WASHINGTON—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has postponed its lead paint rule for public and commercial buildings until July 2015. It also revised an August 2009 settlement with some litigants to merge the interior and exterior Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rule for commercial buildings and will take final action by Jan. 1, 2017.
A proposal for exterior renovations for public and commercial buildings was originally supposed to be issued last month, and finalized by February 2014.
The National Association of Builders (NAHB) called the postponement a positive sign for remodelers. NAHB was among the organizations that petitioned the federal agency to revise the residential rule and economic analysis in the absence of an “improved” pre-renovation test kit and has continued to express concern about the enforcement of the residential LRRP rule.
The postponement comes on the heels of a report from the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General in July, which found the agency’s economic analysis of the residential LRRP rule underestimated the cost and overestimated the benefits of the rule.
The existing rule governing any single-family housing continues to apply, including multi-family residential units, which are part of mixed-use construction, or any commercial space where a child under the age of six resides or regularly visits, such as day care centers.
The EPA had entered into a voluntary—and controversial—legal settlement with environmental groups that will significantly expand the residential lead paint rule to commercial buildings. The final element of the legal settlement required the EPA to accelerate the development of the commercial buildings rule, and the agency agreed to introduce one by last month.
However, as NAHB and other trade groups repeatedly pointed out, the agency failed to perform prerequisite studies on the potential lead dust exposures to adults —not children—during renovation activities in pre-1978 commercial buildings.
Under federal law, the EPA is required to perform these studies prior to proposing a commercial building rule. To date, it has not conducted the required study.
Because lead-based paint can still be used in commercial and industrial buildings, the commercial rule would apply to every commercial facility in the country regardless of when built.
In addition, the EPA has yet to approve a test kit for the presence of lead-based paint that meets the accuracy standard it said it would require when the residential rule was implemented in 2010.
The residential rule has created a competitive disadvantage for professional remodelers bidding against fly-by-night contractors, and lack of consumer awareness only fuels this disparity. According to a report by HomeChannelNews.com, many professional remodelers are being outbid because their prices include compliance with the rule while their competitors do not.
NAHB has continued to voice its concerns this same inequity may transfer to the commercial market. The association stated EPA’s three-year delay in developing the rule for commercial buildings is in part recognition by the agency that it has not conducted the required analysis to move forward in the near term.