In a win for engineering firms, a recently issued Securities and Exchange Commission rule largely excludes design firms from having to register with the SEC as "municipal advisors."

Approved by the SEC on Sept. 18, the final rule says engineering firms won't have to register if they provide "engineering advice" to municipal agencies. The SEC says such advice can include feasibility studies that contain projected output capacity, utility rates, market demand or revenue based on a project's "engineering aspects."

Industry prefers the final rule to SEC's December 2010 proposal. Commenters on the proposal, including the American Council of Engineering Companies, sought a broader "engineering advice" definition. They contended that cash-flow analyses and feasibility studies are "an integral part of an engineer's services," the SEC said.

But a design firm must register if it gives advice about "municipal finance products or issuance of municipal securities," the SEC said. The rule takes effect 60 days after it appears in the Federal Register.

Updated on Oct. 7 to include correct name of American Council of Engineering Companies