Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) recently introduced the Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2012 (S. 2148) to change the lead-paint safety rules and requirements for homeowners and remodelers.

REMODELING spoke about the amendment and lead-safe renovation with Peter Lawton, a former remodeler whose LeadSmart Training, in Boston, trains in lead-safe renovation and OSHA construction standards.

REMODELING: How seriously do you think remodeling contractors take the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renovation, Repair and Painting ( RRP) rule?

Peter Lawton: There are plenty of people who get RRP and incorporate it into their jobs; some for the health of their employees, some because they’re afraid of being fined. If you believe what’s written on contractor blogs, you have to suppose that there are a lot of contractors who are trained [in lead-safe renovation] but are not doing it.

RM: And you believe that restoring an opt-out provision wouldn’t matter to the companies that do lead-safe renovation because they’re good companies that will renovate safely, regardless?

PL: It wouldn’t make a difference to the top 10% of remodelers. The top 10% see the issue as health. You don’t get to be in the top 10% by seeing only a portion of the big picture. Lead-safe renovation is a wise investment. It doesn’t pay to poison the crew that’s making you money next year. The top 10% know to invest in production. And then you have the companies that are rolling the dice, hoping that they won’t get caught.

RM: Does enforcement vary by state?

PL: There is a significant difference in enforcement at the state level. Twelve of the 50 states have their own law and their own enforcement. They begin with the EPA rule and add to it. Here in Massachusetts, we pushed for enforcement. And the [state agencies] were slow to do it, but they finally came through and allowed the names of companies that have been fined to be posted.

RM: Why is enforcement so lax?

PL: These are appointed jobs, not elected jobs. In four years, the control of the political machinery changes, or could change. And so could their jobs, if the people who work in these agencies have made enemies.

—Reach Peter Lawton at peter@leadsmarttraining.com.

Read this longer interview with Peter Lawton on REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR online.