Editor’s Note: Because of the importance of the issues involved, we have agreed to publish reaction from the two largest remodeling industry associations to Michael Anschel’s August 2012 Opinion column, which challenged their positions on reinstatement of the RRP opt-out provision.

Dean Herriges, NARI President

I am disappointed in Mr. Anschel’s article, which asserts that support for legislatively fixing the “opt out” is morally wrong. The article implies that the National Association of the Remodeling Industry has strayed from its proud reputation as an association that promotes the highest standards of health and safety to the betterment of the remodeling industry and for the safety of our customers.

I can assure Mr. Anschel and readers of REMODELING that NARI’s standards remain intact.

My defense of NARI begins with a rebuttal to Mr. Anschel’s claim that the remodeling industry “did nothing” prior to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) enactment of the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) regulations in 2008.

In 1998 NARI received a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to develop and deliver a Lead Safe Work Practice (LSWP) program nationwide. The developed program was the foundation of the HUD/EPA LSWP programs that followed in the early 2000s and the RRP training program of today. Training was conducted at NARI chapters nationwide from 1998 to 1999. Participation in the program was required for contractors to work on HUD-controlled projects that contained units built prior to 1978. More important, it introduced NARI remodelers to the LSWP they still use today.

I also want to defend NARI’s support for H.R. 5911, which is the legislation to fix the “opt-out” provision. Contrary to Mr. Anschel’s description, section 3 of the bill tasks the EPA with ensuring that no children or pregnant women are at risk when a homeowner decides to “opt out” of LRRP standards. EPA’s current approach, to impose a one-size-fits-all set of requirements, regardless of risk, has prompted homeowners to take on projects themselves or to hire less-expensive, non-certified contractors.

The consequences of EPA’s current approach has raised the risk of lead poisoning, not decreased it. NARI believes that in order for EPA to make progress on preventing lead poisoning, the agency should focus on where there are risks. H.R. 5911 places a lot of responsibility on EPA to make sure the “opt out” works, and we will work with the agency to assist its efforts if the bipartisan bill becomes law.

I agree with Mr. Anschel about the need for us to work with the EPA to improve the effectiveness of its lead-poisoning prevention programs. NARI has publicly pushed EPA to crack down on non-certified contractors who are putting customers and their families at risk. The majority of our work in Washington has been to work with EPA to improve the effectiveness of their efforts. We will continue that work and hope advocates like Mr. Anschel assist us in that worthy effort.

George moore, NAHBR Chairman

Michael Anschel is correct when he states that business owners are “often faced with ethical choices that stretch the boundaries of personal standards.” Unfortunately, his characterizations of the National Association of Home Builders and other professional and trade groups’ efforts to restore the “opt-out” provision to the EPA’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule are plain, flat-out wrong.

As an association, we take seriously our responsibility to advocate for homeowners and the professional remodeling industry. The truth is that the current lead paint rule following the removal of the opt-out provision serves neither group — and can even lead to harm for the vulnerable population that the rule was designed to protect, namely, children under the age of six and pregnant women

When owners of homes built before 1978 understand that the professional remodeler has no choice but to price the work assuming there is lead paint — absent the availability of a reliable, reasonably priced testing procedure — they are overwhelmingly likely to vote with their pocketbook. The rest of the homeowners are likely to either hire a fly-by-night operator with no EPA certification — let alone scruples — or do the work on their own.

Childhood lead poisoning is a tragedy, and Mr. Anschel is correct that the LRRP rule is a step in the right direction to prevent it by requiring lead-safe work practices. But it was EPA (not NAHB) that originally proposed creating the opt-out provision under the final LRRP rule in 2008.

By removing the opt-out provision, the number of houses subject to the rule effectively doubled from 37.8 million to 78 million, not all of which are houses with vulnerable populations. Our members support reinstating the opt-out provision to allow only those homeowners without small children or pregnant women residing in the home to decide whether to require LRRP compliance.

Further, NAHB members are industry leaders in complying with the training and certification requirements of the rule — our many affiliates around the country offer LRRP training to help all remodelers become EPA Lead-Safe certified renovators.

However this rule proceeds, we take seriously our legal and ethical responsibility for the health and welfare of our clients and employees.

Mr. Anschel, too, is faced with ethical choices, and his column of half-truths and unfounded accusations indicates that he’s made the wrong one here.

More REMODELING articles about the EPA’s lead paint rule:

What Is the RRP? Resources & Information

Who Rules? EPA and OSHA Rules Regarding Lead Paint

Best Companies, Best Practices: Lead Safety Is a Best Practice for a Reason

On Lead Paint, We’re GC of Oversight, Too: How one remodeler prepared subcontractors, clients, and insurers for the April 22 roll-out of the EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting law

Answers to Five Key Lead Paint Questions From Construction Lawyer D.S. Berenson

An EPA Q and A on Lead Paint: Remodelers Ask, EPA Tells About Lead-Safe Training & Compliance