Education Needed on Rule's Implementation, Impacts on Jobs and Homeowners
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today said he would continue to put pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to better educate consumers about EPA's "Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule," and expedite the process of getting more contractors certified. EPA's rule went into effect today in the face of numerous concerns expressed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
"The EPA has ignored bipartisan concerns about this rule's economic impact on jobs and homeowners, not to mention its health impact on pregnant women and children-and the result is an implementation disaster," Senator Inhofe said. "While everyone agrees with the goal of the rule - to protect children and pregnant women from the harmful effects of lead-paint - the fact is that EPA did a poor job educating the public and contractors about the rule over the past two years. It's clear that there will not be enough certified contractors available for the public. Undoubtedly, this will cause confusion among homeowners. I will be reaching out to contractors in Oklahoma, as well as the Obama Administration, to be sure we are doing everything we can to increase the number of certified contractors to meet the demand for lead-safe home renovations."
Yesterday, Senator Inhofe contacted Administrator Cass Sunstein, head of the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, asking for a delay in implementation of the rule. Sunstein explained that he understood the economic concerns and discussed possible ways to delay the rule. On the call, Sen. Inhofe and Sunstein discussed a number of concerns raised by Oklahoma contractors. (See Tulsa World Story Here)
"I greatly appreciate Cass listening to the concerns of my Oklahoma constituents," Senator Inhofe said. "He told us he recognized the economic impact of the implementation of the rule and explored ways to provide a sixty-day delay. In the end, we ran out of options. But we certainly appreciate Cass's attention and look forward to working with him and the Administration to help educate the public about this rule."
Paul Kane, executive vice president and CEO of the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa, who was in the meeting yesterday, thanked Senator Inhofe today for his efforts and said the home builders will be working with Inhofe on getting contractors certified as soon as possible.
"I am grateful to Senator Inhofe for everything he has done in an effort to help bring attention to this important matter," Kane said. "With the rule now in place, he has asked that we work together to find every way possible to help speed up getting contractors certified. I am confident that with more attention on the process, we can ensure Oklahoma increases the number of people teaching the classes in the near term."
Starting today, renovation work that disturbs more than six square feet in target housing must be supervised by a certified renovator and performed by a certified renovation firm. In its economic analysis of the rule, EPA estimated that it would need to certify 236,000 renovators between April 2009 and April 2010. According to EPA, as of Monday, April 19, the agency has certified approximately 146,464 renovators, well below EPA's estimated 236,000 needed to meet the requirements of the rule. EPA has only 197 trainers and there are several states; Arizona, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Wyoming, which currently have no approved trainers. Additionally, Hawaii, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia only have one trainer.
Senator Inhofe also expressed concern that implementation of the rule will have a significant negative impact on jobs. The construction and renovation industry has lost nearly 2 million jobs since the recession started. Unemployment in construction and renovation jumped to 24.7 percent, more than double the national rate of 9.7 percent. The sector is expecting that another 5 percent of construction workers will lose their jobs in 2010.
Over the past year, Senator Inhofe has warned the Obama Administration that not enough was being done to help ensure there were enough certified contractors by the implementation date. Over the last year, Senator Inhofe, together with Senator David Vitter (R-LA) sent two letters (here and here) to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson regarding the pace at which EPA was certifying trainers and training facilities. With time running out before the deadline last week, Senator Inhofe joined Senators Mike Crapo (R- ID), David Vitter (R-LA), George Voinovich (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Barrasso (R-WY), Christopher Bond (R-MO) and John Thune (R-SD) in sending a letter to the Office of Management and Budget saying, "We strongly urge OMB to take whatever actions necessary in the next 26 days to ensure that when this rule goes into effect, there are enough certified renovators available to meet the compliance goals of the rule."