National News: EPA Responds Favorably to NAHB Concerns on Lead Rule, Though Questions Remain

From NAHB Online Newspaper

NAHB continues to seek clarification on a June 18 memo from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delaying the enforcement of training certification requirements under the Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule until Oct. 1.

The issue is that even though contractors won’t be fined or prosecuted for not having certification, the EPA’s lead-safe work practices requirement still stands for remodelers working in pre-1978 homes and they will be subject to penalties if they are found not to be following them.

For certified firms and certified renovators, the delayed deadline does not change anything.

The delay does provide more time for remodelers who have been thus far unable to find a class, and that is a decided win for NAHB.

To avoid enforcement, contractors must enroll in certified renovator training with an EPA-approved training provider by Sept. 30 and the training must be completed by Dec. 31. Remodelers must also apply to EPA for firm certification by Sept. 30.

“EPA listened to our concerns and did the right thing,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Jones.

In the revised guidance issued earlier this month, the EPA acknowledged that remodelers in many parts of the country have been unable to obtain the required training to comply with the rule — a problem that NAHB has been urging the agency to solve since the rule was announced two years ago.

The issue came to a head in May after floods devastated parts of Tennessee and there weren’t enough certified remodelers on hand to complete emergency home repairs in the area. NAHB and the state home builders association proposed a delay in enforcing the rule — a request the EPA consented to in its June 18 letter.

The EPA action was in direct response to NAHB’s continued involvement in the lead rule, which it acknowledged in the memo, including a petition to delay the rule and efforts to educate members of Congress on its adverse ramifications.

Additionally, the association had been strongly supporting an amendment from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to the Supplemental Appropriations Act that would have delayed the effective date of the rule.

“This rule potentially affects about 79 million home owners. That’s how many homes were built before 1978, when lead paint was banned,” Jones said in a press release sent after the memo was made public.

“We need significantly more contractors certified than the 300,000 who have taken the training course, and we also need to make sure that affected home owners understand the importance of hiring a certified contractor.”

More Challenges Ahead

While NAHB achieved a rare victory in the regulatory arena, the EPA’s lead rule still presents many challenges in addition to training concerns that NAHB continues to actively address, including removing the “opt-out” waiver, adding clearance testing to the rule and having it extended to commercial buildings.

There is no delay for the removal of the opt-out waiver on July 6. (For a related story from the June 14 issue of NBN, “EPA to Revoke the Lead Paint Opt-Out Waiver,” click here.)

Additionally, the memo does not preclude private citizens from filing lawsuits under the rule. Remodelers still need to maintain vigilance concerning possible liability issues.

In fact, the group Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives posted a message June 26 on the lead paint news e-mail list maintained by the National Center for Healthy Housing, an EPA-accredited lead paint work practices provider.

“In light of EPA’s recently stated intention to delay seeking penalties against firms for not becoming RRP-certified before Oct. 1, it is even more clear that lead poisioning prevention advocates ourselves must step up our efforts to promote compliance with the law,” the message said.

The group suggested that advocates contact local contractors and property management firms doing work in pre-1978 housing and encourage them to comply with the rule, then partner with interested attorneys to file a lawsuit under the Toxic Substances Control Act, “sharing any monetary settlement with the attorney” should they win against the non-certified firms.

Remodeler Leaders Meet with EPA

NAHB Remodeler leaders Bob Hanbury, CGR, and Bob Peterson, CGR, CAPS, CGP met with Assistant Administrator Steve Owens and other EPA officials on June 23 to discuss the problems associated with the agency’s clearance testing proposal.

The testing would add more expense, increase liability and further blur the lines between remodeling and lead paint abatement contractors, Hanbury and Peterson told EPA leaders. It would also require additional technical training for the industry at a time when remodelers already are struggling to obtain training in existing certification requirements.

Before the meeting, Owens’ office ruled out any discussion of the June 18 memo, telling NAHB that another division within the agency would issue clarification — although no such information had been posted by Monday morning, June 28.

This latest meeting was part of NAHB’s continuing efforts to work with the EPA on a sensible lead paint work practices rule that also encourages consumers to choose a lead-paint certified remodeler rather than complete the work themselves. Although the EPA launched a consumer public relations campaign on the rule, it has yet to gain traction and home owners remain unaware of rule costs, requirements and the dangers of attempting do-it-yourself remodeling.

What the Rule Requires

The EPA requires remodelers working in pre-1978 homes to:

  • Give customers the pre-renovation pamphlet (“Renovate Right”) and have them sign verification that they have received the notification
  • Set up work-area containment
  • Employ lead-safe work practices, such as using HEPA-filter equipped tools and not using open flames to remove paint
  • Conduct thorough cleaning after work is finished
  • Complete the cleaning verification process

Remodelers can contact their local home builders association to find certified renovator training sessions.

Remodeling firms must also become EPA-certified by submitting a form and $300 fee.

For more details about the work practices established by the EPA in the rule, see the “EPA Small Entity Compliance Guide to Renovate Right”.

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2 responses to “National News: EPA Responds Favorably to NAHB Concerns on Lead Rule, Though Questions Remain

  1. “Thanks for the post, this is a very important topic!

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    We also have a database of RRP FAQs http://zipwall.com/lp/EPAFAQ.html

    Hope this helps!

    ZipWall”

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