Contractors who have been anxious and/or frustrated about the compliance deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Lead Paint: Renovation, Repair and Painting” rule, which took effect on April 22, were recently given reason to hope that temporary relief might be in the offing.
On May 27, the U.S. Senate passed legislation, attached to a supplemental funding bill, that would prohibit the EPA from using funds in the bill to levy fines against contractors who are performing work in homes built before 1978 but have not yet received lead-safe training and certification. The funding bill, which passed the Senate and is up for consideration by the House of Representatives, extends the compliance deadline to September 30.
The main point of contention for many remodelers and installers has been that, in some parts of the country – including Oklahoma and Maine, which both have large stocks of older housing – there haven’t been enough EPA-approved training providers to meet demand.
A scramble for certification
By early March, for example, only about 135 trainers were available and 50,000 certifications had been awarded, although EPA officials said they expected another 50,000 to be on record by the April 22 compliance deadline. An official trainer only recently started offering training sessions for contractors in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example. The president of the Remodelers Council at the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa told the Tulsa World that while most of the area’s established remodelers have already found a way to get certified, so far only about 25% of small contractors have managed to do so.
The amendment was proposed by Republican Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, but opposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat, who argued that it’s crucial to address sooner rather than later the dangers of lead poisoning, particularly for children and pregnant women who are at risk of exposure. (The EPA rule does include a provision, which expires July 6, that allows homes whose occupants do not include pregnant women and children under age 6 to opt out of the regulations.)
Collins said she fully supports the EPA rule but contended that inadequacies of the training-program rollout needed to be addressed. The amendment passed by a vote of 60-37.
Click here for an EPA page of relevant Rules and Regulations links; click here for a pdf of information, published May 6 in the Federal Register, on EPA rules regarding renovation, repair, and painting, and an analysis of data supporting expiration of the opt-out provision.