Commercial painters and renovators have won a major reprieve on the federal government’s plan to expand lead-safe renovation rules to commercial and public projects.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it will delay expansion of the controversial Lead Safe Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule until July 1, 2015, as part of a settlement revision.
National Park Service
|Federal regulators will delay expanding the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule to public and commercial projects for three years. This is a 2010 lead-paint removal project at Dinosaur National Monument.|
The decision was welcomed with hearty cheers from remodeling-industry organizations and politicians.
The EPA revised an August 2009 settlement agreement to merge interior and exterior RRP activities on public and commercial buildings.
The Road to Expansion
The RRP Rule, which went into effect in April 2010, mandates lead-safe certification and work practices for contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb more than six feet of lead-based paint in most pre-1978 homes, child-care facilities and schools.
After the rule was finalized, EPA began the process to introduce two additional rules that would have expanded the program to include interior and exterior work on commercial buildings.
|The residential RRP rule was designed to protect building occupants from lead poisoning. Many homes built before 1978 still contain lead paint.|
In fact, EPA’s RRP proposal for exterior renovations for public and commercial buildings was originally set to be issued by Sept. 14, 2012, and finalized February 2014.
In settling with some of the parties who petitioned for review of the Residential RRP rule, the EPA agreed to commence rulemaking to address renovations in public and commercial buildings, to the extent that those renovations create lead-based paint hazards.
The revised settlement combines interior and exterior RRP activities and delays the timeline for implementation.
RRP Under Fire; Agency’s Report
Criticism of the public and commercial RRP expansion mirror some of those that have dogged the original residential measure, including the alleged lack of data collected regarding the cost of implementation.
In a July 2012 report, EPA’s Office of the Inspector General noted that the EPA’s economic analysis before implementing the residential rule was limited in that:
• The estimated cleaning and containment work practice costs to comply with the rule were not based on a statistically valid survey.
• EPA did not quantitatively analyze or include other costs outlined in Agency guidance, such as costs due to increased consumer prices, costs of unemployment, and costs to markets indirectly affected by the rule.
• EPA did not include the cost to renovation businesses of securing additional liability insurance.
• EPA recommended additional work practices in a training program that, while not required by the rule, would likely result in additional cost because the regulated community would view these practices as required.
The Inspector General recommended that the agency reexamine the costs and benefits of the lead rule and the 2010 amendment to determine whether it should be modified, streamlined, expanded or repealed, according to the report.
Delaying the RRP expansion for public and commercial buildings will likely buy the agency more time for examination.
The agency will initiate more data collection efforts, hold public information meetings this winter, and seek input from a small business advocacy review panel in its process to expand the RRP rule, according to the amended settlement.
Senator, Industry Groups Applaud Delay
The delay will give EPA “enough time to collect more data and ensure that it has a clear understanding of how commercial and public buildings are renovated and repaired, or where potential lead hazards may occur,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
In an April 15, 2011 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Inhofe and nine other Republicans expressed concern about a commercial RRP rule due to the scarcity of data EPA had collected. “[W]ithout a full understanding of potential lead hazards in public and commercial buildings, the health benefits of the rule could not be realized,” the letter said.
Inhofe has now praised the delay, saying, “I applaud EPA for responding to Congressional oversight and agreeing to seek more time and information in order to propose a lead-based paint rule for commercial buildings in a thoughtful, reasonable manner.”
He added: “I have always supported the intention of this rule, which is to protect children and expectant mothers from the potential hazards of lead paint dust, but this rule must be applied in a way in which people can actually comply so that the full health benefits can be realized.”
The National Associations of Home Builders and the Associated Builders and Contractors also applauded the postponement and continued to express concern regarding the residential RRP rule.