Posted by: Tamela Adamson-McMullen
While the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP) that went into effect on April 22 seemed fairly straightforward, the ramifications of the rule are anything but.
The rule stipulates that contractors involved in any renovation, repair or painting of homes, childcare facilities or schools built before 1978 must be trained and certified to prevent lead contamination while working. But since its effective date, the rule has encountered a few bumps in the road—some larger than others—that have kept it from moving forward smoothly.
The latest? Whether the rule should apply to commercial and public buildings in addition to residential dwellings. EPA is looking at this question as part of a settlement agreement made last August between the agency and several environmental and public-health advocacy groups, including the Sierra Club.
The agreement requires the EPA to issue work practice standards for renovation activities on the exterior of public buildings constructed before 1978. The agency also must evaluate whether renovation activities on the interior of non-residential buildings create lead-based paint hazards and, if so, propose standards there as well.
For exterior work, EPA must issue a rule by Dec. 15, 2011. For interior, the agency must consult with the EPA Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) by Sept. 30, 2011. If interior renovation activities are found to be hazardous, the EPA must issue a rule 18 months after receiving the SAB report.
EPA accepted public comment on these non-residential requirements until July 6. Among those responding was a coalition of 15 associations involved in commercial real estate, developing and contracting, such as the National Association of Home Builders and the Associated General Contractors of America (ACG).
The coalition urged the EPA to proceed carefully and to consider its legal authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which limits the agency’s authority to regulate certain RRP activities. “Among other things, EPA must complete a congressionally-mandated study of RRP activities in commercial and public buildings and the extent to which they create lead-based paint hazards before it can proceed with any regulations,” the coalition stated.
The group suggested that the EPA only has the legal authority to govern RRP activities when they create actual hazards; disturbance alone is not enough.
The coalition also noted that commercial and public buildings present “different patterns of exposure” to lead-based paint hazards than residential dwellings. It concluded that more study is needed to determine the economic impact of such regulations on the companies they would affect.
Meanwhile, the EPA is extending the comment period for the dust-wipe testing portion of the RRP rule. This part of the rule requires contractors to conduct lead-sample tests on surfaces inside and immediately outside their work areas and to send those samples to testing labs. Contractors already are coming out in opposition to this requirement, too, which they say would add significantly to their liability and costs.
Other “bumps” have come from housing groups, which have filed a lawsuit against the EPA for recently removing the rule’s opt-out provision. The provision allowed contractors to bypass extra prep, cleanup and recordkeeping steps, upon homeowners’ approval, in dwellings where no pregnant women or young children were present.
Another has come from the EPA itself, which has postponed the rule’s enforcement date until October to give contractors enough time to comply.
This rule seems to be a perpetually developing story. Stay tuned …