The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would strip the lead-paint program of its funding effective Oct. 1 and shift financial responsibility to states and local entities, according to an internal document from senior EPA officials.
The memorandum issued March 21 by David Bloom, EPA's acting chief financial officer, was obtained by The Washington Post and served as the foundation for the newspaper's March 31 storycretxbcqrwcrybebutyr about the Trump administration's plans to cut EPA's budget by 31%, eliminate 25% of its personnel, and get rid of more than 50 programs. The memo asks senior staffers to review the planned cuts and then recommend how to set the best course for the agency under new parameters. After they respond, EPA's leadership will compile the final budget proposal that the White House would review and send to Congress for consideration in fiscal 2018 starting Oct. 1.
The Post's story didn't touch on funding for the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule, but the underlying memorandum identifies for elimination two programs that fund RRP:
* A grant worth $14,049,000 that involves zero fulltime EPA staff. "Funding for this mature program is eliminated, returning the responsibility for funding to state and local entities," the memo says.
* Roughly $2,559,000 and 72.8 fulltime-equivalent EPA staff for the agency's Lead Risk Reduction Program. "This program has been eliminated," the memo states.
An EPA spokesperson contacted early today by REMODELING did not immediately return calls for comment on this story.
Removing the funds for RRP doesn't mean the law that created it would go away, particularly in the 14 states that have taken on RRP enforcement. (See the National Center for Healthy Housing's list of which states are involved.) It does, however, suggest that enforcement of the reg would become more sporadic and less consistent across the country. In New Jersey, for instance, the state in 2004 created a Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund to provide loans and grants to homeowners and landlords to help them remove lead-based paint from dwellings. The fund was to be set up using sales tax revenue from cans of paint and generate $7 million to $14 million every year. "But instead, the Legislature and multiple governors, Democrats and Republicans alike, diverted more than $50 million from the fund over the next dozen years so that they could pay routine bills and salaries," a reporter from the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press said in an email to REMODELING. "Gov. Chris Christie did include $10M for this in last year's budget--after much media scrutiny--although he downplayed the need for it."
Regulations involving lead paint are part of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which became law in 1976 and was updated in 2016. In Bloom's memo, senior staffers are instructed "to identify statutory obligations that must be fulfilled by the EPA and provide information on implication for inaction, and/or how and under what alternative program they will be fulfilled."
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry issued a statement today noting it has long supported moving RRP to the individual states. "NARI believes that the program can be better run and enforcement can be more vigorous the closer it is to the local contractors," declared Fred Ulreich, the association's CEO, referring to the program by its more formal acronym, LRRP. "We just want to be sure that as the states take over they run a true LRRP program and not simply an abatement program. Should the current administration ultimately decide to move the LRRP program to the states, NARI members will work with their state leaders to ensure that LRRP programs that are put in place continue to protect the public as well as the contractors performing the work."
RRP, which took effect in April 2010, governs how professional remodelers should operate in cases in which their work would disturb lead paint on existing surfaces. Lead paint was banned from home use in 1978 because the lead has been found to be particularly harmful to children and senior citizens. The paint becomes a danger today when contractors perform tasks like changing out windows and stripping paint from walls.
In cases where lead paint's presence is suspected, RRP requires professional remodelers to conduct tests. Then, if the tests prove out the presence or if a test doesn't occur, remodelers must engage in lead-safe work practices, such as wearing Tyvek suits and respirators as well as sealing off work areas, while they contain and manage lead dust and chips created during the project. Remodelers also must get and keep up training so that they are certified in lead-safe practices, and they must keep detailed records.
Ulreich's reference to not having simply an abatement program regards a separate federal effort to do lead-paint abatement work in low-income housing. While that effort also helps reduce lead paint's dangers, that work normally is done by specialty firms and not by the full-service remodelers who belong to NARI and who work in non-subsidized houses.
Over the years, companies ranging from Lowe's down to tiny firms have been fined millions of dollars for RRP violations, most of them involving paperwork issues rather than actual work at remodeling sites. Remodeling associations have pressed for years to change the rule so that homeowners without small children or aged adults in the house can opt out of the requirement that RRP standards be followed. They also have complained that kits EPA promised to test for lead paint fail too often to give adequate results.