Posted by David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov

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Tulsa World

Inhofe: EPA rule will stand

by JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau

Thursday, April 22, 2010

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WASHINGTON - After an 11th-hour call to a key administration official who offered short-lived optimism, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe conceded late Wednesday that nothing can be to done to delay an EPA rule that some say will wreak havoc on plans to remodel or even work on homes built before 1978.

"I am not happy about it,'' the Oklahoma Republican said. "I am not optimistic now.''

The new regulation, which goes into effect Thursday, requires that every home, child-care facility and school built before 1978 be tested for lead paint by a certified contractor before renovations are performed.

If a building tests positive for lead, contractors must seal off the area and clean it with vacuum equipment while wearing safety suits.

Earlier in the day, Inhofe had met with several Tulsa homebuilders who warned of the consequences of allowing the rule to be implemented without enough classes to train workers on the new rules.

During that meeting, the senator placed a call to Cass Sunstein of the administration's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Paul Kane, executive vice president and CEO of the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa, laid out for Sunstein the group's concerns.

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.

Inhofe was impressed with Sunstein's responses, saying he sounded open to stepping in with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to discuss ways to delay the rule's effective date.

After more research on the various options, however, everyone seemed to come to the same conclusion - that the rule requiring contractors to be certified would take effect Thursday.

"I can't think of anything that we haven't done,'' said Inhofe, who is the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and has joined with other senators to press the matter with the EPA and the Office of Management and Budget.

"I don't want to give any false hopes," he said.

During the meeting between Inhofe and the homebuilders, Joe Robson, president of the Robson Cos., said home remodeling plays an important role in the current economic climate.

For some homebuilders, it has become their life blood, he said.

Robson also spoke of the $37,500 daily fine that will be imposed on contractors who violate the certification rule.

Ken Klein of Kleinco Properties warned that the rule could shut down the vitality of the local housing market.

With so few classes, Tulsa contractors have warned that there will not be enough certified workers, leading to stalled or even canceled home projects.

The EPA has defended its approach to the new rule, which dates back to the previous administration and is designed to protect children from lead poisoning.

Despite the concerns expressed by local contractors about the lack of certified trainers and classes, a spokesman for the agency has said those who are covered by the rule have had enough time to become certified.

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