Coalition Files Suit Against EPA Over LRRP "Opt-Out" Provision

July 8, 2010

A coalition of housing industry groups, including the National Association of Home Builders and the Window & Door Manufacturers Association, are filing a suit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency for removing the "opt-out" provision from its Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule. The group is challenging EPA's action on the grounds that the agency substantially amended its LRRP regulation without any new scientific data and before the regulation was even put into place on April 22, 2010.

The LRRP rule applies to homes constructed before 1978 when lead paint was banned. Its opt-out provision, which expired July 6, allowed consumers to let contractors bypass extra preparation, clean-up and recordkeeping requirements in homes where there were no children under 6 years or pregnant women, thus avoiding additional costs. "Removing the opt-out provision more than doubles the number of homes subject to the regulation," says Bob Jones, a Michigan home builder and NAHB chairman. "About 79 million homes are affected, even though EPA estimates that only 38 million homes contain lead-based paint. Removing the opt-out provision extends the rule to consumers who need no protection."

"It's clear that EPA's removal of the opt-out provision will significantly impact the window, door and skylight retrofit market," says Steve Sisson, VP and GM of Karona Inc. and WDMA chair. "Millions of additional homeowners will be subject to substantial unnecessary costs as a result of the LRRP, which will only discourage them from making energy-efficient improvements or cause them to seek out uncertified contractors."

NAHB and WDMA are joining with the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association and the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association in in filing the petition for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

"Even under the original rule, the opt-out provision was not available in homes where small children or pregnant women live," Jones points out. "That shows that this change provides no additional protection to the people who are most vulnerable to lead-based paint hazards."

Remodelers' and other contractors' estimates of the additional costs associated with the lead-safe work practices average about $2,400, but vary according to the size and type of job. For example, a complete window replacement requires the contractor to install thick vinyl sheeting to surround the work area both inside the home and outdoors.  Prep time and material costs add an estimated $60 to $170 for each window, according to WDMA.

"Consumers trying to use rebates and incentive programs to make their homes more energy efficient will likely find those savings eaten up by the costs of the rule's requirements," Jones notes. "Worse, these costs may drive many consumers–even those with small children–to seek uncertified remodelers and other contractors. Others will likely choose to do the work themselves–or not do it at all–to save money. That does nothing to protect the population this rule was designed to safeguard."