In an effort to assist our nation's small contractors who are struggling to comply with new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lead paint regulations, a bipartisan group of Senators today introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2010 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill to provide small contractors with more time to receive mandated training.
The rule, called "Lead: Renovation, Repair and Paint Rule," went into effect April 22, 2010. It requires that contractors who perform work in homes built before 1978 be EPA certified or face fines up to $37,500 per violation per day. Unfortunately, in most states, there are not enough certified trainers to educate contractors about these new requirements. For example, there is just one trainer in Oklahoma and three in the entire state of Maine, as well as three in Tennessee where the rule could slow down recovery from its recent flooding disaster.
The amendment, introduced by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Scott Brown (R-MA), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Kit Bond (R-MO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), George Voinovich (R-OH) , Richard Burr (R-NC), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Bob Corker (R-TN) would bar the EPA from levying fines against contractors who have signed up for training classes by September 30, 2010. This delay would allow adequate time for contractors to comply with the new regulation.
"There is no question that we must continue our efforts to rid lead-based paint from our homes. Maine children are at particularly high risk for lead poisoning because more than 60 percent of our state's homes were built before lead-based paint was banned in 1978," said Senator Collins. "But the EPA must step up to the plate and work quickly to boost the number of certified trainers in each state. The burden should not fall upon the shoulders of small contractors and construction professionals who are trying their best to comply with EPA's rule. The fines that EPA will levy would be devastating to small businesses that have been unable to comply due to the lack of EPA trainers."
Senator Inhofe: "The flawed implementation of EPA's lead-based paint rule has had the perverse effect of harming small businesses and employers while undermining the protection for children and pregnant women that this rule is supposed to provide. I am pleased to join with Senator Collins to provide a common-sense solution that will allow more time so EPA-approved certification classes can be held, trainers can be certified, and renovators can do their jobs to realize the rule's public health benefits."
Senator Alexander: "Ten days before the storm and flooding that hit Tennessee in early May, the EPA put into effect a new rule that will make home repair slower and more expensive for thousands of Tennesseans who are trying to get back on their feet. This well-intentioned EPA lead-paint rule needs to be delayed and fixed to help speed up recovery from the biggest natural disaster in the U.S. since President Obama took office."
Senator Scott Brown: "I am pleased to join this effort that will keep our kids safe from lead poisoning and protect small contractors. This amendment will provide contractors with additional time and education to adjust to the new EPA requirements, and will go a long way toward ensuring that small businesses, which are the key to our economic growth, are not adversely impacted."
Senator Gregg stated, "I support the intention of the EPA lead rule to protect families and children from lead poisoning. Unfortunately, because of excessive bureaucratic delays in providing enough opportunities for contractors to become certified under this rule, small contractors in New Hampshire and throughout the nation are now subject to fines of up to $37,500 a day. In today's difficult economic climate, we should not be implementing fines that will cripple small businesses because the EPA cannot meet its own certification quotas. Our amendment will still protect the safety of children and pregnant women, while ensuring that small contractors aren't unfairly hit with these hefty fines."
Senator Snowe: "Without question we want to make sure that we reduce lead poisoning incidents in the United States and enhance the remodeling industry that improves the efficiency of homes and the quality of life for families in Maine and throughout the nation. However, I am concerned about the manner in which EPA has failed to provide information and public notice about this major lead abatement rule causing confusion for homeowners and uncertainty for businesses. In fact, I requested that EPA provide a briefing in Portland on March 26th where hundreds of Mainers tried to understand the implications of this rule. Unfortunately, given that so many businesses simply cannot receive training by the deadline to comply with the rule, it is imperative that we take the time to educate and inform communities on the process for compliance with the rule to ensure a seamless transition."
Senator Coburn: "Once again, the good intentions of the EPA are not lining up with reality. While Oklahomans are willing to swallow the cost of becoming certified, they expect Congress to give them enough time to get certified by taking the required classes and tests. This amendment is a common-sense measure that does not alter the regulation, but merely guarantees that the regulation will not go into effect in Oklahoma until certification classes have been offered for one year."
Senator Bond: "We need safe homes and people back to work and this amendment will cut down on some of the bureaucratic hurdles standing in the way of that."
Senator Murkowski: "While we should take every reasonable precaution to protect the public from the dangers of lead-based paints, we also need to provide adequate time to train the vast number of workers that will be needed to make sure people can comply with the EPA's new mandate."
Senator Begich: "I appreciate that EPA has recently stepped up availability of training in Alaska. However, this amendment ensures contractors acting in good faith, particularly in our large rural state, can work throughout the traditional Alaska construction season."
This amendment is supported by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the National Association of Homebuilders, the Window and Door Manufacturer Association, and the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association.