Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-9797
David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-5642
Inhofe, Coburn Introduce Legislation to Help Ease Implementation of EPA's Lead-Based Paint Rule
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today joined Sen. Coburn (R-Okla.) and 22 cosponsors in introducing legislation, S. 3296, to assist contractors and homeowners comply with the EPA's "Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule," which went into effect on April 22, 2010.
S. 3296 will delay the implementation of EPA's lead rule until classes have been held in a state for one year. Also, the bill requires EPA to notify Congress about the location and time of training classes so that members can transmit that information to constituents. This will help ensure that enough classes are scheduled so that contractors can be trained. At the same time, having certified contractors available will help realize the rule's health benefits for young children and pregnant women.
"EPA's lead rule affects more than 70 million homes in America," Sen. Inhofe said. "Thus far, the implementation of this rule has been a disaster. Congress must ensure that enough people are trained and certified. That way, the rule can do what it's supposed to do: protect the health of young children and pregnant women."
EPA's Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule requires that renovations in homes built before 1978 and that disturb more than six square feet must be supervised by a certified renovator and conducted by a certified renovation firm. In order to become certified, contractors must submit an application - with a fee - to EPA, and complete a training course for instruction on lead-safe work practices. Those who violate the rule could face a fine of $37,500 a day.
Because access to courses is so limited, renovators and contractors cannot be trained, and they cannot pass along the benefits of their lead-safe work practices to home owners and help protect pregnant women and children from further lead exposure.
This issue reaches far beyond Oklahoma. There are a number of Senators, Republican and Democrat, whohave expressed concerns about the implementation of the rule. Several members weighed in before the rule went into effect. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and a bipartisan group of members in the House of Representatives sent a letter outlining concerns to EPA. During a recent EPW Subcommittee hearing, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) urged EPA to come up with a solution that will ensure that contractors have the opportunity to come into compliance with this rule.
Senator James M. Inhofe
Floor Speech on EPA Lead Rule
(As prepared for delivery)
May 04, 2010
On April 22, a new EPA lead-based paint rule went into effect that has caused a disaster in Oklahoma and around the country. My office has received numerous calls and emails from constituents -- from homeowners to contractors to landlords to plumbers -- all trying to get more information about a rule that, in most cases, they had never heard of until last week.
I believe everyone in this chamber stands strongly behind the intent of the rule, which is to protect children and pregnant women from the harmful effects of lead. With over 20 kids and grandkids, I appreciate the importance of the rule, and the potential it has to further decrease lead exposure. But, as even the Obama Administration admits, implementation of the rule has been painfully slow and seriously flawed.
Specifically, the rule requires that renovations in homes built before 1978 and that disturb more than six square feet must be supervised by a certified renovator and conducted by a certified renovation firm. In order to become certified, contractors must submit an application - with a fee - to EPA, and complete a training course for instruction on lead-safe work practices. Those who violate the rule could face a fine of $37,500 a day.
Unfortunately, there are not nearly enough contractors that have been certified. That is because there are far too few people certified to teach the certification classes.
That's why today, along with Senator Coburn and 23 cosponsors, I am introducing legislation, S. 3296, to remedy this implementation travesty. This bill provides additional time for contractors and others to get certified so they can make home renovations. At the same time, having the necessary certified contractors will help realize the rule's health benefits for young children and pregnant women.
The need for this bill is on display in Oklahoma, where, until yesterday, no one was teaching classes publically. All classes convened in Oklahoma have been taught by instructors flown in from other states. I am pleased to hear that Metro Tech of Oklahoma City has finally received its certification from EPA and will begin teaching classes on May 13th. I should note that because the demand is so high, they anticipate having full classes until July.
Because access to courses is so limited, renovators and contractors cannot be trained, and they cannot pass along the benefits of their lead-safe work practices to home owners and help protect pregnant women and children from further lead exposure. Without enough certified renovators, we will simply not get the benefits this rule can provide.
Let me give you some statistics to help illustrate the problem. As of April 22, implementation day:
- EPA had only accredited 204 training providers;
- Those providers had conducted more than 6,900 courses;
- They trained an estimated 160,000 people in the construction and remodeling industries to use lead-safe work practices.
This is far too few people to ensure everyone who works on pre-1978 homes-including roofers, plumbers, painters, and general contractors--can access training and get the certification they need.
Now let me share with you a few examples from Oklahoma.
Paul Kane, executive vice president and CEO of the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa, was in my office with a number of Oklahoma homebuilders the day before the rule was implemented. During our meeting I was pleased that Cass Sunstein, head of the Obama Administration's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, was available to hear from my constituents about their concerns with the rule. As the Tulsa World reported:
Kane explained the difficulty local contractors are having in getting certified, adding that only one trainer in the entire state of Oklahoma has been certified and that that person has been certified for only a few weeks. Moreover, he told Sunstein, that person is not offering training to the public but is limiting his classes to his own organization.
I greatly appreciate Mr. Sunstein listening to the concerns of my Oklahoma constituents. He told us he recognized that the implementation of the rule was causing economic hardship. He raised the possibility of providing a sixty-day delay to help sort out some of the implementation problems. In the end, however, this option was not workable, and we simply ran out of options to stop the rule from going forward. But we certainly appreciate his attention and look forward to working with him to help educate the public about this rule.
My staff also spoke with a property owner who rents homes to low-income residents in Tulsa. He has been unable to get contractors out to his properties to replace carpet or even paint, because they don't have EPA certification, which means they could get fined by the agency if they work without it. So it's no surprise that my constituent is concerned that his housing units could fall into disrepair and that people will lose their access to affordable housing.
Additionally, we heard from a painter in Oklahoma City, who has experienced delays in getting trained, for the simple reason that his trainer has not yet been certified by EPA.
This issue reaches far beyond Oklahoma. There are a number of Senators, Republican and Democrat, who have expressed concerns about the implementation of the rule. Several members weighed in before the rule went into effect. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and a bipartisan group of members in the House of Representatives sent a letter outlining concerns to EPA. During a recent EPW Subcommittee hearing, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) urged EPA to come up with a solution that will ensure that contractors have the opportunity to come into compliance with this rule.
The issue has also been raised before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. In testimony before the committee on March 11, Bob Hanbury, speaking on behalf of the National Association of Homebuilders, raised concerns about "potential conflicts between Home Star and the lead rule." You may recall that Home Star is one of President Obama's signature issues-it's a program helps homeowners increase the energy efficiency of their homes. But Mr. Hanbury believes the lead rule won't allow the Home Star program to move forward.
Mr. President, as you can see, there were plenty of concerns raised about the lead rule's implementation before it went into effect.. Nevertheless, EPA repeatedly said in the two year period leading up to the rule that it could meet these implementation challenges. . As the Ranking Member of the Committee with jurisdiction over the EPA, I wrote to EPA-two times, in fact-that I felt EPA appeared to be far from prepared. In both cases, EPA said it was ready.
In a June 30, 2009 letter responding to my concerns, EPA wrote:
"I agree that both EPA and the regulated community have a great deal of preparation in front of us as we approach next April's deadline. I am confident, however, that the ten months between now and April 2010 will allow us to meet this deadline."
In a letter dated December 10, 2009, EPA wrote me, explaining that, "we are confident there will be enough training providers to meet the demand. EPA does not plan to revise the April 2010 effective date of the RRP rule." EPA also stated in the letter that, "Currently, the capacity for training is in excess of the demand as several training courses have been cancelled for lack of attendance."
Mr. President, in light of this situation, what can lawmakers do to help provide guidance to our constituents back home?
First and foremost, we must get the word out. I have raised the issue both in my travel around the state and on Oklahoma radio. Last week, I sent out a Dear Colleague letter to all Senators with information to help them navigate the confusion associated with the rule's implementation. Included are web links to EPA's website, which take constituents to important information about the lead rule as well as the rule itself; it also provides a link to EPA and the Ad Council's new website, http://www.leadfreekids.org/, which is a consumer-friendly webpage with information on protecting yourself from lead.
I would also like to commend the coverage of the rule in the Tulsa World. The paper's reporting has informed the public and even resulted in more classes being taught throughout Oklahoma.
Further, along with Senator Coburn and 23 of my fellow Senators, I have introduced S. 3296 to delay the implementation of the rule by several months, thereby giving contractors, trainers, and EPA, breathing room to get more people through classes. EPA has said that people have had a year to get ready for this rule, however the first training class wasn't held until June 16 of 2009 and renovation firms couldn't apply for certification until October of last year.
Our bill will delay the implementation until classes have been held in a state for one year. Also, the bill requires EPA to notify Congress about the location and time of training classes so we can transmit that information to our constituents. This will help us ensure that classes are being offered often enough for contractors to be trained.
I know EPA argues a delay in the rule would delay protection for children and their families. But the fact remains that because EPA failed to meet the demand for certified contractors, EPA has in effect already delayed implementation of the rule. Without enough certified contractors in place, the protection for children cannot be realized.
I understand, also, that EPA has stated it will be selective in implementing the rule because of the trouble getting contractors certified, and I appreciate that. But EPA stating selective implementation and enforcement is not enough. That is why our bill is important: we can take appropriate steps to help our constituents and ensure we get the rule in place with enough contractors to ensure successful compliance.
Mr. President, this rule will affect more than 70 million homes in America. The implementation of this rule, to date, has been a disaster. Congress must ensure that enough are people trained and certified. That way, the rule can do what it's supposed to do: protect the health of young children and pregnant women.