Lead-Paint Rule Could Blunt Home-Star Energy Retrofit Push
Remodeling members of NAHB have visited Capitol Hill and the White House in recent weeks in an effort to delay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s implementation of new Lead Safe Work Practices for contractors working on older homes.
The EPA only began certifying trainers for the regulation last July, and with the new rules set to go into effect in a matter of weeks — on April 22 — there are still only a small number around the country who are qualified to teach contractors and their subs what they need to do to comply.
The regulation currently would apply to work in homes built before 1978 and inhabited by children under age six or pregnant women. However, the EPA is seeking to amend the regulation so that it would apply to all pre-1978 homes.
In testimony on March 11 before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Connecticut remodeler Bob Hanbury, CGR, said that the EPA’s regulation could derail a highly anticipated program to make existing homes more energy-efficient before it even gets started.
Contractors will be required to have at least one certified and trained worker on each job site, and the same will apply for subcontractors. With training in very short supply, the vast majority of contractors will be prevented from retrofitting homes — including energy-efficiency upgrades — where there may be lead if the EPA’s regulation is implemented as scheduled.
This, in turn, would undermine the effectiveness of pending Senate legislation — the Home Star Act of 2010 — that would initiate a program designed to provide home owners with incentives to undertake insulation and other weatherization projects.
NAHB economists estimate that every $1 billion in remodeling and home improvement activity generates 11,000 jobs, $527 million in wages and salaries, and $300 million in business income, making these incentives a big boost for the economy as well as energy efficiency.
"NAHB strongly supports incentives to retrofit older homes and buildings to improve energy efficiency and performance," Hanbury said. "But to make such a program work, the April 22 deadline for compliance with the EPA lead rule must be extended."
Roughly 79 million homes constructed before 1978 are subject to the Lead Renovation, Repair and Repainting Rule, Hanbury said, even though the EPA itself has estimated that only about half of them actually contain lead paint.
"Consumer awareness of this regulation is negligible at best, and with the intensive media coverage that will undoubtedly accompany Home Star, home owners will rush to call contractors to perform efficiency upgrades in older housing, not realizing that many of those contractors could be doing the work illegally if they are not EPA-certified," Hanbury pointed out.
The EPA has estimated that more than 236,000 remodelers, window installers, painters, heating and air-conditioning specialists and other trade contractors must be trained to ensure compliance with the rule. These contractors must complete eight hours of training, pay a certification fee and employ lead-safe work practices.
As of mid-March, only about 50,000 people had been certified, and there were six states in which there were no trainers.
With only 135 firms throughout the country approved to offer the training courses, it will be impossible for the remaining contractors to complete the required training before the April 22 deadline, Hanbury said. An influx of new retrofit jobs under a Home Star-style program would only increase the demand for trained and certified contractors.
"NAHB looks forward to working with you to create a successful retrofit program that provides equal access for all qualified and properly-trained contractors and a true incentive to renovate the oldest, least-efficient housing stock," Hanbury told the committee.
"We also support the lead paint rule and fully agree with the importance of the safe work practices the rule describes," Hanbury said. "But at present, it looks like the only way that many of our members will be able to comply is to avoid working in these older homes so we don't break the law. In an environment where improving energy efficiency and creating jobs are national priorities, that makes no sense at all."
Remodeler Leaders Visit White House
On March 16, NAHB Remodelers Chairman Donna Shirey, CGR, CAPS, CGP, along with Hanbury, visited the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to urge them to advise the Environmental Protection Agency to delay the lead renovation and repair rules and proposed amendment going into effect on April 22.
The proposed amendment would remove the “opt out” provision from the lead paint regulation that allows the owners of homes where no children under age six or pregnant women reside to sign a waiver exempting the remodeler from the requirements.
This change would increase the number of homes subject to the rule to 78 million units; by the EPA’s own estimates, fewer than 40 million homes are contaminated with lead paint.
During the meeting Shirey and Hanbury discussed the challenges to their businesses and the remodeling industry as a whole due to the economic downturn.
“Clients have smaller budgets today and are scaling back on what they will do,” Shirey told OMB staff members. Adding more, expensive requirements to these smaller jobs (window manufacturers estimate that it will add $100 to the replacement cost of each window) “will further harm my business,” she said.
Shirey also told officials about her conversation with a Montana remodeler who has already lost two job bids because of the additional costs of complying with the rule.
NAHB also presented economic research about the ailing remodeling market and the large costs of removing the opt-out option for home owners while providing little, if any, benefit for children at risk of lead exposure in these homes.
According to the EPA, the 2008 lead rule will affect 1.5 million professional remodeling jobs. Removing the opt-out provision would affect an additional 7.2 million jobs.
The EPA used different models to estimate the cost and health benefits of each job so that it would appear that the costs would be dwarfed by the benefits, when in fact the opposite is more likely, the NAHB research found.
Additionally, NAHB questioned whether the EPA has fulfilled its responsibilities to consider the amendment’s harm to businesses; the agency did not convene a small business advisory review panel or explore other alternatives to removing the opt-out provision.
Shirey and Hanbury also pointed out the conflict between implementation of the lead paint rule with the President’s commitment to retrofits and energy efficiency — a consideration that the OMB is obligated to address.
They also reiterated NAHB’s support for lead paint work practices to protect young children.
“I want to be clear. We are not opposed to the rule,” Shirey said. “Ninety percent of our members are aware of the rule through marketing efforts of NAHB.
“We are here today because we believe there is insufficient training capacity to comply with the rule by April 22, 2010.”
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.