EPA: Lead Paint Rule Won’t Be Changing

April 25th, 2018 by Trey Barrineau

After completing a federally mandated two-year review of the economic impacts of the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Tuesday that there will be no changes to the regulation.

The RRP rule, which has been deeply unpopular among door and window installers since the EPA first published it in 2008, was reviewed under Section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). It requires government agencies to determine “if provisions of a rule that are related to small entities should be continued without change, rescinded, or amended to minimize adverse economic impacts on small entities.” The 610 review for RRP began in June 2016.

After studying the rule as it was originally written, as well as amendments that were added in 2010 and 2011, the EPA concluded that it should remain unchanged.

The EPA determined that the RRP  rule should continue to be enforced because “adverse health effects have been shown to occur at even lower blood lead levels than when the rule was first promulgated,” it wrote in its report on the Section 610 review. Additionally, the agency said industry complaints about the lack of an accurate test kit for lead paint don’t outweigh the economic benefits of the program.

Despite a false-positive rate of 63 percent to 84 percent for EPA-recognized test kits, the agency estimates that the annual cost of the RRP program is roughly $1 billion, while the benefits of the rule are roughly $1.5 billion to $5 billion.

“Thus, the available evidence indicates that the benefits of the RRP rule continue to exceed its costs even if lead test kits meeting the positive response criterion are not available in the foreseeable future,” the agency wrote in its report.

EPA also refused to reinstate the opt-out provision of the rule, which was part of the original regulation in 2008 but was removed in 2010. It allowed homeowners to opt out of the requirements if no child under age six or pregnant woman was in the residence being renovated.

EPA said reinstating the opt-out provision “would make the RRP rule less protective and effective.”

In addition, EPA answered other questions raised by commenters during the Section 610 review process that touched on training; rule implementation, recertification and enforcement; post-job clearance testing; EPA’s conduct of the Section 610 review; rule scope; and economic analysis.

The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA), one of several industry organizations seeking changes to the rule, was not pleased with the decision.

“We are disappointed with the results of the 610 review, but are not surprised,” said WDMA president and CEO Michael O’Brien. “EPA’s response to the continued implementation issues raised by WDMA over the years has been unsatisfactory for the window, door and skylight industry. The suggestions we provided to EPA during the review process were reasonable and were wholly compatible with EPA’s statutory objective of protecting pregnant women and children under six from lead exposure. WDMA will continue working with EPA and Congress to address these issues, including any proposal to expand the rule to public and commercial buildings.”

EPA’s OIG Investigates RRP Rule

A few weeks ago, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) sent a memorandum to EPA officials announcing “preliminary research to evaluate the EPA’s implementation and enforcement” of the rule. This is not related to the Section 610 review.

“Our objective for this project is to determine whether the EPA has an effective strategy to implement and enforce the lead-based paint RRP,” the memorandum reads.

The OIG will review data on how the EPA measures the ways RRP helps reduce lead blood levels in children and “overburdened or disproportionately affected communities.” It will also review staffing and funding for the RRP program for fiscal years 2014 to 2018,  as well as contracts, grants, interagency agreements and commitments made through the National Program Managers Guidance.

WDMA says this action could be worth watching as it unfolds.

“It’s newsworthy considering what’s going on with lead over at EPA,” said  Kevin McKenney, WDMA’s director of government affairs. “Considering the issues WDMA has identified over the past few years with RRP’s implementation, it’s not surprising that the OIG wants to look into this.”

Though it was banned in 1978, EPA estimates that lead-based paint is still present in more than 30 million homes in the U.S. Infants, children, and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to lead paint exposure, which can cause lifelong effects such as developmental impairment, learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity and behavioral problems.

The RRP rule requires any renovation work — and all door and window replacements — that disturbs more than six square feet of a pre-1978 home’s interior to follow work practices to protect residents from exposure to lead, which is especially dangerous for young children. The work must be supervised by an EPA-certified renovator and performed by an EPA-certified renovation firm.

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