The Environmental Protection Agency, facing pressure from industry groups and members of Congress, has acted to delay enforcement of the agency’s much-criticized “Lead-Safe Renovation, Repairs and Painting” (LRRP) rule.
The agency announced that it will not take enforcement action until Oct. 1 against renovation and repair contractors or companies for violations of the rule’s certification requirements. For individual renovation workers, the agency will not take enforcement action as long as those workers have applied for, or are enrolled in, training classes by Sept. 30, and complete the training by Dec. 31.
The action was announced in a memo issued by Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of the EPA Office of Enforcement Compliance Assurance. The memo was sent to EPA Enforcement Division directors.
The action follows a campaign for the delay from businesses and trade groups, including the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), and others, and from lawmakers in both parties. The American Coatings Association (ACA) has harshly criticized a public-service ad campaign accompanying the LRRP; the PSA campaign has been carried out by EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The rule, which went into effect in April, requires lead-safe certification of renovators and companies that disturb six square feet of interior paint in a home, school, or day-care center built before 1978.
In a statement on the enforcement delay, the EPA said it “is simply giving firms more time to file the appropriate paperwork demonstrating they are following the lead-safe work practices. Moreover, EPA is also giving individual contractors more time to enroll in and take the required training courses.”
In the statement, the agency stated that since April 22, “contractors have been required to follow the lead-safe work practices outlined by EPA. Contractors are required to take proactive steps to protect children and families from the dangers of lead poisoning, and EPA can and will take enforcement action when contractors violate those work practices.”
The lead-safe rule had drawn fire from affected trade associations and some major retailers, including Home Depot Inc. and Lowe’s Company, who said the measure unduly burdened contracting businesses and warned that compliance would drive up the cost of remodeling and repairs.
News of the enforcement delay was welcomed by the home builders association, which said the action “will provide much-needed time to get more remodelers and other contractors trained—and for EPA to get the word out to consumers about the importance of hiring a certified remodeler.”
“EPA listened to our concerns and did the right thing,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Jones, a builder and developer in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
The NAHB said that in revised guidance issued Friday, 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 urged the agency to solve since the rule was announced two years ago.
NAHB said the issue came to a head in May after floods devastated parts of Tennessee and there weren’t enough certified remodelers to complete much-needed home repairs. NAHB and its state home-builders association proposed a delay in enforcing the rule.
The association said that while remodelers, electricians, heating and air-conditioning technicians, and other contractors must adhere to lead-safe work practices—including special equipment filters and a ban on open flames—EPA will not take enforcement action until Oct. 1 against companies that have been unable to obtain certification.
“This rule potentially affects about 79 million homeowners. That’s how many homes were built before 1978, when lead paint was banned,” Jones said. “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 homeowners understand the importance of hiring a certified contractor.”
The American Coatings Association, meanwhile, said in a statement that it continues to support the aims of the LRRP rule, although “ACA understands that EPA’s decision to delay the rule was based on the economic and logistical problems created by the RRP’s universal certification requirement for contractors and its strict guidelines.”
The ACA statement, from association Vice President and General Counsel Thomas Graves, said ACA “has supported the objectives of the Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule since well before its formal proposal by EPA three years ago, delivering an industry-funded national training program for contractors and other interested groups.” Graves added that “ACA continues to support the objectives of the rule as a key to the elimination of the threat of childhood lead exposure.”
ACA, on the other hand, has denounced the EPA’s public-awareness campaign—which targets parents and caregivers in order to increase compliance—as “dangerously misleading.” ACA President Andy Doyle said the campaign’s “visual depictions of the industry's products being poured onto cereal or into ‘sippy cups’ or baby bottles are completely inappropriate, as these products have never been intended to be ingested or used in this manner. The use of such visuals is completely without merit and improper.” He said the public service announcements “wrongly and unfairly imply that paint currently contains lead.”