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New bill may scale back lead paint rules

A new bill that would modify the EPA’s lead paint rule has been introduced into the Senate, promising regulatory relief to professional painters and remodelers. S.2148, the "Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments of 2012," was introduced on March 1 by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The EPA’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) Rule requires renovation work in pre-1978 homes to follow rigorous and costly work practices supervised by an EPA-certified renovator. In July 2010, the EPA removed the "opt-out provision" from the rule, which allowed homeowners without children under six or pregnant women residing in the home to allow their contractor to forego the use of lead-safe work practices.

In addition, the EPA has failed to approve a commercially available test kit producing no more than 10% false positives, in violation of its own rules. The lack of EPA-compliant test kits has caused consumers to pay for unnecessary work because of false positive test results.

Among its key provisions, S. 2148 would restore the "opt-out" clause and suspend the LRRP if the EPA cannot approve a commercially available test kit that meet the regulation's requirements. It would also provide a “de minimus” exemption for first-time paperwork violations. 

The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) commended Sen. Inhofe for introducing the legislation.

“The remodeling and retrofit market has been the main source of business for many dealers during the prolonged housing recession, either through installed sales operations, serving remodeler customers, or both," said NLBMDA chair Cally Fromme, executive VP of Zarsky Lumber in Victoria, Texas. "EPA's efforts to expand the Lead Rule beyond its original goal of protecting pregnant women and small children, its mismanaged implementation and its failure to approve an accurate lead test kit meeting its own rule have been an extreme burden on the one segment of the residential market that has been sustaining many businesses. We commend Sen. Inhofe for his leadership on this issue, and we will make passage of the bill a priority.”

The NLBMDA will be making S.2148 one of the priority issues when its members gather next week in Washington, D.C., for its spring meeting and legislative conference.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) added its support for the bill in a prepared statement.

"We applaud Sen. Inhofe and his colleagues for sponsoring this bill to make much-needed improvements to EPA's lead paint rule during this busy time in Congress," said 2012 NAHB remodelers chairman George "Geep" Moore Jr., a remodeler from Elm Grove, La. "If this effort is successful, it will reduce the regulatory burden for remodelers facing costly penalties for first-time violations like misfiled paperwork and allow homeowners to make the final decision about renovations in their homes."

The bill was introduced with five original co-sponsors: Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), David Vitter (R-La.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).