Lawsuits filed over EPA lead rules; EPA stands firm

WASHINGTON, July 8 -- A coalition of housing industry groups joined the National Association of Home Builders today in announcing plans to file a lawsuit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency for removing the "opt-out" provision from its Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule.

The Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule (LRRP) applies to homes constructed before 1978 when lead paint was banned. Its opt-out provision, which expired July 6, let consumers allow contractors to bypass extra preparation, clean-up and recordkeeping requirements in homes where there were no children under 6 or pregnant women, thus avoiding additional costs.

"Removing the opt-out provision more than doubles the number of homes subject to the regulation," said NAHB Chairman Bob Jones, a home builder and developer in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. "About 79 million homes are affected, even though EPA estimates that only 38 million homes contain lead-based paint. Removing the opt-out provision extends the rule to consumers who need no protection."

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association joined NAHB in filing the petition for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The group will challenge EPA's action on the grounds that the agency substantially amended its LRRP regulation without any new scientific data and before the regulation was even put into place on April 22, 2010.

Remodelers' and other contractors' estimates of the additional costs associated with the lead-safe work practices average about $2,400, but vary according to the size and type of job. For example, a complete window replacement requires the contractor to install thick vinyl sheeting to surround the work area both inside the home and outdoors - with prep time and material costs adding an estimated $60 to $170 for each window.

"Consumers trying to use rebates and incentive programs to make their homes more energy efficient will likely find those savings eaten up by the costs of the rule's requirements. Worse, these costs may drive many consumers - even those with small children - to seek uncertified remodelers and other contractors. Others will likely choose to do the work themselves - or not do it at all - to save money. That does nothing to protect the population this rule was designed to safeguard," Jones said.

Meanwhile, the EPA defends its position on the opt-out provisions, stating in a release that, “At present, almost a million children have elevated blood lead levels as a result of exposure to lead hazards, which can lead to lower intelligence, learning disabilities, and behavior issues. Adults exposed to lead hazards can suffer from high blood pressure and headaches. EPA has eliminated the so-called opt-out provision because improper renovations in older homes can create lead hazards resulting in harmful health effects for residents and visitors in these homes, regardless of age,. The result will better protect children and adult occupants during and after renovation, repair and painting projects.”

In April 2008, EPA issued the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP), which required the use of lead-safe work practices in pre-1978 homes but included the opt-out provision. EPA’s new rule, effective today, removes the opt-out provision and makes the RRP consistent with statutory requirements.

The RRP rule requires certification of training providers and lead-safe work practice certification for individuals involved in the construction and remodeling industry. To date, EPA has certified 254 training providers who have conducted more than 16,000 courses and trained an estimated 320,000 renovators in lead-safe work practices.

Because of concern that contractors in some areas may be having difficulty accessing training classes, EPA recently announced that it is providing renovation firms and workers additional time to obtain training and certifications to comply with the new lead rules. EPA will not take enforcement action for violations of the rule’s firm certification requirement until October 1, 2010, and will not enforce certification requirements against individual renovation workers if they apply to enroll in certified renovator classes by September 30, 2010 and complete the training by December 31, 2010.

The agency will continue to take enforcement actions against renovation firms and individuals who do not comply with the RRP work practices and associated recordkeeping requirements. The lead-safe work practices include dust control, site clean up and work area containment. It is important that contractors take proactive steps to protect children, families, and themselves while they take the training and file the appropriate paperwork.

Learn more about the lead RRP program.

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