Just weeks before the two-year clock runs out, a dozen associations and retailers have joined forces to delay sweeping new federal lead-safe work rules set to take effect April 22.
In a joint letter dated March 8, the group appealed to four U.S. senators involved in developing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule.” The rule, approved April 22, 2008, would affect up to 250,000 contractors from a variety of trades.
The rule mandates training and certification in lead-safe work practices for construction contractors, property managers and others who work in homes and child-occupied facilities built before 1978.
Opponents of the rule say the industry is still not nearly prepared for it—even after two years’ notice.
“Currently, EPA has only 135 accredited trainers and 13,669 certified renovators nationwide, although its own compliance-needs estimates indicate that it needs at least 200,000 or more certified renovators,” said the letter submitted to Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and James Inhofe (R-OK).
The letter was signed by these organizations and companies:
• Lowe’s Companies Inc.
• The Home Depot
• National Association of the Remodeling Industry
• National Association of Home Builders
• National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association
• Window and Door Manufacturers Association
• Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association
• Window and Door Dealers Alliance
• National Glass Association
• Manufactured Housing Institute
• Vinyl Siding Institute
• Independent Electrical Contractors
Critics of the rule never liked its cost, its reach or its many requirements. Still, with the clock running on a previously approved time line, there seemed no room for appeal.
That changed with President Obama’s “State of the Union” call for a multibillion-dollar stimulus plan to incentivize energy efficiency upgrades in older homes and buildings. The resulting legislation produced the HOME STAR Energy Efficiency Retrofit Program, informally known as “Cash for Caulkers.”
Past precedent, although not law, has given such presidential programs preference over agency regulations when it comes to resources and implementation.
LRRP critics contend that HOME STAR and LRRP make similar demands on many of the same contractors and affect the same housing stock, so contractors cannot comply with both at once.
While calling HOME STAR “an effective approach” toward improving energy efficiency, the additional requirements risk “derailing compliance with the LRRP” or complying with LRRP at the expense of HOMESTAR.
“As manufacturers, distributors, retailers and installers of new construction materials, we support efforts to ensure that home renovations in pre-1978 homes are conducted in accordance with EPA’s LRRP requirements,” the group’s letter said.
“Unfortunately, based on EPA compliance-needs estimates, we do not believe EPA is prepared to adequately implement the LRRP. Further, if implemented now, the LRRP will negatively affect economic stimulus funding designated for housing weatherization and planned efforts for a national residential retrofit program.”
LRRP would require that any renovation work that disturbs more than six square feet inside a pre-1978 home follow new Lead Safe Work Practices (LSWP) supervised by an EPA-certified renovator and performed by an EPA certified renovation firm, as outlined in 40 CFR § 745.85.
The rule’s opponents noted that fewer than 10 percent of contractors had been certified, adding: “Obviously, these numbers are far too insufficient for the millions of renovations carried out annually, even without a substantial retrofit incentive program like HOME STAR.
“With the April 22, 2010 deadline nearing, it is clear that EPA cannot ensure enough certified renovators will be available for compliance with the LRRP. Meanwhile, there is going to be an additional influx of new residential contractors and renovators generated by the HOME STAR proposal.”
Furthermore, the group noted, HOME STAR is certain to draw more contractors and renovators into the residential sector, which is sure to compound the competition and confusion.
“We believe renovation incentives and HOME STAR, if passed as proposed … will only magnify LRRP compliance issues.”
The critics cited a similar case in September 2000, when the Housing and Urban Development’s “Lead Safe Housing Regulation” was deferred until more personnel and firms could be trained.
Certification programs for the LRRP have grown slowly. Seven states still do not have even one, according to NARI.
“In light of the high priority given by both Congress and the Administration to improving energy efficiency in older homes and creating a robust residential retrofit industry…, contractors and industry professionals must have a resolution to the LRRP compliance issue before April 22, 2010,” the letter said.
Neither the EPA nor the senators had an immediate response to the appeal.