinction between Academic
Research and the Public Practice of Geoscience?
Requestor: Board-issued
Opened Date: August 8, 2014
Summary: Posted January 30, 2015
Posted at
Current Licenses and Registrations
– March 31, 2016
32 US States & Puerto Rico Require a License for
Geologists/Geoscientists Engaging in Public Practice
PG Licensees
4300 Licensed Texas PGs
93 Geoscientists-In-Training
Registered Firms
342 Texas Registered Firms
The Problem
 Investigation of a chemical leak of
Chlorinated Solvents (DNAPL) from a
series of 13-year old storage tanks
constructed over a shallow sand unit
NOTE: This case and the actions taken by the various
professionals is presented as an educational program
related to the Licensure of Professionals in Texas and is
NOT related to any specific environmental problem or to
any specific Professional.
Your agency is informed by a delivery worker who suspects
that the storage tanks on the site, which are 13 years old,
may be leaking because the “refill volume” exceeds the
estimated volume in the tanks based upon historical data.
The plant manager confirms the concern and informs you
that they will carry out a groundwater contamination
investigation. This is approved.
The original installation was the three monitor wells shown
in this graphic. Note that the monitor wells were installed to
monitor Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (DNAPL), which
was the environmental concern at the site.
The new report documents the installation of 6 monitor
wells all drilled to 10 feet below the water table and
screened in the lower 5 feet. Each well was drilled by a
licensed Texas Well Driller in compliance state regulations.
Each well was properly developed and then sampled for
the Chlorinated Solvent. No contamination detected.
Potential Violations of
TBPG Rules:
TAC §851.102 – Negligence/Competence
TAC §851.103 – Recklessness
TAC §851.104 – Dishonest Practice
Review Response
You review the report and inform the Professional
Engineer or Professional Geoscientist that the
investigation is not appropriate because the
contaminant is a DNAPL (sinker) and therefore
could not be detected in the wells that were
installed. They agree to install one “down
gradient” deep monitor well screened at the base
of the aquifer unit.
A single “down gradient” monitor well is installed as
required, by a licensed Texas Well Driller, developed
and sampled. A revised report is submitted related
to the deeper well that you required. Again no
contamination detected.
You review the original geologic investigation
and note that the monitor wells from that
investigation are located “upgradient” of the
plant unlike those submitted in the new report.
Reviewer Response
During an official meeting with the Division
Geologist, the Division Supervisor and yourself
you document the original groundwater
investigation that was submitted before the site
was permitted. The Division Geologist informs
the meeting that the on-site inspection
determined that the original deep monitor wells
were weathered and damaged and not suitable
for monitoring.
Two new monitoring wells are installed
“upgradient” from the plant building. During initial
well development the driller encounters
Chlorinated Solvents in the development discharge
water and ceases operations.
Chlorinated Solvent contamination has occurred below
the plant and has migrated off-site down the geologic
gradient established by the structural characteristics of
the marine shale unit.
The Professional Engineer or Professional
Geoscientist submits a report that defines the
extent of the contamination and the design of a
remediation system; including wells, plumbing,
the chemical remediation plant and final disposal
of the contaminant.
What are ‘Ethics’?
 Ethics* - also called moral
philosophy - the discipline concerned
with what is morally good and bad,
right and wrong. The term is also
applied to any system or theory of
moral values or principles.
*from the on-line Encyclopaedia Britannica
Behavior Can Have
Judgment received from US Bankruptcy Court
1. The Court finds that the Defendant is dishonest and
his character devoid of conscience. The Defendant’s
testimony at trial was disingenuous, and at times,
misleading to this Court. His testimony demonstrates
that he refuses to take responsibility for his actions, or
acknowledge that his conduct has harmed others.
The Consequence
Requirement to Serve a Copy of This Order on
Professional Organizations
8. To ensure that the Defendant’s conduct does not
continue or harm others, and to the extant the
Defendant remains a licensed professional or member
of any professional organization, the Defendant is
required to serve a copy of this Judgment on those
Signed: US Bankruptcy Court Judge
Too often “Ethics” only
apply to others and
not to ourselves.
“The Moral Man knows
what is right;
the Ethical Man does
what is right.”
- H. L. Mencken
Whose Fault is it?
Code of Professional
All License Holders must comply with the Code of
Professional Conduct, Texas Administrative Code
§851.101 - §851.114.
While certain activities are exempt from licensure
under Texas Occupations Code §1002.252, all License
Holders must abide by the Texas Geoscience Practice
Act and Board rules.
Is it ethical to Trespass?
Is it legal to Trespass?
Example Case #1
An out-of-state firm prepares a Phase II
Environmental Site Assessment in Texas for a client.
After the report is sent to the client, someone turns the
report in to the Texas Board of Professional
Geoscientists, which opens a complaint. The firm’s
CEO states in a response letter to TBPG that he didn’t
know that registration was required for firms engaging
in the public practice of geoscience in Texas, and that
he had contacted the state environmental agency
where someone told him that only reports received by
that agency were required to be sealed.
Example Case #1 Epilogue
There are two violations of the Texas Geoscience Practice Act
and Board rules:
1) Violation of Texas Occupations Code Sec. 1002.251 –
Unlicensed practice of geoscience by the project manager
who prepared and signed the report
2) Violation of Texas Administrative Code Sec. 851.30(a) –
Unregistered firm engaging in the public practice of
Example Case #2
A firm, which previously provided only biology services for
the Edwards Aquifer, wants to branch out and provide
geoscience services. The firm hires a Texas P.G., who seals
their reports, which are submitted to the state
environmental agency. After a year, someone at the agency
realizes that the firm is not registered with TBPG and files
a complaint.
Example Case #2 Epilogue
Unfortunately, the Texas P.G. never informed his employer
that the firm had to be registered. The Texas P.G. also
violated Board rules by not providing the firm’s registration
number on the reports. Violations are:
1) Texas Administrative Code Sec. 851.30(a) – unregistered
firm engaging in the public practice of geoscience
2) Texas Administrative Code Sec. 851.106(b)(2) – Texas P.G.
aiding and abetting unregistered practice
3) Texas Administrative Code Sec. 851.156(r) – Texas P.G. not
putting firm registration number on geoscience reports
Example Case #3
“A licensed professional engineer, mechanical
engineering discipline, is preparing Phase II
Environmental Site Assessments. This individual is not
qualified to be performing this work.”
Complaint by a Licensed Professional Geoscientist
Example Case #3 Epilogue
Under the MOU between TBPG and TBPE, complaints
against licensed engineers, which are received by
TBPG, are forwarded to TBPE. TBPE statute is found
under Texas Occupations Code Chapter 1001 and TBPE
rules are found under Texas Administrative Code
Chapters 131, 133, 135, 137 and 139.
Organizational Ethics Codes
 American Institute of Professional Geologists
 Assn Environmental & Engineering Geologists
 American Assn of Petroleum Geologists
 Geological Society of America
(AAPG) website:
Organization Ethics Codes
-Soils Science
 Soil Science Society of America
website –
 Soil and Water Conservation Society
website –
 American Society of Agronomy
website –
Organization Ethics Codes
 American Geophysical Union
website –
 Seismological Society of America
website –
State employees in Texas are
governed by their agency’s code of
conduct and by the State Ethics
Texas Ethics Commission web site:
“I want to resign my
please refund my dues.”
- Frequent Letters from License Holders
A Professional License
is not
a Membership!
Code of Ethics:
• Written and accepted by the profession
• Enforced by professional organizations
on their membership
• Conforms to professional morals
Code of Professional Conduct
• In the TBPG Rules - §§851.101 - .114
• It’s the Law, not a “Code of Ethics”
TBPG Guidelines
Guidelines for Employees of State and Local
Governments Document:
TBPG P.G. Seal Guidance Document:
Let’s practice
Good Ethics
out there!
- Apologies to Sgt. Phil
Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues
Ethics Video available at:
Wesley McCoy, P.G. - (512) 936-4410 or email
[email protected] for questions
Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists
P.O. Box 13225
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel: (512) 936-4400
Fax: (512) 936-4409