Inspector General Criticizes EPA Lead Paint Rules

August 1, 2012

A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency's own Office of the Inspector General recommends that EPA should "reexamine the costs and benefits of the 2008 Lead Rule and the 2010 amendment to determine whether the rule should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed." The document states that EPA "used limited data to develop its cost and benefit estimates," although investigators "did not conclude that EPA violated policies or failed to follow requirements in conducting its analysis."

The OIG's review was spurred by a hotline complaint questioning EPA's cost benefit analysis in developing its RRP rule. Among the specific criticisms offered is that "the agency used self-reported information from only nine businesses to estimate the incremental work practice costs and benefits of the Lead Rule."

On the basis of this limited information, investigators report, EPA concluded that many lead-safe work practices were already being used by renovation businesses and, therefore, the costs of the RRP rule were “relatively low.” Additionally, EPA’s data for estimating intelligence quotient changes in children exposed to lead dust during renovations "would not adequately support a rigorous cost-benefit analysis," the report states.

"EPA’s initial decision that the costs of the Lead Rule were relatively low appears to have contributed to successive assumptions that other potential rule costs did not need to be considered," OIG notes. The report goes on to say, "In its response to public comments on both the rule and the amendment, EPA noted that the Lead Rule would not affect consumer options or the cost of renovations because it believed that contractors’ costs to comply with the Lead Rule would be relatively low. EPA concluded that the number of renovations would not change and, consequently, there would not be a loss of renovation jobs or an impact on transitional costs."

Another failure in EPA's cost estimates are the impact of "recommended" lead safe work procedures, in addition to "required" work practices, the report states. EPA's training programs outlined numerous "recommended" procedures that most certified contractor firms determined they were compelled to follow. 

As a result, OIG also offers a second recommend in its report that EPA add a disclaimer to its training program materials to communicate the differences between required and recommended work practices.

EPA has already responded to the draft report issued.  It has agreed with the recommendation to clarify required work practices and made revisions to its training materials, it reports.  EPA officials "strongly disagree" with the main findings, however, that its cost benefits analysis was too limited.

Although EPA has responded to a draft report, it now has 90 days to respond to the official OIG report.  "We maintain our position [on the recommendation] that EPA reexamine the costs and benefits of the rule given the known and disclosed uncertainties and limitations," the OIG report concludes. At this point, the recommendation is described "unresolved with resolution efforts in progress."