A couple of years ago, a power plant speculator got his property rezoned, and tried to build a power plant across the street from a residential neighborhood. I worked with the angry neighbors to challenge the project. Power plants generate more noise than a hard-rock band, from many sources. The turbine is like a jet airplane engine, there are massive fans, and there would be a "tub grinder," which chews up whole trees into chips which are burnt in the plant boiler.
I arranged for a guy to help us look at the noise issues, who'd fought similar plants in Northern California. He purchased a noise measurement device from Radio Shack, measured the existing nighttime noise levels (crickets) by the neighbor's houses, and then did the math on how much noise a turbine and tub grinder would add from 200 feet away.
Since the power plant speculators hadn't even bothered to prepare their own noise study, his testimony during the public hearing was helpful and the City Council imposed noise control measures.
But now the Oregon Engineering Board has fined him $1000 for "engineering without an engineering license," because of his testimony during a public hearing before the City Council.
For additional details, keep reading below the tangle of orange driftwood.
This situation is very important because it penalizes the free speech of anyone who testifies during a public hearing, especially if they present well researched, detailed criticisms of a project that conflicts with the developers' own "experts."
Suppose you want to testify on a project and look up the zoning codes, then look up litigation records to see how the courts have resolved zoning controversies.
Hey, you just might be practicing law without a license.
Maybe you check records from several different agencies to see what kind of air pollution control devices are used on chemical plants, and discover some scrubbers are 99% effective, while the project you oppose has a scrubber that's only 90% effective.
There you go again, committing industrial engineering without an engineering license.
The more thorough your research, the more painstaking and documented and eloquent your comments, the greater the danger that your activities "are consistent with engineering practices" and merit a fine.
This type of complaint is more diabolical that a SLAPP suit (strategic lawsuit against public participation) because it is an administrative complaint, with no remedy except a request for a hearing before a the Board that's already decided to issue the fine.
Before this case, the Engineering Board's only punitive actions were against fly-by-night types who falsely declared themselves to be engineers, and then designed, for instance, a faulty retaining wall that collapsed, and their client then complained to the Board.
This is the Board's only case against someone who didn't lie about being an engineer, and the only case against someone for effectively criticizing the shabby work of a licensed engineer.
Here are an example of the purported violation:
"(He) ... provided engineering analysis and calculations consistent with the practice
of acoustical engineering."
In other words, it is illegal to do the math calculations to estimate how loud a 120 decibel turbine or grinder will be, to the neighbor across the street, at 3am. It's apparently also illegal to do something "consistent with the practice of engineering," even if it wasn't actually engineering.
The real violation was the willingness to do the tedious research and math to effectively criticize the haphazard work of a licensed engineer.
We will be asking the ACLU for assistance against this attack on comments given during the invitation for public testimony. Please wish us luck.
By the way, the power plant was never built. The City Council's imposition of noise control measures was one factor in delaying or killing the project.