The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is moving to implement its sweeping new lead-safe rule on schedule and is strongly refuting the allegations of critics that are seeking to block it.
In an interview with PaintSquare News, Maria Doa, EPA’s director of National Program Chemicals Division, termed “misleading” and “inaccurate” the statistics put forward by a dozen trade associations and companies that oppose the rule.
Contrary to the critics’ allegation that fewer than 14,000 of 200,000 contractors had earned the required certification, Doa said that more than 50,000 had been certified and that she expected an additional 100,000 to be certified before the rule took effect April 22.
Doa also released a letter of full support for the legislation by the Laborers’ International Union of America (LiUNA), which said it could “easily” certify 50,000 contractors in the weeks ahead. (The EPA would train the other 50,000 in Doa’s estimate, she said.)
The EPA’s “Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule” was approved April 22, 2008, and is scheduled to take effect April 22, 2010. 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.
A dozen trade associations and companies moved March 8 to delay implementation of the rule, saying the industry was 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).
Signatories to the letter included Lowe’s Companies Inc., The Home Depot, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the National Association of Home Builders, and the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association.
The group contends that contractors cannot get certified for both the LRRP Rule and President Obama’s planned HOME STAR Energy Efficiency Retrofit Program (also known as “Cash for Caulkers”) at the same time.
The critics also said that seven states had offered no EPA training whatsoever.
“These numbers are not really accurate,” Doa said. More than 3,000 training classes have been held nationwide—most of them since November—by either state-based or traveling certifying vendors in every single state, she said.
Furthermore, she added, EPA has had to cancel more than 350 scheduled training classes over the last year, due to lack of attendance.
“The training capacity will be there, and it will be robust,” Doa said. She also noted that some contractors would not be immediately affected by the rule and that there would be additional time for training after implementation.
“Not everyone is going to do a job in a pre-1978 house on April 22,” she said.
Doa said she expected an additional 50,000 contractors to be trained in the first year of the program. Enforcement in the first year will focus on “compliance assistance,” although EPA will pursue tips and complaints lodged by homeowners and building owners who believe their contractors are non-compliant, she said.
The EPA will also be conducting public-awareness campaigns to help enforce the rule.
The letter to EPA from LiUNA, dated March 17, noted that the critics were seeking a meeting with the Office of Management and Budget to delay the rule and disputed their allegations.
“We doubt that the LRRP will have the impacted claimed by the building industry groups,” said the letter, signed by LiUNA General President Terence M. O’Sullivan. “Indeed, we believe that it is vitally important for building renovations to be carried out by renovators who have received training on potential health risks associated with improperly performed renovations.”
LiUNA said it could “easily train 50,000 workers” to meet demand.
“LiUNA strongly supports EPA's efforts to implement the lead training rule, and we are looking forward to partnering with EPA to ensure that home renovations are performed safely, and do not create unnecessary health risks to residents, families and children.”
The four senators addressed in the critics’ appeal did not respond to requests for comment.
More information on the rule is available at www.epa.gov/lead or 1-800-424-LEAD.
More information on training and accredited trainers is available at http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm#contractors.