The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it stands by its data in a preliminary response to a new report by its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) that called for the agency to reexamine the costs and benefits of its lead paint rule after an investigation found limitations in the data used.
The OIG investigation found that the EPA surveyed nine painting and contracting businesses, out of a potential 323,000, as part of its examination into what lead-safe practices were already being used. The OIG conducted the evaluation after receiving a hotline complaint concerning the Lead; Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule.
In its response to the July 25 report, the EPA argued that it was limited to only nine businesses as part of the Paperwork Reduction Act and that asking for an extension would have added an extra two years to the process. The EPA has yet to release an official reply.
“Unfortunately, the draft report contains a number of inaccurate statements which contribute to inappropriate conclusions and recommendations,” said James Jones, acting assistant administrator, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in the EPA response. “As a result, I strongly disagree with the first recommendation of the report, that the Office re-examine the costs and benefits of the 2008 rule and 2010 amendments.”
The data for the original rule found that 11.4 million projects would be covered at a cost to regulated entities for the first year of $758 million. The cost to regulated entities per year at an annualized rate was found to be $404 million, while benefits to society could range from $681 million to $1.7 billion. The 2010 amendment included 7.3 million projects covered as a first year cost to regulated entities of $507 million. The annualized rate for cost to entities was $295 million with a benefit to society range of $866 million to $3.1 billion.
The rule is the federal guideline for proper lead-paint abatement and removal. Trade groups, including the National Building Material Dealers Association, have lobbied hard for Congress to reign in the lead-paint regulations and recently lost a challenge to the EPA's amendment which would eliminate an "opt-out" provision within the rule.
The data was subject to public comment and cleared by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The OIG agreed that EPA conducted the surveys according to the proper federal guidelines, but ruled that the data was inadequate and therefore found its reliability limited.
The OIG countered by saying that the EPA confused the report’s finding and interpreted it to mean that rules and guidelines were broken. While guidelines were followed, the OIG strongly recommended the agency review its rule in retrospect, which the OMB allows in its Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.
“OMB recommends that retrospective analysis should become a routine part of agency rulemaking and that formal mechanisms should be maintained to regularly reevaluate rules that may be unjustified, excessive, insufficient, or unduly complex,” said the OIG in its response.
The OIG also recommended the EPA add a disclaimer to its training materials to clarify the difference between required and recommended lead-safe work practices. The agency revised its training materials following the notification.