Date: December 16, 2020
The finances of WYDOT may be worse than thought. A report presented to the legislature stated that “the current level of unmet need is actually upward of $350 million across the agency’s entire budget, well in excess of the $135 million that WYDOT had previously estimated would be necessary to preserve the state’s highways as they exist today,” reports the Casper Star Tribune. Among the department’s challenges: budget reductions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, flat revenue from the state’s fuel tax, and “long-unaddressed funding concerns, like computer system upgrades.”
Date: December 16, 2020
Wyoming’s highway system ranks 36th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report
. This is a 25-spot decline from the previous report, where Wyoming ranked 11th overall. Wyoming’s urban Interstate and urban arterial pavement condition rankings dropped to 50th this year. Read the state summaries
Date: November 18, 2020
Earlier this month WySPE provided testimony to the Joint Committee on Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions on a proposed Universal Occupational Licensure bill. One of the major aspects of the proposed bill is allowing military spouses licensed in other states temporary licensure in Wyoming lasting up to three years, in almost all occupations and professions.
Erin Gates, P.E., WySPE member and Wyoming’s representative to the NSPE House of Delegates, spoke to the committee. She shared WySPE’s thoughts on the value of the licensed Professional Engineer to the health and safety of the public and the necessity for PEs understanding Wyoming law. WySPE shared our support for military families but expressed
concern over the proposed duration of the temporary licensure. The Wyoming Board of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors typically completes the process for licensure in Wyoming quickly for those covered by the proposed bill and others.
The Joint Committee on Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions approved the proposed bill being introduced during the upcoming legislative session. WySPE will continue to monitor this and other legislation related to the licensure of Professional Engineers.
The WySPE Board of Directors approved updates to the WySPE Bylaws at the November board meeting. The WySPE Bylaws had not been updated for many years, and the boards work brings the bylaws into agreement with the Constitutional amendments that were approved resoundingly by membership earlier this year. The Constitution provides the broad definition and direction of WySPE. The Bylaws provide more of the detail and day to day process information. Per the Constitution, Bylaws are considered and approved by the board.
Many of the changes were simply clean-up of language or updating to current times. For example, the Bylaws were last updated before email. Language in the bylaws now include wording that allows for electronic notices or votes. Other changes included reflecting the current business model with NSPE, where dues are set and collected nationally in conjunction with the states. Our thanks to everyone who has been a part of the Constitutional amendments and Bylaws update process.
Date: November 18, 2020
As wind energy projects gain traction, commissioners in Albany County are considering updating commercial wind energy siting regulations, reports the Laramie Boomerang. Among the supported rules is one that would require developers to use a Wyoming PE or architect to routinely inspect projects for compliance. Last winter, a Texas company proposed a 504-megawatt wind farm south of Laramie. The farm could include 85-150 turbines on 26,000 acres of state and private land. A draft environmental impact statement is expected by the end of the year.
Date: November 18, 2020
In a guest opinion column in the Jackson Hole News and Guide, a Teton County commissioner takes aim at highway engineers for allowing high speeds and unsafe conditions on Hwy 390. The author opines that “we live in a dictatorship of highway engineers.” He adds:
“Here’s the challenge: WYDOT controls Highway 390. Its highway engineers are dedicated public servants. I am especially grateful to the local WYDOT folks who plow snow and maintain our highways. The issue is that speed limits are determined by an agency dominated by a single professional caste: highway engineers. These speed limits do not adequately account for competing values. Their priorities are not the priorities of folks who live along the road and certainly not the priorities of the moose and other critters that inhabit the corridor. The highway engineering profession creates conditions in which motor vehicles move fast and efficiently, while discounting competing values. Period.”
In an earlier article in the Rawlins Times about the issue on 390, a WYDOT district maintenance engineer said, “The multiple requests received to reduce the speed limit are just not supported by engineering data.” Some people, including the author of News and Guide opinion piece, argue that the highway should be the responsibility of the county, not the state, but others are concerned about the additional tax burden on residents.
Date: October 28, 2020
The Wyoming Public Service Commission has concluded that the energy plan of the state’s largest electrical provider “lacks proper analysis, transparency and modeling, and doesn’t adequately consider other alternatives, such as nuclear power or adding carbon capture to coal plants,” according to an article by WyoFile. The 2019 plan, issued by PacifiCorp/Rocky Mountain Power covers electricity delivery over the next 20 years, called for the early retirement of several Wyoming coal-fired units and emphasis on renewable generation and storage. The PSC took the unusual step of investigating the plan, although no immediate action is expected.
Date: October 28, 2020
Under the pressure of budget shortfalls and deteriorating roads, WYDOT has proposed replacing the state’s $0.24/gallon fuel tax with a road user charge, according to Oil City News
. A draft bill has been proposed but not introduced in the legislature. The draft proposes rates of 2.15 cents per mile for passenger cars and 2.87 cents per mile for pick-up trucks. Commercial trucks would pay 10.32 cents per mile. “WYDOT says it currently faces a $135 million annual budget shortfall and that the poor condition of Wyoming’s roads is having a compounding negative effect on its economy,” the article states.
As we have shared in recent newsletters and at the annual meeting in February, WySPE is working to update the organization’s Constitution.
The governing documents for the Wyoming Society of Professional Engineers were last updated in 1981. WySPE is governed by a Constitution that provides the broad structure for the organization, and Bylaws that provide more operational details.
To amend the Constitution, a minimum of 20 percent of our membership must vote, and amendments must pass by a 2/3 or greater majority. The board is responsible for updating the Bylaws and will complete that when the Constitutional amendments are completed.
Recently, NSPE nationally changed the membership model and that impacts our Constitution. The ballot provides brief explanations on these issues. Also, over time there have been changes that need to be reflected in the governing documents (the ability to vote electronically, for instance). If you would rather have a ballot mailed to you or wish to object to our conducting electronic voting prior to that officially being recognized in an amended constitution, please let us know.
See the existing Constitution as amended in 1981.
You are asked to vote on five questions, which group proposed amendments by topic. If you favor all of the amendments grouped on a question, vote yes. If you oppose any of the items in the grouping, vote no. You can only vote once.
If you have any problems voting, or have any questions, please contact Steve Conklin, our executive director, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (303) 909-0479.
Access the ballot.
Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent letters to the governors of 31 states named in its final report on the Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions, including Wyoming. The letter requests an end to the engineering license exemption for gas pipeline operators in these states, and asks for governors to provide an update to the NTSB with in 90 days.
When the NTSB began its investigation of the Merrimack Valley gas pipeline explosions, investigative staff reached out to NSPE seeking information about licensing exemptions. Through a series of conversations and emails, NSPE shared report data, information on the licensing process and requirements, and its Position Statement on licensing exemptions. Consequently, NSPE was successful in getting the NTSB to adopt a policy of addressing and eliminating engineering license exemptions within the gas pipeline industry.
NSPE’s national staff continues to be in conversation with NTSB staff, and will continue to share updates as they happen. We are happy to support state efforts at eliminating this exemption.
Read the full report from NTSB.
A BURNED-OUT MASSACHUSETTS HOME AFTER THE GAS EXPLOSIONS
NTSB has released an abstract of its forthcoming final report on the fatal Merrimack Valley pipeline explosion from September of last year. Final revisions are being made to the report, but in the report’s synopsis/executive summary, NTSB states that “requiring a licensed professional engineer to stamp plans would illustrate that the plans had been approved by an accredited professional with the requisite skills, knowledge, and experience to provide a comprehensive review.” Acknowledging the importance of the role of the PE in preventing an event like this from occurring, NTSB recommends the elimination of the licensing exemption on natural gas pipeline projects in the 31 states that have the exemption in place, including the state of Wyoming.
Read the synopsis of the report.
Wyoming Engineering Society engineers met with Munger Mountain Elementary School 4th graders to explain the exciting work professional engineers do. Y2 Consultants were able to share site plans of the school and show the students the design process for a new soccer field.
Continued participation in the project and a selfless contribution to the expansion of educational opportunities for the community’s youth are key values to many members of the society throughout the year.