For legislation that surfaced nearly 20 years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency's lead-safe work practices rule (Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting, or RRP) seems to be eliciting the most passionate debate at the 11th hour. This article, published on March 16, captures some of the rapidly evolving developments that could affect RRP's April 22 implementation. We write this not to serve as a definitive accounting of the latest developments, but to prepare you for the additional twists and turns that are likely to emerge.

Please help us provide the remodeling industry with current and accurate RRP news and information. Use the "comment" function at the bottom of this article to post updates, and/or e-mail news to leadpaint@hanleywood.com. Also, if you are using your company's website to inform the public about RRP, please also provide links for the benefit of your peers.

Threat to Home Star

Last Thursday (March 11), Connecticut remodeler Bob Hanbury testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the April 22 deadline may derail the proposed Home Star program and prevent meaningful retrofit work from being performed because there won't be enough certified renovation contractors.

At last count, just 135 companies throughout the U.S. had received the EPA's approval to offer RRP training. The EPA has estimated that more than 236,000 remodelers, window installers, painters, HVAC specialists, and other trade contractors must be trained to ensure compliance with the rule. (A variety of other sources indicate that there are possibly as many as 800,000 contractors who must comply with the rule.)

Speaking on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Hanbury said, "NAHB strongly supports incentives to retrofit older homes and buildings to improve energy efficiency and performance. But to make such a program work, the April 22 deadline for compliance with the EPA lead rule must be extended."

Pointing out an unintended consequence of both the RRP rule and the Home Star program, Hanbury then said that consumer awareness of RRP "is negligible at best." As a result of the intense media coverage that is likely to accompany Home Star, "homeowners will rush to call contractors to perform efficiency upgrades in older housing, not realizing that many of those contractors could be doing the work illegally if they are not EPA-certified."

Click here for the NAHB press release.

Click here for video coverage of the Senate hearing, including Hanbury's testimony (begins at minute 124).

Insufficient Enforcement

On March 8, a coalition of 12 industry associations and institutions urged a delay to the RRP rollout in a letter mailed to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The letter, from groups including The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, and building material retailers The Home Depot and Lowe's, argued that the EPA lacks the preparation needed to enforce the change.

Further, the writers also projected an "exponential increase in the numbers of retrofit contractors under a Homestar program. We believe renovation incentives and Homestar, if passed as proposed, which is deliberately intended to significantly increase renovation work in older homes, will only magnify [RRP] compliance issues."

Click here to read coverage of this effort on PROSALES ONLINE.

Click here to see the letter.

States Taking Over

Remodelers in every state must use lead-safe work practices come April 22, but those in a growing number of states will have to follow requirements issued at the state level, not that of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

As of March 15, Iowa, North Carolina, and Wisconsin have received the EPA's authorization to administer their own RRP programs, which are required to be at least as protective as the EPA program and provide for adequate enforcement. Contractors and training providers working in the three states authorized thus far should refer to the sites below to learn more about their training and certification requirements.

Lead Safe Wisconsin
Iowa's lead program
North Carolina's lead program

In some cases, state RRP regulations may be less restrictive than the federal RRP rule. For instance, the threshold at which paint is defined as lead-based is lower in Wisconsin than that established by the EPA. Wisconsin defines lead-based paint as 0.7 mg/cm2 lead in dried film of paint or 0.06% lead by weight (600 ppm). The EPA defines lead-based paint as 1.0 mg/cm2 lead or 0.5% lead by weight (5,000 ppm).

The National Center for Healthy Housing, an organization that tracks state authorization of the RRP, expressed many contractors' concerns in stating, "NCHH hopes that states allow for reciprocity for people who have already been certified by an EPA-accredited training providers and for firms who have already become EPA-certified renovation firms. However, states are allowed to make their own decisions."

In addition, according to the NCHH website, "Generally, training providers will have to pursue approval from each state if they claim to provide training for state certification after the state's rules go into effect. Also, it appears that some states are going beyond the EPA's RRP rule and requiring individual renovators to be certified by the state. Under the EPA rule, individuals are certified by the training provider and do not need to separately apply to the state."

In the meantime, many remodelers aren't sure what to do next. In Alabama, where RRP administration is pending, one remodeler recently blogged:
So what happens in this state if Alabama all of a sudden takes over the program? Will the prior required training certificate work? What about the firm certification form and money already spent "in good faith"? How about all the other states that are listed or are working on this program? How about providing those of us trying to comply with your regulations some legitimate information?"

The EPA's website lists state-run RRP programs as they are authorized.

The National Center for Healthy Housing tracks pending authorization in other states, which currently include Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Minnesota.

Certified Renovators, Unite!

A new grassroots endeavor is called the Certified Renovator Council of North America (CRCNA). According to Dean Lovvorn, director, the organization's mission is "to help and represent the Certified Firm [CF] and Certified Renovator" through education, efficiencies, and enforcement.

"When CRs come out of their eight-hour training class, they often are more confused than when they went in," Lovvorn says. "We help them focus on the rule itself and find solutions to gray areas. [In addition,] since price is still a motivating factor for homeowners, we help firms find ways to continue being competitive and/or highlight the legality of our firms."

"Ultimately, CRCNA is about protecting people," Lovvorn says. "While there is a lot of negative resistance from contractors on the RRP, the compliance date will eventually arrive [and ] … a shift will take place in the contractor's mind. Remodeling companies who are certified will offer a dustless alternative, which so happens will keep children and adults healthier and avoid permanent damage from toxic lead construction dust."

Learn more about CRCNA here.

Remodelers: Please use the "comment" function to keep your peers apprised of RRP developments. You may also e-mail developments to leadpaint@hanleywood.com.

–Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.