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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - Lead Exposure Reduction Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

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Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2013.

In April 2010, an EPA rule governing work done in homes constructed before 1978 took effect. The aim of this rule is to protect at-risk populations, defined as pregnant women and children under the age of six, from harmful lead paint dust particles that may be generated during home construction, rehabilitation, and remodeling work. While lead paint was generally discontinued from in-home use in the 1960s and 1970s, the rule applies to all homes built before 1978 and requires all contractors to be certified by the EPA and be supervised by an EPA certified renovator while following rigorous and costly safe lead work practices.

Some of these requirements include sealing off the area where the renovation is occurring; removing all objects from the work area; covering any porous work areas with smooth, cleanable areas; using special tools that have emission exhaust controls; vacuuming all items, including people's clothes, who leave the work space; and generally cleaning the work area to ensure there is no dust following completion of the job.

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 20 kids and grandkids, I appreciate the importance of the rule, and the potential it has to further decrease lead exposure. But this rule does add significant cost to the completion of renovation jobs and adds significant regulatory hurdles to many small business owners in situations where it may not at all be necessary.

Fortunately, the original rule included an opt-out provision for homeowners who did not have any at-risk individuals living in their homes. Provided the contractor made them aware of the potential lead-paint risks, the homeowner could give the contractor permission to carry out the job without following the EPA's lead safe work practices. This makes sense because the health issues caused by renovation work in homes with lead paint are minor for adults and older children who are not members of the at-risk population.

But in July 2010, just three months after the rule took effect, the EPA removed this opt-out provision. By doing this, EPA more than doubled the number of homes requiring safe work practices and increased the economy-wide cost of compliance by well more than $336 million by EPA's own estimate, which is significantly less than reality.

Further, EPA has failed to meet the requirements of its own rule because there are no commercially available lead paint test kits. Test kits would allow contractors to see whether work spaces include any lead paint, and if none is detected then the contractor would not have to follow lead safe work practices, which makes sense. Unfortunately, the test kits that are currently available produce 60-percent false positives, requiring many homeowners to pay significantly more for home remodeling work, even though there may not be any lead to protect them from.

The bill I'm introducing today is simple. It would first require the EPA to restore the opt-out provision. If homeowners have no residents who are at-risk to lead paint contamination, then they should be able to waive the regulatory requirement.

The bill will also suspend the rule for homes built after 1960 if the EPA does not develop workable test kits, unless those homes include members of the at-risk population. The bill would also provide a de minimis exemption for first-time paperwork violations against contractors. The EPA has focused its enforcement efforts on these violations despite the fact that the contractors may be appropriately following safe lead practices.

Finally, the bill prohibits EPA from expanding this regulation to commercial and public buildings until it has completed a study to determine the risk of such practices. EPA is in the process of writing these regulations even though it has not yet completed the corresponding study. If there is no risk, why would EPA issue regulations? They would be a solution in search of a problem. EPA needs to do its due diligence and determine whether there would be any meaningful health benefits from extending this rule to other areas.

In closing, I want to reiterate my dedication to the cause of protecting the health of vulnerable populations, and particularly pregnant women and children. But it is important for EPA's regulations to be pursued in a way that make sense, and that is what my bill intends to do. This is an ongoing goal of mine as a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

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