June 13, 2011
Nation's Building News

The Official Online Newspaper of NAHB

Small Builders and Remodelers
Sen. Inhofe Asks Environment Committee to Look Into Problems With Lead Paint Rule

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has asked the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) to look into the myriad problems associated with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP).

“We appreciate the senator’s concern about this rule, which is clearly not fulfilling the job it was intended to do,” said Bob Peterson, chair of NAHB Remodelers. “Now it’s up to us to contact our own legislators and ask them to support this request.”

Inhofe sent a letter to committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) asking the committee to conduct an oversight hearing on how the EPA is administering and enforcing the rule.

Finalized last year, the lead paint rule requires remodelers and other contractors working in homes built before 1978 to take precautions to contain lead dust. The so-called opt-out provision — in which home owners who didn’t have children under six or a pregnant woman in the home were able to waive the requirements — was abolished last year.

An inexpensive, improved lead-based paint test kit, which the EPA had hoped would cut overall compliance costs by weeding out older homes not containing the toxin, is still not available.

NAHB has long said that the rule is too broad, making it less likely to adequately protect the young children and pregnant women it was designed for, a position with which many legislators agree.

“It is vitally important to protect children and pregnant women from exposure to lead-based paint; unfortunately the implementation has been inconsistent and confusing,” Inhofe’s letter said.

“There is significant bipartisan support on the EPW committee and in the Senate to address problems associated with the rule’s implementation,” he said.

Given the damage from spring flooding and tornadoes throughout the South and Midwest, “it is vital to understand how these EPA rules will affect families and communities trying to rebuild,” the letter said.

“How can it make sense for a remodeler to do work in some of these flooded areas, where homes have been affected by mold and mildew, and tell them they first must pay attention to lead?” Peterson asked.

Since the rule was implemented, Peterson said, 14 out of 15 owners of homes built before 1978 asking his company for a bid on a remodeling project turned him down when it was explained how the EPA’s lead requirements would affect the scope of the job and increase the costs.

Were the opt-out provision still available, all 14 home owners would have been able to use it, Peterson said.

“Some of them elected to do the work themselves and some went with uncertified contractors. That’s a pretty significant pushback,” he said.

Some of the home owners told him they were especially concerned about the amount of waste generated in a lead paint rule-compliant project, including the double sets of thick plastic sheeting that the remodeler must use to encase the old drywall, trim and other building products before dumping them into a landfill.

Clearance Testing Rule Deadline July 15

Inhofe has also weighed in on a proposal to add clearance testing to remodeling requirements.

Currently, remodelers must use a dust cloth on each project and match the color of the cloth to an EPA-provided card to determine whether a significant amount of dust remains. 

The EPA has proposed replacing this procedure with clearance testing , which Inhofe has called a "dramatic change" to the lead rule that would "amplify the unintended consequences we have heard from our constituents: that the higher costs from current LRRP renovators have pushed home owners to either hire uncertified individuals or to perform renovation work themselves."

In addition, Inofe said in a letter to EPA officials, the testing would add even more costs to the renovation work — an expense that the EPA has not accurately portrayed in its analysis of the impact of the new requirement.

In its response, the EPA said that its usual practice is to recalculate the economic impact of a proposal before issuing a final ruling.

For more information, email Matt Watkins at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8327.

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