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EPA Unveils Next Round on Lead Rule

Friday, May 30, 2014

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It’s time for U.S. contractors on public and commercial projects to gear up for the next round of proposed lead-safe rules at those worksites.

After a 20-month hiatus, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is releasing a framework for a new rule, similar to the four-year-old mandates on residential and day-care projects.

EPA's “Framework for Identifying and Evaluating Lead-Based Paint Hazards from Renovation, Repair, and Painting Activities in Public and Commercial Buildings” is scheduled for publication today (May 30) in the Federal Register.

Historic restoration

Industry groups say the EPA has yet to identify whether "dangerous levels of lead" even exist in public and commercial buildings.

Pre-publication copies of the announcement and the Framework (which are not considered official until publication) were released Wednesday (May 28).

Expanding RRP

The agency is seeking public comments on the document through The docket number is EPA-HQ-OPPT-2010-0173. The comment period runs for 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The Framework document serves as an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking; it is not a proposed rule.

The goal of the Framework is to "describe an approach for identifying and evaluating potential hazards created by renovations of public and commercial buildings," according to EPA.

The agency has been under pressure from contractors, builders, property owners and managers, and materials suppliers to document a problem before taking any action to expand the controversial Lead Safe Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule for residential and child-occupied facilities.

The RRP rule took effect in April 2010, and the EPA immediately announced plans to expand the mandates to commercial and public-works construction.

The agency's RRP proposal for exterior renovations for public and commercial buildings was originally set to be issued by September 2012 and finalized in February 2014.

Dinosaur Monument
National Park Service

New lead rules for commercial and public buildings would affect renovation work such as the 2010 lead-paint removal project at Dinosaur National Monument.

Such a rule would potentially apply to workers and companies involved in building construction, specialty trades, real estate and other "general governmental support."

Critics Weigh In

Opponents, however, said EPA needed to document a problem and all potential costs before imposing a new rule. The critics included EPA's own Office of Inspector General, which issued a report in July 2012 criticizing the agency's economic analysis of the original RRP rule.

In September 2012, EPA announced that it would delay expansion of the rule until July 2015.

In the meantime, 22 trade organizations, collectively called the “Commercial Properties Coalition,” submitted 61 pages of comments in May 2013 on the plan. The industry demanded proof of a “hazard and causal link” between renovation work and lead-based paint in public and commercial buildings before EPA drafted a new rule.

Model Scenarios

Although not yet final, the pre-publication Framework signals a more incremental regulatory approach than the sweeping RRP rule, which applies to all child-occupied pre-1978 construction.

Commercial building
Gentletouch1954 / Wikimedia Common

The commercial building industry notes that commercial buildings cover a vast range of ages, styles, configurations and purposes. EPA says it will develop model renovation scenarios for various potential exposures.

This time, EPA said it would "model specific interior and exterior [public and commercial building] renovation scenarios that represent the broad range of exposure that can occur in P&CBs in order to evaluate whether adverse health effects could occur."
The scenarios will consider building size and configuration, duration of exposure, the presence of children, and other factors. The Framework describes how such analyses might be performed and presents some preliminary results.
The agency also wants to know how the renovation of commercial and public buildings could affect nearby homes, schools and day-care centers.
Limitations and Next Steps

EPA notes that the Framework is drawn generally and does not include suggested modeling inputs and other details.

Such details will be informed by the public comments, the agency says, and reflected in the next round—which will also then be subject to public comment.


Tagged categories: Commercial Buildings; EPA; Government contracts; Historic Structures; Lead paint abatement; Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP); Public spaces; Renovation

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