Still Top Priority
EPA Lead Rule Reform
by Ben Gann
Both the House and Senate are expected to reintroduce legislation early in the new Congress making practical reforms to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rule. The bill known as the Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act seeks to balance the rule’s additional compliance costs for remodelers and contractors with the need to protect pregnant women and children under age six.
The legislation would revise the LRRP rule by restoring the “opt-out” provision, suspending enforcement of the rule if EPA cannot approve a test kit meeting the regulation’s requirements. This would provide a de minimis exemption for first-time paperwork non-compliance by certified contractors. It would also grant an exemption for renovations after a natural disaster and prohibit EPA from expanding the rule to commercial and public buildings until EPA conducts a study demonstrating the need for such an action.
Flaws with the Current Rule
The agency has used flawed economic analysis, significantly understating the true compliance costs. While EPA initially estimated that compliance costs would add $35 to a typical remodeling job, for a typical window replacement project the cost ranges from $90 to $160 per window opening, easily adding more than $1,000 to each project.
EPA has also failed to meet the requirements of its own rule by failing to approve an accurate lead test kit that produces no more than 10 percent false positives. This means consumers are paying needless additional costs for work practices that are unnecessary, and provide no benefit but must be employed because of false positive test results. EPA’s initial estimates stated that an improved test kit would reduce the rule’s cost by $400 million a year.
In July, an EPA Inspector General (IG) found the agency used limited data to develop its cost and benefit estimates for LRRP. Despite the IG’s recommendation that EPA reexamine the costs and benefits of both the 2008 rule and the 2010 amendment removing the opt-out provision, the agency is unlikely to do so.
Expansion to Commercial
EPA announced in September that it was postponing any proposal expanding the rule to public and commercial buildings until July 1, 2015, with a final rule expected by January 1, 2017. The delayed expansion is part of a revised settlement agreement merging interior and exterior LRRP activities on public and commercial buildings.
Congress has directed EPA to first conduct a separate and independent study of lead paint hazards in public and commercial buildings before it can issue regulations for renovating and remodeling those structures. Despite lacking data on the lead hazards in commercial buildings, EPA nonetheless is moving closer to expanding the rule’s reach. Because lead-based paint can still be used in commercial and industrial buildings, the commercial rule would apply to every commercial building in the country regardless of when it was built.
On December 31, EPA opened a public comment period collecting feedback on the proposed expansion of the rule. The agency has requested data and other information on whether LRRP activities on public and commercial buildings might create lead-based paint hazards, and on appropriate certification, training, and work practice requirements. The comment period runs through April 1, 2013, and a public meeting on the topic will be held on June 26, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
Given the challenges with enforcement and implementation of the LRRP rule, and now the proposed expansion to public and commercial buildings, legislation is needed to continue ensuring public health while reducing the burden on remodelers and contractors. WDMA is committed to the legislation’s passage, and is working with organizations such as the National Association of Home Builders to have the proposed legislation introduced as early in the new Congress as possible. y
Ben Gann is director of legislative affairs and grassroots activities for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C.
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