The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) and 11 other associations and institutions joined this week in urging two Senate committees to seek a delay in the Environmental Protection Agency's Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rule. They argued the EPA lacks the adequate preparation needed to enforce the change, and that if it did proceed, it could hurt the government's weatherization and retrofit programs.

The groups' letter stems from an EPA rule issued April 22, 2008, that 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 can lead to fines of up to $37,500 per day, notes Replacement Contractor, a sister publication to ProSales, in a recent cover story on the issue.

The letter from NLBMDA and others sent Monday to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Committee on Environment and Public Works stressed their general support of renovating pre-1978 homes in according with LRRP. "Unfortunately, based on EPA compliance-needs estimates, we do not believe EPA is prepared to adequately implement the LRRP," the group said. "Further, if implemented now, the LRRP will negatively affect economic stimulus funding designated for housing weatherization and planned efforts for a national residential retrofit program."

The groups said EPA has only 135 accredited trainers and 13,669 certified renovators nationwide "although its own compliance-needs estimates indicate that it needs at least 200,000 or more certified renovators." Those numbers would be inadequate under normal circumstances, the groups said, but they definitely would be too small given the Obama administration's proposed Home Star program to provide tax credits for home renovations that reduce energy costs and help the environment. Home Star also is intended to help spur the creation of new jobs.

"With the April 22, 2010 deadline nearing, it is clear that EPA cannot ensure enough certified renovators will be available for compliance with the LRRP," the groups wrote. "Meanwhile, there is going to be an additional influx of new contractors and renovators generated by the Home Star proposal in the same industry (i.e., residential retrofitting). This will create a major problem between LRRP compliance and the exponential increase in the numbers of retrofit contractors under a Home Star program. We believe renovation incentives and Home Star, if passed as proposed, which is deliberately intended to significantly increase renovation work in older homes, will only magnify LRRP compliance issues."

The groups notes that EPA has said it would consider delaying LRRP's effective date, and they urged the Senators to press for such extra time. "In light of the high priority given by both Congress and the Administration to improving energy efficiency in older homes and creating a robust residential retrofit industry, e.g., through a Home Star proposal, contractors and industry professionals must have a resolution to the LRRP compliance issue before April 22, 2010," they wrote.

Aside from NLBMDA, other association singatories included the National Association of Home Builders, the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, the Window and Door Dealers Alliance, the National Glass Association, the Manufactured Housing Institute, and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. The Home Depot and Lowe's also signed.