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E&E News: Inhofe seeks more comment time on commercial paint rules
June 22, 2010

Posted by Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov 

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E&E News  

Inhofe seeks more comment time on commercial paint rules

(06/22/2010)

Elana Schor, E&E reporter

Link to Article

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) yesterday asked U.S. EPA to extend the period for public comment on its proposed lead-paint rules for commercial buildings, signaling that the agency's recent move to delay a similar rule for residential properties has not allayed congressional concern over the issue.

In calling for an additional 60 days of comment on the pending commercial lead-paint rules, Inhofe -- the senior Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee -- said past federal actions against lead-paint poisoning have focused on a smaller group of Americans than the new rule would potentially affect.

"Previous lead paint programs have focused on high-need subpopulations, such as pregnant women and children, and residential buildings," Inhofe wrote to Stephen Owens, assistant EPA administrator in the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. "Public and commercial buildings will present an array of different issues."

Inhofe's letter opens a new chapter in the clash over EPA's residential lead-paint rule, which culminated late Friday in a memo that directed regional enforcement offices not to enforce an April certification requirement for contractors. The delay gives homebuilders until September to enroll in federally approved training on safe lead-paint work practices and until December to complete the course.

Several GOP senators, including Inhofe, won 60 votes for an amendment to last month's supplemental appropriations bill that aimed to block EPA from levying fines on contractors found in violation of the lead-paint training rule.

Lead is now known to pose an array of human health risks, particularly to children, who can be vulnerable to developmental disabilities when exposed to the element in common products such as paint. But lead paint is still a common presence in millions of homes built before the government banned it in residential properties in 1978.

Industry groups hailed EPA's Friday delay in enforcing the lead-paint training rule. Similarly, another request for extended public comment on the proposed lead-paint rules for commercial buildings was filed on May 19 by 15 industry and labor groups.

Signed by the National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of Realtors, the Associated General Contractors and other groups, that letter described EPA's proposed regulations for commercial lead-paint use as "unprecedented."

In addition, the groups warned that requiring more training for commercial contractors could "seriously undermine" progress on the type of energy-efficiency building retrofits that played a central role in the White House's 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

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