Contact: Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate,gov

Holding EPA Accountable on Lead-Based Paint Rule  

As Prepared For Delivery

Inhofe Floor Speech - September 28, 2010

Mr. President - I would like to take a few minutes today to speak about the importance of oversight.

As you may recall, on April 22, 2010, EPA's new lead-based paint rule, the Lead, Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, went into effect. At that time, homeowners, contractors, landlords, plumbers, and many others were trying to get more information about the rule that, in most cases, they had just learned about.  

This rule affects anyone who owns or lives in a home built before 1978 and is looking to do a renovation.  Specifically, the rule requires that renovations in homes that disturb more than six square feet 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.

In my role as Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, prior to implementation, I sent several letters to EPA expressing concern with the rate of training. I wrote on two separate occasions, warning EPA that it seemed unprepared to properly implement the rule.  In both cases, EPA said they were ready.

In a June 30, 2009 letter responding to my concerns, EPA Acting Assistant Administrator James J. Jones 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....We are confident that all renovators subject to the requirements of the rule will be able to find a provider in advance of our deadline."

In a letter dated December 10, 2009, EPA Assistant Administrator Stephen A. Owens also wrote,

"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. ...Currently, the capacity for training is in excess of the demand as several training courses have been cancelled for lack of attendance."

On April 22, 2010, the day the rule went into effect, EPA had only accredited 204 training providers who had conducted just over 6,900 courses, training an estimated 160,000 people in the construction and remodeling industries to use lead-safe work practices. That number fell far short of the total number of remodelers who would be working on pre-1978 homes. 

That's right: EPA had only trained an estimated 160,000 people in the construction and remodeling industries to use lead-safe work practices.

This came as no surprise.  So I sent a bipartisan letter to OMB requesting that EPA delay implementation of the rule until there was enough time for more people to be certified.  Additionally, I spoke to Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at OMB, and was joined by some of my Oklahoma contractors, who relayed the difficulties they were facing. I appreciate Mr. Sunstein listening to the concerns of my Oklahoma constituents. He told us he recognized the economic impact of the implementation of the rule and explored ways to provide a sixty-day delay, but, by April 23, we simply ran out of options.

The rule was in place, there were not enough renovators, and EPA argued that a delay in the rule would delay protection for children and their families. But because the federal government failed to meet the demand for certified contractors, the federal government was already delaying the implementation of the rule.

I was proud that the Senate intervened to send a clear message to EPA. The Senate passed the Collins-Inhofe amendment, S. 4253, to the supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 4899) by a vote of 60 to 37.  This amendment prevented supplemental funds from being used to implement the rule.  The vote showed overwhelming bipartisan concern about EPA's disastrous implementation of the lead-based paint rule.

Fortunately, EPA got the message. On June 18, 2010, EPA's enforcement office issued a memorandum extending the lead rule deadline for renovators to enroll in training classes until September 30, 2010.  Furthermore, it has extended the deadline for contractors to complete training to December 31, 2010, and most importantly, the agency agreed to work to provide additional trainers in areas of need.

EPA's concerns about extending additional time for renovators to become certified never materialized; in fact, instead of people continuing to delay signing up for classes, people flocked to them. EPA's most recent training numbers show that, as of September 23, 2010, EPA has accredited 364 training providers who have conducted more than 21,400 courses, training an estimated 476,700 people in the construction and remodeling industries to use lead-safe work practices.

More time has meant greater ability to take classes and come into compliance.  The delay has allowed:

  • another 160 training providers to be certified,
  • an additional 14,500 courses to be held,
  • and 316,700 people to receive training in lead safe work practices.

Unfortunately, we did not have one oversight hearing on this rule. There were numerous opportunities prior to the rule going final, but they were never taken.  Nonetheless, I am pleased to have worked with Senators Collins, Alexander, Vitter, Coburn, and others to highlight this important issue and provide additional time for renovators to attend training classes.