Category Archives: Goverment Affairs

EPA Underestimates Costs and Overestimates Benefit of Lead Rule

From our friends at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), some recent news about the ongoing battle for legislation to restore the homeowners’ right to opt out of costly lead based paint removal protocols:

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Inspector General reported on the findings of an investigation into the agency’s economic analysis of the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rule. Not surprisingly, that report determined that the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) underestimated the rule’s cost and overestimated its benefits.

Moreover, the EPA Inspector General found that the training manual and subsequent “certified renovator” training failed to clearly delineate which lead-safe work practices are mandated and which are simply recommendations.

For more information about what the NAHB is doing to improve the effectiveness and reduce the cost of this rule, check out this recent article on Housing Zone by Professional Remodeler.

LEAD legislation needs your support!

Our friends at NAHB Remodelers, our national affiliate, have provided a simple and convenient way to show your support for  the newly proposed S. 2148, the Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2012

On March 1, 2012 Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced S. 2148, the Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2012.  This piece of legislation improves the Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule (RRP) which has hampered the home building industry with burdensome compliance costs. 

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the RRP rule establishing new requirements for contractors and remodelers working in homes built before 1978.  The rule prescribes a series of work practices and contractor certification requirements as a way to address impacts associated with the disturbance of lead-painted surfaces in older housing.  Specifically designed to address potential lead exposures to children under six years of age and pregnant women, the RRP rule requires contractors and remodelers working in older homes to obtain certification from the EPA. 

This legislation will restore the “Opt-Out Provision” from the RRP rule which allowed homeowners without children under six or pregnant women residing in the home to allow their contractor to forego the use of lead-safe work practices.  By restoring the “opt-out provision”, it will eliminate unnecessary regulations and compliance costs estimated at $508 million a year.

Read more here.

Urge your Senators to support this legislation here.

NAHB Endorsed Legislation Introduced to Reduce Lead Regulatory Burden

This just in from the National Association of Home Builders in Washington D.C.:

Responding to concerns from NAHB Remodelers and affiliated trade groups, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on March 1 introduced S. 2148, the Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2012,  to improve the lead paint rule for remodelers who must comply with the costly work practices and record keeping requirements of the rule.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s  Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting (LRRP) rule, which took effect on April 22, 2010, requires that remodelers and contractors working in homes built before 1978 be trained and certified by the EPA on lead-safe work practices before they can legally work in those homes.

The bill was introduced with five original co-sponsors: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), David Vitter (R-La.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).

NAHB is urging its members to contact their senators and call on them to co-sponsor the Inhofe bill. The association is also seeking the introduction of companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2012 would:

  • Reinstate the opt-out provision to allow home owners without small children or pregnant women residing in them to decide whether to require LRRP compliance, not the government.
  • Suspend the LRRP if EPA does not approve a commercially available test kit that meets the regulation’s requirements.
  • Allow remodelers the “right to cure” paperwork errors found during an inspection.
  • Eliminate the “hands on” recertification training requirements.
  • Prohibit EPA from expanding the LRRP to commercial and public buildings until at least one year after the agency conducts a study demonstrating the need for such an action.
  • Clarify the definition of “abatement” to specifically exclude remodeling and renovation activities.
  • Provide an exemption to the regulation for emergency renovations

Read the full story here.

The Importance of Tax Credits and Home Equity Loan Spending

Our friends at the NAHB just posted this interesting article about the correlation between tax credits, home equity lending, and remodeling activity in this current economy.

Historically, home equity loans have been an important source of funding for home improvement spending. The following analysis demonstrates this relationship and examines what impact recent declines in home equity loan use have had on the remodeling sector, as well as the positive effects of the residential energy-efficient tax credits. In particular, as home equity withdrawal declined during the Great Recession, remodeling spending fell. But the decline in remodeling activity was tempered by the existence of the tax credit programs.

According to the Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey (AHS), in 2005, 48% of home equity loan dollars were used for home improvement. That percentage has grown in recent years, increasing to 49% in 2007 and 51% in 2009 (the most recent edition of the AHS).

Read the full article on the NAHB blog here.

EPA RRP Enforcement Wake Up Call

On May 26th, the Professional Remodelers Organization welcomed nearly double the number of remodelers than normal for our 7:30am Remodelers’ Round Table discussion.  What topic would bring out so many people for what is generally billed as an informal gathering of professionals for open format discussion on topics ranging from contracts or insurance to finding good employees?

One word… Lead.

The PRO arranged for an OSHA inspector to participate and help demystify some of the angst and confusion surrounding lead based paint rules in Oregon.

There were a lot of questions and hopefully some good answers, but it seems like this recent blog post by Jonathan Sweet from HousingZone.com sheds a little light on why there is so much momentum around this subject right now…

All the remodelers out there who thought that the EPA RRP lead paint rules weren’t going to be enforced may want to think again. 

The EPA announced in May it would be pursuing action against a Rockland, Maine, remodeler for alleged violation of the RRP rules. The EPA has said that Colin Wentworth is facing fines of at least $150,000 for multiple violations.

It’s the first punitive action the EPA has taken for violation of the new rules, although the agency has cited several companies for failing to provide the “Renovate Right” pamphlet to owners of pre-1978 homes. That has been required of remodelers for years, but many have ignored it.

The relatively lax enforcement of that rule has probably been what led many remodelers to think this would be no big deal.

Read the rest of the article to see what has changed… and keep an eye out in late July for our next Remodelers’ Round Table.

CCB Sting Surprises Uncertified Locksmiths and Unlicensed Contractors

From CCB Press Release

On January 19 and 20, 2011, uncertified locksmiths and unlicensed contractors in the Happy Valley area had a surprise waiting for them.

The Construction Contractors Board (CCB) conducted a sting operation designed to curb uncertified locksmith and unlicensed contractor activity in the area. The Portland ABC affiliate KATU participated and filmed the action. The CCB partnered with a member of the Pacific Locksmith Association to locate a sting house.

At the end of the two-day sting, CCB issued 8 individuals a total of 9 proposed field orders; 3 for unlicensed construction activity and 6 for uncertified locksmith activity.  Field Investigators forwarded additional reports to CCB’s Enforcement section for further investigation and possible action.

“Illegal activity doesn’t just hurt the consumer,” says Robert Rambo, Manager of CCB’s Field Investigations. “It hurts the legitimate contractors that work hard to stay in compliance only to get undercut by those who don’t. The CCB is committed to finding and penalizing those working illegally.”

Though licensing of construction contractors have been part of Oregon law since the 1970’s, laws requiring locksmith certification and licensing became effective July 1, 2010. Locksmiths in Oregon are required to be certified and the business licensed by the CCB unless exempted by law.

Prior to the sting, the CCB obtained leads from advertisements, Craig’s list, public bulletin boards, and other unnamed sources.

The CCB has stepped up enforcement efforts throughout the state with more stings planned as well as job-site checks happening at any given time on any day of the week.

Contractors and consumers can report illegal activity on the CCB website or by calling the agency at 503-378-4621.

The CCB strongly encourages consumers to verify a contractor is actively licensed. Consumers can easily check the license and complaint history at www.oregon.gov/CCB or by calling 503-378-4621.

Licensed contractors have a bond and insurance which offer some financial protections if something were to go wrong. Homeowners can get help resolving construction-related disputes within a year from the time the work was substantially completed or the work stopped. These protections are only available if the contractor is licensed with the CCB.

CCB Reminds Contractors of the Lead-Based Paint Safety Requirements in Oregon

From the CCB Blog

The Construction Contractors Board (CCB) reminds Oregon construction contractors that enforcement of the new lead based paint (LBP) safety regulations continues in Oregon.

The new LBP requirements, commonly called “RRP” (Renovation, Repair and Painting) requirements, are federal EPA requirements that became effective April 22, 2010. States can apply to the EPA to administer the program.

The CCB began enforcing the new LBP requirements when the EPA authorized Oregon to “take over” the program in May 2010.

Contractors that remodel or demolition homes, schools, or facilities where children regularly visit, constructed in and before1978, are required to obtain from the CCB, a certified Lead-Based Paint Renovation (LBPR) Contractors license. To qualify, an owner or employee must complete the RRP training from an approved provider and complete a CCB LBPR application. The license is $50 a year and can be renewed annually.

The RRP training is an eight hour course that instructs contractors on the required practices to protect the public from lead contaminants. These standards of practice are found in Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 333- 070-0090.

“CCB recognizes the new requirements have made for tough state laws,” says Richard Blank, Enforcement Manager. “At the same time, the agency takes seriously the enforcement of these laws for the protection of the public.”

Fines for working without the proper licensing or violating standards of practice are $1000 (first violation), $3000 (second violation) and $5000 (third and subsequent violations).

For more information on the CCB lead-based paint laws for renovation work or to download the application for CCB’s LBPR contractor’s license, visit http://www.oregon.gov/CCB/lead-based-paint.shtml.

NAHB Concerned Over EPA’s Continued Use of Faulty Lead Rule Test Kits, Enforcement Plans

From Nation’s Building News a publication of NAHB

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has no plans to discontinue the use of the inaccurate lead paint test kits available, even though they indicate “false positives” of lead being present by as much as 72% of the time, NAHB learned during an Aug. 25 meeting it called to discuss concerns about the implementation and enforcement of the lead paint rule.

EPA officials also indicated that they are preparing a new document detailing how the agency plans to levy fines against remodelers and other contractors who run afoul of the Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule. The fines will range from $150 to $37,500 per violation per day, depending upon the severity of the infraction, the EPA said.

NAHB called the meeting — the latest in a series the association has held with the agency and other industry groups throughout the year — so that the EPA could provide updates on the lead paint rule and give industry representatives an opportunity to air concerns about its implementation and enforcement.

Under the rule, which went into effect on April 22, remodelers and other contractors who work in housing and child-occupied facilities built before 1978 are required to undergo training and certification in order to work in the homes and must employ lead-safe work practices unless the homes are tested and found to be free of any lead paint. About 78 million homes are subject to the new EPA regulation.

During the meeting, EPA officials confirmed that second-generation and more accurate test kits would not be available on Sept. 1, as originally planned. The agency said that none of the new test kits reviewed was able to pass the “false positive” requirement indicating the presence of lead and did not know when more accurate kits would become available.

NAHB indicated its concern that the use of the three currently approved and inaccurate test kits will continue to raise the cost of renovation and repair for home owners as remodelers employ lead-safe work practices even though lead may not be present.

As posted on the EPA website, the inaccurate kits will remain in use until new kits that meet both the EPA’s negative and positive response criteria are introduced.

EPA Training Continues to Fall Short

The EPA reported that 449,000 remodelers and contractors had been trained under the lead rule as of mid-August and that 53,000 firms have been certified. However, EPA officials indicated that they were concerned about the low number of firms that had been certified to date and about contractors’ confusion about the individual training and firm certification requirements needed to work in pre-1978 homes.

The EPA has continued to receive applications for new lead rule training providers, with more than 200 in the pipeline for review. Currently, about 315 training providers have been approved by the EPA, including 15 online providers.

However, EPA officials also told meeting participants that they are investigating the accuracy of some of the training being provided. For example, one trainer was continuing to teach remodelers about the viability of the opt-out rule — where home owners could sign a waiver under certain circumstances. The opt-out rule expired on July 6.

The EPA has requested that remodelers contact the National Lead Information Center at 800-424-5323 with any complaints or concerns about lead rule training so that the agency can correct any problems.

In response to NAHB concerns that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) general work site safety regulations may conflict with lead-safe work practices — for example, slipping hazards while using plastic sheeting — EPA representatives said OSHA has reviewed the rule and, while not noting conflicts in the regulations, has suggested changes to the training material. These changes will be incorporated when EPA updates its training material, the officials said.

Until then, remodelers are urged to contact their regional EPA or OSHA offices with questions about safety under the lead rule and OSHA inspections.

EPA Enforcement Procedures Not Finalized

EPA officials have released a draft enforcement plan detailing the fines it will levy against contractors for violating the lead rule. The nature of the offense; the contractor’s record, including previous offenses; and the contractor’s willingness to correct issues would all be factored into the severity of the fine, officials said.

EPA officials also said that some regional offices are investigating enforcement actions against remodelers after receiving tips on potential violations.

In addition, building officials in some jurisdictions have begun to deny permits to firms that have been unable to provide proof that they earned the proper certification under the rule.

The EPA is “encouraging people to ask questions, but not necessarily deny permits.” said the EPA’s Michelle Price.

Ten states have adopted the lead rule and have assumed implementation and enforcement responsibilities, with Georgia, Rhode Island and Massachusetts the most recent ones to implement the regulation.

Most of the states have instituted identical requirements of the federal rule, but some — such as Rhode Island, which plans to require clearance testing for completed remodeling projects in homes that test positive for lead — may enforce stricter rules and levy larger enforcement fines.

In Minnesota, contractors must show proof of EPA lead paint certification before renewing their business licenses.

NAHB will continue to monitor the implementation and enforcement of the lead paint rule and keep members apprised.

For more information on the lead paint rule, visit www.nahb.org/leadpaint.

Unavailability of Inexpensive Test Kits Pushes Cost of EPA Lead Paint Rule Higher

From Nations’ Building News

A new NAHB economic analysis of the costs associated with the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule shows why the rule — intended to protect young children from the significant hazards of lead paint exposure — is even more likely to backfire.

The NAHB findings — which are included in new comments from the association filed on Aug. 6 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed clearance testing rule — follows an announcement by the agency that more accurate, inexpensive lead paint test kits will not be available anytime soon. The kits were expected to be ready by next month and were seen as key to keeping the lead paint rule affordable for home owners.

NAHB is also looking at the revised lead hazard standard that the EPA is now preparing for residential buildings and the new lead hazard standard for commercial and public buildings.

The agency has formed a Science Advisory Board to review proposals for the standard. To determine whether any members of this board may have a conflict of interest or may not be impartial, NAHB has made a Freedom of Information request to the EPA for records, correspondence and other paperwork of the advisory staff.

$2 Billion Out the Window

The new lead paint rule is expected to have a significant impact on the nation’s remodeling market, with repercussions for jobs, wages and tax revenue. 

For example, NAHB Economics found that the cost of the lead-safe work practices and third-party lead-paint testing just for window replacements — a common renovation project — in all pre-1978 homes would result in:

  • A reduction of $1.9 billion spent on window replacements performed by professional contractors
  • A reduction of $1.0 billion in wages and salaries earned across all industries
  • 21,226 fewer jobs
  • A reduction of $579 million in revenue for federal, state and local governments

“This is a classic case of good intentions resulting in unintended consequences,” said NAHB Remodelers Chair Donna Shirey, a remodeler in Issaquah, Wash.

“We’ll have more and more consumers who understandably balk at the higher costs of hiring an EPA-certified renovator and either do the work themselves or don’t do it at all, even if their homes have lead paint. I think the public health consequences could be quite significant,” she said.

The EPA’s economic analysis found that the cost of the work practices would be about $35 per job, averaging the costs of all jobs with those in which lead-safe work practices would be required and assuming the availability of an accurate, off-the-shelf kit that could check for the presence of lead paint for about $2 per test.

With the tests unavailable, consumers are left with more expensive methods to check for lead. Otherwise, the remodeler must assume that lead is present — even in homes built between 1960 and 1978, only 25% of which contain lead paint according to government estimates.

“That means that 75% of those consumers will have to pay for the rule, yet they get no benefit,” Shirey pointed out.

Rules for Remodelers

The lead rule requires remodelers, window installers and other contractors who work in housing and child-occupied facilities built before 1978 to use lead-safe work practices unless those homes are tested and found free of any lead paint.

Renovations in homes built before 1978 that affect painted surfaces measuring at least 6 square feet (or 20 square feet outside) must be managed by a certified renovator who has completed EPA-approved training and is employed by an EPA-certified firm.

Certified renovators complete EPA-approved training and submit a form and $300 to the EPA to become a certified firm. The certified renovator must then follow work practices stipulated in the rule, including containing and controlling the dust, cleaning up after the work, using a wet wipe to confirm the cleaning and maintaining careful records of each job for at least three years.

All renovators must provide their customers with the EPA’s “Renovate Right” brochure before starting work in pre-1978 housing.  

Clearance Testing Update

The lack of a reliable, inexpensive test kit means that the economic assumptions that EPA has made in subsequent rulemakings — including the upcoming clearance testing requirement — must be rethought.

“NAHB fully expects that the EPA will issue a revised cost estimate for lead-safe work practices and take steps to raise consumer awareness of this issue,” Shirey said.

In its Aug. 6 comments, besides pointing out the increased cost for window replacement, NAHB clarified and expanded its earlier comments on dust-wipe sampling procedures, the physical condition of tested surfaces and the agency’s proposal to allow certified renovators to collect paint chip samples prior to remodeling.

Alert: NAHB to Sue EPA Over Lead Paint Regulations

A coalition of housing industry groups joined the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) today in announcing plans to file a lawsuit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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 & Barbeque 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.

“Even under the original rule, the opt-out provision was not available in homes where small children or pregnant women live,” Jones said. “That shows that this change provides no additional protection to the people who are most vulnerable to lead-based paint hazards.”

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.