Environmental Specialist Licensing Bill Doomed

Article excerpt

By Lou Anne Wolfe Journal Record Staff Reporter A bill to create an Oklahoma Environmental Professionals Registration Act will probably die quietly next session in the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives because of unofficial committee action on Thursday.

At the second meeting of an interim study on House Bill 1305, principally authored by Rep. Mark Seikel, D-Harrah, and Sen. Dave Herbert, D-Midwest City, members voted 13-3 that they would favor "reporting progress" on the bill during the 1992 legislative session.

"Report progress" means the bill would be held in committee and no action would be taken next session. All pending measures not acted on next year will die, because next session is the second and final session of the 43rd Legislature.

Lawmakers are forbidden to act on legislation when the Legislature is not in session, so the vote is unofficial and non-binding. However, committee Chairman Larry Rice, D-Pryor, said he wanted to get an idea whether there was any support for the bill.

The measure considered Thursday by the committee was a draft substitute for the original bill. Where the first bill called for creation of a State Board of Registration for Environmental Professionals to be appointed by the governor, the revised bill called for board members to be appointed by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, which also would write the rules and regulations governing the licensing of environmental professionals.

Proponents of House Bill 1305 say licensing is needed because the field of environmental consulting is loosely regulated and plays host to some dishonest, unqualified people.

Opponents argue that the bill's provisions to qualify an environmental professional for certification and licensing are too broad, and that existing professional requirements for engineers, industrial hygienists, environmental sanitarians and the like are strict enough.

Environmental consulting may have drawn increased attention and interest lately because of requirements for environmental risk assessments in real estate transactions.

"It's a wide field, with an enormous amount of money involved and a lot of charlatans," said W.J. Truby, an environmental consultant of 15 years, lobbyist for the National Registry of Environmental Professionals and proponent of House Bill 1305.

"Anyone in this state that wants to become an environmental professional only has to hang up a shingle _ they don't even have to know how to spell it," he said.

Seikel said he hoped to learn whether committee members think they need to address the issue of people in the state soliciting for services that they are unqualified to perform. …