Chapter 3
Reasons for Regulation of These Professions

The Practice of Geophysics

3.1 Several years ago Dr. Roy O. Lindseth, P. Geoph. wrote an article on the registration of geophysicists. The text of his article is reproduced below, updated to 1989 by Dr. Lindseth.

3.2 The merits of professional registration of geophysicists is a question which has long been argued. The major point in the case against registration arises from the fact that some 96% of all geophysicists engaged in commercial, rather than scientific, activities practice petroleum exploration. Most of them are employed by oil companies or operate under retainer to oil companies. They normally report directly to senior explorationists who have a good working knowledge of geophysical exploration. Their work is very frequently subject to peer evaluation. Furthermore, a geophysical study is often only one component of several elements entering into an exploration decision and, as such, does not carry the full responsibility for the exploration decision. For these reasons those exposed to registration correctly consider that most geophysical work does not impinge directly upon the public and the public, therefore, is not at risk.

3.3 These arguments so far appear to have been widely accepted with telling effect; outside Alberta the only other jurisdiction with an active professional registration program governing a substantial body of geophysicists is the State of California. Other jurisdictions in Canada, however, are now registering geophysicists and still others are giving serious consideration to their registration. (see paragraphs 3.25 - 3.32)

3.4 Geophysicists are an independent group, and when registration has been proposed they most often argue against it. This was the case in California, where a strong and vociferous lobby was mounted against the law when it was first proposed in the early 1970s. However, after hearing all arguments, the bill was passed by the state legislature in 1973. California also has a Sunset law, under which all such legislation is reviewed periodically to verify its need. In 1978, following a Sunset review, it was decided to continue registration of geophysicists in California.

3.5 The experience of the State of California is cited because, like Western Canada, it is a mature petroleum exploration area with a large number of resident geophysicists. Some of the following arguments in favour of registration therefore have greater significance.

3.6 The fundamental argument is favour of registration of geophysicists is protection of the public. In a mature area, large numbers of small exploration organizations develop, often consisting primarily of speculators and inventors working independently of conventional operating oil companies. Under tax laws which exist from time to time in Canada and the U.S., investments in petroleum exploration can be sheltered from taxation. These shelters attract a large number of unsophisticated investors into such group investment vehicles as drilling funds and limited partnerships. The promoter groups may do primary exploration and often work on farmouts (usually an area controlled by a large oil company in which the quality of a given play is less than the minimum acceptable standard for that company. In return for some consideration, the owner will farm out the acreage to any group willing to accept the risk). In most of these operations, there is a strong incentive to make the play appear as attractive as possible to the investor. The primary exploration tool for petroleum plays is the reflection seismograph. Therefore substantial emphasis may be placed upon geophysical opinion and considerable pressure may be exerted to produce a favourable report. This may come from an independent professional consulting geophysicist, or may be the opinion of a geophysicist employed by either the company promoting or farming out the play.

3.7 In such cases, the public should be protected from unwarranted economic exposure as well as any physical harm. Therefore, a telling argument for the registration of geophysicists is to protect the public from unwarranted optimistic opinions in some of the situations outlined.

3.8 The second major argument for professional registration of geophysicists is more administrative in nature, relating to the much stronger case that can be made for registration of geologists. A fairly large proportion of the geological profession is engaged in activities which deal directly with the public, not only in the petroleum industry but in a wide range of activities related to minerals, groundwater and construction. In the petroleum industry, a geologist is often the prime mover in development, marketing and execution of exploration plays and also in the drilling of the actual well. His opinions may affect activities which have a direct bearing on public health and safety in addition to financial risk. Most geologists support and encourage some form of professional registration.

3.9 Geological and geophysical activities overlap to a substantial degree, the main difference being that the geologist deals with direct measurement of the rocks while the geophysicists interprets such information from measurements of the response of the rock to some form of excitation. Except for this fundamental difference in source data, the professional activities of the two often tend to overlap substantially, yet each professional recognizes the other as a distinct discipline having several different educational and experience requirements. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to draft any law for professional registration of geologists which excludes geophysical activities. If the law is sufficiently broad to encompass normal geological activities, it invariably includes much of that which is defined as geophysics and geophysicists would find it impossible to practice without registration as geologists, which they agree they are not. Conversely, if a satisfactory law is drafted to exclude geophysicists, it ends up with very large loopholes, rendering it ineffective for geologists. This may be one reason that the Alberta Government is not receptive to separate legislation for each of these two professions.

3.10 The true value in legislation for professional registration lies in the sections covering enforcement and discipline. Where legal registration does not exist, geologists and geophysicists invariably form voluntary groups which adhere to most of the rules for professional practice and a code of ethics. They will also include procedures for enforcement and discipline but, unfortunately, the penalties, such as expulsion from the voluntary association, are totally ineffective and have never proven to be an effective deterrent to unprofessional practice.

3.11 The overwhelming majority of geophysicists are conscientious professionals who conduct their practice with the same responsible attitudes whether legislation exists or not. Legislation is needed to protect the public and the profession from the unprincipled acts of the charlatan or the morally deficient individual who uses the shelter of the excellent reputation earned by the profession to violate the confidence and trust of an unsophisticated investor. (End of article)

3.12 Also germane to regulation of the practice of geophysics is the report to Council in 1960 of a small committee of members of the Association which examined the draft act being developed at that time. This committee listed several points in support of including geophysicists in the Alberta Act. It considered the objectives of the professional association to be twofold: to protect the public and to protect the profession. Both objectives are concerned with control of the ethics of the people who are performing professional services. An association embracing geophysicists, then, should afford a means whereby the geophysicists' qualifications may be reviewed and an official registration provided acknowledging acceptance of those qualifications; the Association should also provide suitable disciplinary procedures.

3.13 The committee listed some situations in which geophysicists may be considered as having dealings with the public - situations in which protection of the public might be of concern. These situations are valid today and are similar to the comments made by Dr. Lindseth:

1. Geophysical consultants advertise their services publicly and may be considered as having public contacts; this group should have registration in an association both for protection of the public and for their own protection. Geophysical contractors also do a small amount of work that can be considered as consulting; key personnel should be registered for these purposes.

2. Geophysical work often leads to reports, parts or all of which must be transmitted to government agencies in compliance with government regulations. The Alberta Department of Energy and Natural Resources recognizes a need for licensing of geophysicists. For example, in accordance with the Alberta Geophysical Incentive Regulations, a final report on a geophysical incentive program is required to be made on behalf of the licensee (holder of an exploration license under which a seismic reflection program is conducted) by a registered professional geophysicist (or geologist or engineer). In another example, the Exploratory Drilling Incentive Regulation requires a report to the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources covering expenditures on incentive exploratory wells signed and sealed by a professional geophysicist (or geologist or engineer) for credit to be determined and granted.

3. Geophysical reports may be used in full or out of context for the purposes of promoting stocks and securities. This is a public matter and such reports should only appear over the name of a registered professional geophysicist. (A geophysicist who might be inclined to sign a false or misleading report for purposes of stock manipulation might be less inclined to do so if he ran the risk of losing his license.)

4. A geophysicist may appear in court or before some hearing or commission to present testimony as an expert. This is a public matter and it is appropriate in such instances that a geophysicist so appearing should be qualified through registration.

3.14 Dr. Lindseth lists two additional reasons for regulation of geophysics practice:

1. A small exploration company that does not have its own geophysical staff has a right to expect work of professional calibre from professional geophysical consultants or contractors that it might employ from time to time. The term "P. Geoph." gives some assurance of professionalism.

2. In certain branches of geophysics, such as high-resolution surveys for dam sites, marine drilling locations and pipeline right-of-ways, misinterpreted seismic data could certainly pose a potential hazard to the public.

The Practice of Geology

3.15 Most of the reasons cited in the foregoing paragraphs for registration of geophysicists also apply to the practice of geology. However, geological practice has more of a direct impact on the public than geophysical practice (see paragraph 3.8).

3.16 It is appropriate that geologists be registered for a number of reasons. The most important of these is protection of the public from the activities of unqualified, incompetent or unscrupulous individuals. Whereas in the practice of engineering the potential danger to the public may involve loss of life, limb or property, in the practice of geology, which primarily involves resource evaluation and development, the largest potential danger is financial. Decisions and recommendations made by geologists with respect to assessment of mineral and petroleum resources, even by those in employee positions with companies, often involve the expenditure of extremely large sums of money, in many instances by investors who have little or no qualification to evaluate the technical soundness of geological advice they may receive. This is particularly true in the petroleum industry in Alberta at times when most of the exploratory drilling is being financed by drilling funds, private investment syndicates and corporations whose experience, knowledge and expertise lie in other areas. It is also equally true in the minerals industry. Where shares of resource-based corporations are offered to the public, a technical appraisal of the properties of the corporation must be made to satisfy the requirements of the appropriate securities commissions and thereby to offer some protection to potential investors. This can be done most effectively by qualified, experienced and responsible geologists, and registration in a professional association ensures the acceptability of academic and experience qualifications of such geological practitioners.

3.17 Protection of the public involves geological input in such areas as mines design and operation; soils and foundation studies for construction of buildings, bridges, dams and reservoirs; groundwater resource evaluation for municipalities and industries; groundwater pollution resulting from waste disposal including landfill and disposal of radioactive wastes; urban land use studies and assessment of earthquake hazards. Geologists are frequently involved in these areas, either individually or as members of multidisciplinary teams. Unlike engineering practice, there may not be an immediate loss of life resulting from negligence or substandard practice, such as in the collapse of a building, but loss of life could occur from foundation failure or slope failure. Serious long-term environmental impact could result from groundwater contamination. Thus in these areas the activities of unqualified geological practitioners pose a potential danger to much the same extent as do the activities of unqualified engineering practitioners.

3.18 Another reason for registration is that the registering professional association provides a means whereby members of the public who feel they have been the subject of incompetent or unethical practice can seek redress. Technical societies cannot fulfil this role inasmuch as they have no effective means of applying sanctions against an offender. The knowledge that the right to practice is subject to scrutiny by peers and ultimately to withdrawal for improper conduct is a strong incentive for an individual to practice in a responsible professional manner.

3.19 Still another reason for registration involves the positive effect that the presence of a professional association has on the educational standards of institutions which prepare students for entry into the profession. Changes have been made to the geology curricula at both the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary in response to academic standards required by APEGGA. Practising professionals outside the academic institutions are well qualified to comment on the educational level necessary to practice effectively.

3.20 The practice of geology has become increasingly more diverse and, like the practice of engineering, the number of branches, subdivisions and sub-disciplines is increasing. Regulation of the profession means the application of uniform standards of entrance to the profession and the prevention of unqualified people from practising as geologists. The public needs protection from unscrupulous and unsafe practices and if the profession itself is not prepared to provide this protection, it is likely to be provided by a government agency. In the public interest it is preferable to have the regulation of the practice of geology carried out by a self-governing profession.

Should there be Separate Legislation?

3.21 Accepting that regulation of the practice of geology and geophysics in Alberta as a "fait accompli" and necessary for the reasons described previously, a subject that has caused considerable discussion and argument over many years is whether geologists and geophysicists should be included in the present legislation along with engineers, or whether separate and individual legislation should be established for the two professions. This matter was first considered as early as 1954 when the geologists wished to have professional recognition. At that time it was considered (by Council) that professional recognition of the practice of geology would be best pursued through the Engineering Profession Act as it would likely be difficult to develop a separate professional act.

3.22 One of the criteria accepted by the Government of Alberta for determining the eligibility for recognition under legislation of a profession to be granted autonomous rights or authorities is "Evidence that the services to be provided by members of the Association are not merely fragmentations or duplications of more comprehensive service programs of associations already recognized." The Government paper of 1978 states that "Self-government is a privilege delegated to a profession or occupational group by the Legislature only when it is clear the public can best be served by delegating this authority" and "whether or not groups consider themselves professionals is not, of itself, a valid criteria for the determination of whether groups should be self-regulated and to what extent." From the government point of view, it seems that individual acts legislating the practices of geology and geophysics is an unlikely prospect.

3.23 Apart from governmental considerations, there are other reasons why the professions of geology and geophysics, along with engineering, should continue to be recognized under a single Act. If separate recognition were to be seriously considered, the Canadian societies of petroleum geologists and exploration geophysicists CSPG and CSEG would likely be the bodies that would form the nuclei of the new professional associations. In response to the question "If professional registration is necessary, can CSPG provide this more efficiently than APEGGA?", Dr. Cal R. Evans, P. Geol. states: "Having seen at first hand the amount of work involved in accreditation, registration, enforcement and discipline, I personally feel that it would be a very major mistake for CSPG to try to undertake these activities. In the first place, it would require a number of fulltime staff members so that I doubt that there would be much, if any, cost savings vis-a-vis the service provided by APEGGA. Secondly, and much more seriously, I feel that undertaking this major program would seriously dilute the management efforts of CSPG's executive and thus detract from the very excellent scientific program that the Society has achieved over the past years." Jack M. Browning, P. Geol., APEGGA President 1983-84, makes a similar comment: "The scientific thrust of the CSPG will deteriorate rapidly, the dues will increase rapidly, and the CSPG within a period of 5 years will by run by the professional executive director and his staff. To think otherwise is to underestimate the amount of work required by a professional association." Similar comments could be made respecting the CSEG. Since the number of professional geophysicists is much less than the number of professional geologists, the cost of admission and membership fees levied by a separate professional geophysical licensing association might well be higher than those of a geological registration body.

3.24 The final report of the Williams' Committee on Professional Registration drew the following conclusions with respect to the matter of a separate Act governing the practice of geology and geophysics:

1. Geologists and geophysicists must recognize and accept the practical reality that the practice of their professions in Alberta is governed in law by the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act (1981). The Act exists and we must operate within its constraints. In view of Government policy it is very unlikely to be changed by the Provincial Government, certainly not over the next few years, regardless of any submission that might be made.

2. Annual fees payable to an independent association charged with registration of geologists and geophysicists would be comparable to fees currently charged by APEGGA and could well be higher, depending upon the expectation of members. It is anticipated that startup costs associated with lobbying for and drawing up of an act would be in the order of $50,000 spread over a five to eight year period, in addition to regular annual dues.

3. Because of the legal and financial conclusions reached above, and the strong impression that at least in part, the straw vote at the October 1980 meeting in favour of registration by CSPG and CSEG was caused by confusion about the roles of technical and professional societies, the Committee concluded that it could not directly follow the wishes of the October 1980 meeting by recommending that the CSPG and CSEG undertake responsibility for professional registration of geologists and geophysicists.

4. Furthermore, although the majority of geologists and geophysicists in Alberta are involved in the petroleum industry as employees, and most of these are located in Calgary, a significant number (10-15%) practice in other areas (mining, geotechnical, coal, environmental, Pleistocene, teaching, government surveys), in other parts of the province and/or are self-employed, and their needs must be considered. It would be inappropriate for the CSPG or CSEG to claim to represent the diverse needs of these earth scientists, and the establishment of a new association separate from APEGGA could create problems of overlapping practice of individuals and companies (geology/engineering, geophysics/engineering) and inevitably, difficulties of the kind which caused problems between engineers and architects.

5. There would not necessarily be any savings in annual membership dues in an association with paid staff, independent of APEGGA, and conditions for membership (academic and experience) could not be significantly different from current requirements for registration in APEGGA.

Registration of Geology and Geophysics
in other Canadian Jurisdictions

3.25 Associations of Professional Engineers, established to regulate the practice of engineering, exist in the other Canadian provinces and territories. Most of these were established in the early 1920s. Up until the 1980s Alberta was the only province to include regulation of the geology and geophysics professions in its Act. But by 1989, two provinces had introduced legislation and others were in the process of doing so.

3.26 In 1979 the Northwest Territories introduced an ordnance, based on the APEGGA act, to regulate the practices of engineering, geology and geophysics. This ordnance was subsequently promulgated as an Act. The requirements for registration are the same as those of Alberta, and APEGGA and its Board of Examiners carry out the registration function on behalf of the Northwest Territories Association (NAPEGG).

3.27 The Association of Professional Engineers of Newfoundland (APEN) in 1984 decided to include the earth science professions in revised legislation. Its decision was the culmination of many discussions that were initiated in the first instance by the geologists and geophysicists working in the province. The matter was discussed at annual meetings in 1982 and 1983. A majority of the geologists and geophysicists favoured legislation for these professions through combining them in the engineers' act, and this was supported by the results of a referendum. In its final report, the Task Force's comments on reasons for combining engineers and geoscientists in one association included: "these two professions are based on similar bodies of knowledge: mathematics, physics, chemistry and the earth sciences; they are both productive professions; specializations of one easily lead into and/or meld with specializations of the other (e.g. mining engineering, geological engineering, engineering geology); employers of one frequently employ the services of the other".

3.28 The Newfoundland Act received government assent in 1988 and the association became known as the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland (APEGN). The format and contents of the Act are patterned after the Alberta Act, but there are certain differences:

1. Rather than treating geology and geophysics as individual professions, they are treated collectively as the "practice of geoscience". The definition of practice is similar to what would result by combining the definitions of the practices of geology and geophysics contained in the APEGGA Act. One of the qualifications for registration specified in the accompanying regulations is "a Degree in Geoscience from a university program approved by the Board of Examiners."

2. Professional geoscientists do not have an abbreviated designation assigned as well, as in the case of "P. Geol." and "P. Geoph." in Alberta.

3. There is no Practice Review Board.

4. Permit holders are divided into two classes - A and B. Class A applies to those entities primarily engaged in providing professional services to the public while Class B applies to those not providing such services.

5. The Board of Examiners may be divided into two divisions - one to evaluate applications for professional engineers and the other to evaluate applications for professional geoscientists.

3.29 The Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Yukon Associations are in the process of amending their Engineering Acts to include the earth sciences. APES commenced the process in 1987, and although it was fairly well advanced by the end of 1989, some issues were being studied further by government and the geological associations involved. APEBC has revisions in process that were initiated and are being advocated by the thousand or so geologists and geophysicists in that province. These revisions are expected to include geochemists along with geologists and geophysicists as "professional geoscientists". APEYT drafted a revised act in 1988 which, on the initiative of the Yukon Association, included geologists and geophysicists. It was modelled after the APEGGA Act. A small society was formed to promote the inclusion of these professions - the Yukon Professional Geoscientists Society. Further development is likely to be protracted.

3.30 The Association of Geologists of Quebec was formed in 1968 to group together those persons practising professional geology and form the basis for establishing a professional association. In 1984, it changed its name to the Association of Professional Geologists and Geophysicists of Quebec with the objective of seeking official recognition of these professions. As of 1989, it had a membership of 400.

3.31 This Quebec association issues a news bulletin every three months and holds a general meeting annually. It has its own regulations covering requirements for membership, certificates, seals and stamps, etc. Discussions have been held over the years with the Order of Engineers of Quebec (OIQ) on subjects of mutual interest including the possibility of amalgamating the two organizations. Since OIQ views its responsibilities to protect the public interest as paramount, it has not agreed to such amalgamation. However, when appropriate, cooperative efforts and activities are undertaken jointly.

3.32 Some 5,000 geologists and geophysicists in Ontario are understood to wish to have government legislation to regulate their profession. As of the end of 1989, they have had discussions with the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario (APEO) about amalgamation under the Ontario Professional Engineering Act. However, since that act had recently undergone a major revision, it seems unlikely that a further change would be made, and if regulation of geological and geophysical practice proceeds to fruition, a separate act is likely to result.

3.33 The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE), established in 1936, acts as the national coordinating body for the provincial licensing authorities. Each provincial association pays an annual assessment to CCPE based on the number of professional members it has on its rolls. APEGGA's assessment is based on the number of professional geologists and geophysicists, as well as engineers, in the Association, and a recent clarification of the CCPE bylaws has confirmed that members of all three professions may hold office on the CCPE Board.