The Licensing of Geoscientists in Louisiana

John E. Johnston III, Chairman, Louisiana Board of Professional Geoscientists, 9643 Brookline Ave., Ste. 101, Baton Rouge, LA 70809, hammer@lsu.edu

Extended Abstract
The Louisiana Legislature passed Act 974, the “Louisiana Professional Geoscience Practice Act” during the 2010 session. This legislation established the Louisiana Board of Professional Geoscientists, which has since implemented licensing of Professional Geoscientists, and administered the various provisions of the Act and its subsequent modifications. The Board consists of nine members, at least six of whom are to be (and seven of whom are) licensed professional geologists and at least one of whom is to be a licensed professional engineer. There must be one member from each of Louisiana’s Congressional Districts. Nominees were selected by the governor from names submitted by the Baton Rouge Geological Society, the New Orleans Geological Society, the Shreveport Geological Society, the Lafayette Geological Society and the Louisiana Engineering Society. The selected nominees were then confirmed by the Louisiana State Senate. The Baton Rouge Geological Society sponsored the Act, which was supported some other local, regional and national organizations. It was the fourth attempt. Many prominent Louisiana geologists supported the bill, but there was notable opposition from a number of oil and gas geologists from the Shreveport area. There are many exemptions to Act 974: geoscientific work conducted by an employee or a subordinate of a license holder provided the work that does not include the responsible charge of geoscientific work and is performed under the direct supervision of a licensed geoscientist who is responsible for the work; geoscientific work conducted by an officer or employee of the United States practicing solely as such an officer or employee; geoscientific work performed exclusively in the exploring for and the development of oil, gas or other energy resources, base metals, or precious or non-precious minerals including sand, gravel or aggregate, if the work is done in and for the benefit of private industry; geoscientific research performed through an academic institution, local, state or federal
governmental agency, non-profit research institution, or for-profit organization including
submission of a report on the research to a public agency; teaching geoscience or a related physical or natural science; work performed by a cartographer, technician, or physical or natural scientist including a geologist, geophysicist, soil scientist, chemist, archeologist, geographer or oceanographer, if the work does not include the practice of geoscience; work conducted by an archeologist, geoscientist, or other person performing a stratigraphic or historical geological investigation for archeological purposes; and, testifying or preparing and presenting an exhibit or document for the sole purpose of being placed in evidence before an administrative or judicial tribunal or hearing if the testimony, exhibit or document does not imply that the person is licensed.
The bill originally had a one-year grandfathering period, but this was extended until December 31, 2014, after which date every applicant must pass the ASBOG examination, a nationally-standard geoscientific examination, in order to qualify for a license.
Unless exempted, no unlicensed person can legally engage in the practice of geoscience, nor can they legally refer to themselves as any of the following: “Licensed Professional Geoscientist”, “Licensed Geoscientist”, “Professional Geoscientist”, or the initials “P.G.” or otherwise represent to the public that they are qualified to practice geoscience. No unexempted person can legally take responsible charge of any geoscientific report or any portion thereof of any report that is required by municipal or parish ordinance, state or federal law, state agency rule, or federal regulation that incorporates geoscientific study or geoscientific data without a license, under penalty of law. Geoscientists are considered to be geologists, geophysicists and geochemists. Professions not so considered include soil scientists, physical geographers, geological and civil engineers, and environmental scientists. Additionally, not all work performed by environmental geologists is considered qualifying. Professional exceptions can be made by the Board for those people who have at least thirty hours of college credit in geoscience and who have done geoscientific work for a minimum of five years under the direct supervision of a geoscientist who is either licensed or is qualified to be licensed.
Fifteen hours of continuing education per year are required to maintain a license, one hour of which must be ethics. A maximum of twelve hours per year can be acquired from regular geological society meetings. For the details, and a sample spreadsheet to use to keep track, please visit the LBOPG website.

Earlier this year the LBOPG finally became a member of the Association of State Boards of Geology. The first Louisiana ASBOG Fundamentals of Geology examinations and ASBOG Practice of Geology examinations were given on March 18, 2016, in Baton Rouge.

The Louisiana Geoscience Practice Act authorizes the LBOPG to license a person who has not met the examination requirement of the Act, if the person is licensed or registered to practice a discipline of geoscience under the law of another state or a foreign country. It allows the Board to issue licenses to applicants who provide proof of licensure or registration under requirements that the LBOPG determines to be substantially similar to those established by the Act.

To encourage licensure by reciprocity, the LBOPG has been working with other states to make reciprocal agreements and to promote cooperative licensure. The LBOPG will license a person from another state that has a reciprocity agreement in effect with Louisiana, provided that they have been licensed in that state for five years and that they meet all LBOPG licensing requirements except the examination requirement (i.e., paying the LBOPG licensing fee, completing the LBOPG license application, and submitting transcripts and three references to the LBOPG). Currently Texas and Alabama have such a reciprocity agreement in effect with Louisiana, and one between Mississippi and Louisiana is in the final signing stage. Every state with requirements that are similar or more stringent to Louisiana’s have been contacted and offered a reciprocity agreement.

The LBOPG website is at www.lbopg.org and it contains all relevant current data application forms, licensure rules, continuing education requirements, a list of board members, a roster of licensed geoscientists, board meeting agendas and minutes, testing information, issues of the LBOPG Journal, a FAQ list, current reciprocity data, and much more.

In 2016 the LBOPG will be focusing on establishing reciprocity/comity agreements with other states, implementing the first ASBOG National Geology Licensing Examinations in Louisiana, and beginning to enforce professional ethics and standards. My objective as LBOPG Chairman is to make Louisiana into a state with a fully functional, comprehensive, and effective geoscience board.

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