Feds Revive Lead Rule for Public Works
After a season's hiatus, federal regulators have dusted off a controversial plan to impose new lead-safe practices on public works and commercial projects.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency greeted the new year with an announcement Jan. 2 that it was again inviting public comment on its proposed expansion of the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule.
Government and commercial contractors, facility owners, suppliers and other stakeholders now have until April 1 to express their views on the rule, which would impose on commercial and government projects the same lead-safe mandates now in effect for residential and school projects.
After a years-long push to advance the rule, EPA abruptly withdrew the proposal in September. The move followed a July 2012 report by EPA’s Office of the Inspector General that assailed the agency's economic analysis of the proposal. The rule's many critics had long contended that the EPA did not have sufficient data to justify expanding the rule.
OIG detailed what it considered the holes in EPA's analysis and urged the agency to reexamine the rule's costs and benefits in depth.
The RRP Rule, which went into effect in April 2010, mandates lead-safe certification and work practices for contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb more than six feet of lead-based paint in most pre-1978 homes, child-care facilities and schools.
Just days after the residential rule took effect, EPA began the process to introduce two additional rules to expand the program, issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for an RRP proposal for commercial and public exteriors.
The expansion plan stemmed from a 2009 federal-court settlement by the EPA, the Sierra Club, and the New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning. The settlement required EPA to initiate RRP-type rulemaking to address public and commercial renovation if that work was shown to pose lead-based paint hazards.
Critics said the EPA had not adequately analyzed the costs and benefits of the proposal. EPA's Office of Inspector General agreed in a report last year.
EPA’s RRP proposal for exterior renovations for public and commercial buildings was originally set to be issued by Sept. 14, 2012, and finalized February 2014.
Critics blasted the plan from the start, however. Republican Senators criticized it in a 2011 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and a coalition of real-estate organizations sounded off in a December 2010 letter.
EPA then reversed course in a revised 2012 amendment to the 2009 settlement. The revised settlement also combined interior and exterior RRP activities and delayed the timeline for implementation.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said the delay would give EPA “enough time to collect more data and ensure that it has a clear understanding of how commercial and public buildings are renovated and repaired, or where potential lead hazards may occur."
No new proposal has been released. The EPA plans to discuss the rule at a public meeting June 26. Details about that meeting will be published this spring in the Federal Register.
EPA has said it will initiate more data collection efforts and seek input from a small business advocacy review panel in its process to expand the rule.
For more information or to submit comments on the proposed rule, click here.