A coalition of housing industry groups plans to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to restore an “opt-out” provision to EPA’s controversial new lead-safe practices rule.
The National Association of Home Builders; the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association; the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association; and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association say they will petition for a review of the provision in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.
At issue is the EPA’s decision to remove the ability of homeowners to waive federal lead-safe practice requirements for contractors who work in their homes. EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, implemented April 22, requires lead-safe certification of any contractor and firm whose work disturbs more than six square feet of paint in a home, school or day-care center.
The final rule included a voluntary opt-out provision for homeowners, but EPA withdrew the provision shortly after the implementation date, and the loophole closed July 6.
Industry and trade associations have been fighting the rule for months, calling it onerous, costly and unnecessary. They have sought legislative support to get the rule repealed or delayed. The American Coatings Association has also protested the EPA’s public service ads for the campaign.
“Removing the opt-out provision more than doubles the number of homes subject to the regulation,” said NAHB chairman Bob Jones. “About 79 million homes are affected, even though EPA estimates that only 38 million homes contain lead-based paint. Removing the opt-out provision extends the rule to consumers who need no protection.”
EPA has agreed to defer enforcement of the rule until Oct. 1, but the agency will not back down on the opt-out, a spokesman said Monday.
“Almost a million children have elevated blood lead levels as a result of exposure to lead hazards, which can lead to lower intelligence, learning disabilities, and behavior issues,” the spokesman said. “Adults exposed to lead hazards can suffer from high blood pressure and headaches.
“EPA has eliminated the so-called opt-out provision because improper renovations in older homes can create lead hazards resulting in harmful health effects for residents and visitors in these homes, regardless of age. The result will better protect children and adult occupants during and after renovation, repair and painting projects.”
Removing the opt-out also “makes the RRP consistent with statutory requirements,” the spokesman added.
The housing and trade groups said in a statement that they would challenge EPA's action “on the grounds that the agency substantially amended its LRRP regulation without any new scientific data and before the regulation was even put into place….”
The groups contend that the LRRP requirements will add an average of $2,400 in costs to every remodeling job. The National Window and Door Manufacturers Association says the rule will add $60 to $170 for each window replacement.
“The removal of the opt-out provision, which was done without any substantial research or data to support such a move, will result in millions of homeowners paying for additional measures that they may not need and discourage them from making necessary improvements,” said Dan Fesler, chairman of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association.
“Worse, it may encourage homeowners to seek out uncertified contractors and put certified LRRP contractors at a competitive disadvantage.”