House Minority Leader John Boehner has urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator to look anew at a soon-to-be-enacted EPA rule designed to control the spread of dust from lead-based paint when old homes are renovated. While the Ohio Republican stopped short of requesting a delay in the rule's April 22 enforcement date, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) today formally petitioned the EPA to delay action.

"At a time when the economy is seriously deflated and the national unemployment rate is looming near 10%, our nation cannot afford to further distress businesses and families by mandating these particular policies," Boehner wrote in his March 31 letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. "I strongly urge you to consider re-visiting this issue to determine how to protect consumers from the hazards of lead-based paint without increasing costs and harming businesses and consumers."

With his letter, Boehner joined a growing group of Congressmen concerned about the EPA's Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rule. It requires contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 to be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. (See EPA fact sheet.) Ignoring the new rules could lead to fines of tens of thousands of dollars per day.

In the related development, NAHB executive vice president William Killmer formally petitioned EPA today, under the "good cause" provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act, to issue immediately an interim final rule delaying LRRP's April 22 enactment date. "NAHB and its builder and remodeler members fully support with the goals of the rule, which is designed to protect children from the toxic effects of lead paint," NAHB Remodelers chairman Donna Shirey of Issaquah, Wash., said in an NAHB-issued news release. "Remodelers are working hard to get trained and certified under the EPA's lead rule. But we continue to receive calls that they can't find training and are waiting to hear back from the EPA on certification. It's incredibly frustrating that despite our diligence, remodelers will be penalized after April 22 because of the EPA's failure to plan."

Other construction industry organizations such as the National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) also want to see the rule's enactment date delayed, arguing that the nation lacks enough certified remodelers, much less enough trainers to do the certifying, for LRRP to be successful. They note that the April 22 launch date comes at a time when the Obama administration has been promoting legislation designed to create jobs by providing tax benefits for energy retrofit projects in existing homes. It's presumed LRRP would make it near-impossible for such work to take place in pre-1978 homes anytime soon.

Despite those calls for delays, most congressional reaction to the lobbying has produced more subtle suggestions. On March 25, for instance, 10 senators urged the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to help make certain that it will be possible for Americans to comply with LRRP. But the senators' list of suggestions put delay at the end of possible choices (story).

Similarly, Boehner said in his letter that he was concerned the rule "will have unintended and far-reaching consequences."

"This new rule creates cumbersome mandates, compliance costs and penalties, and it will hinder energy efficiency improvements and hurt job creation in the U.S.," Boehner continued. "... These additional mandates, costs, and stringent penalties are estimated to double the cost to businesses--which would then be passed onto the consumer. Many small contractors will not be able to compete with their competitors, or will simply not be able to take the risk of making a mistake, and will lose their jobs. Furthermore, many homeowners will not be able to afford much needed energy efficient improvements. As this rule only applies to homes built in 1978 or before, it is undeniable these are the homes that would be prime candidates to benefit from energy efficient improvements."