Trade Organizations Critical of EPA's Initial Efforts to Expand the Lead; Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program Rule to Commercial Buildings
July 8, 2010

A recent notice of proposed rulemaking from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could have an impact on commercial window contractors. The EPA issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to expand its Lead; Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program (LRRP) to commercial and public buildings. A coalition of building industry associations, including the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, Associated Builders and Contractors and Associated General Contractors, are critical of this proposed rule and have submitted comments to the EPA against the efforts.

In its comments the coalition notes that the "EPA must consider a variety of factors in any rulemaking efforts related to RRP activities in commercial and public buildings. For example, the Agency should take into account the fact that [renovation, repair and painting] RRP activities in commercial and public buildings may present very different patterns of exposure to lead-based paint hazards than the [renovation, repair and painting] RRP activities in residential settings on which the Agency has previously focused."

The coalition adds that the EPA should consider "the very limited use of lead-based paint in commercial buildings since 1978 … [and] the potential impacts that the imposition of regulatory requirements may have on other national priorities such as increasing energy efficiency."

Looking at the issue of energy efficiency specifically, the coalition says, "According to the Department of Energy, the commercial buildings sector accounts for 46 percent of total building energy use in the United States. The Pew Center on Climate Change recently reported that lack of funds and financing, especially due to the recession and frozen lending market, is the single greatest impediment for capital investments in energy efficiency. In response to such circumstances, there are multiple federal initiatives that are intended to encourage and provide financial incentives for commercial building owners and managers to renovate and remodel their assets to increase energy efficiency … These examples demonstrate that the Obama Administration, leaders in Congress, and state and local governments have all emphasized that increased energy efficiency in our public and commercial buildings is a compelling public policy objective. Based on the information provided in the ANPRM, EPA has not sufficiently considered how such energy efficiency initiatives will be impacted by contemplated RRP regulations on lead-based paint in commercial and public buildings."

The coalition continues, "There is a clear relationship between energy efficiency projects and commercial renovation lead-based paint rules. More than 75 percent of buildings that exist in urban areas today will still be standing in 2030, and these are the exact buildings that will benefit the most from energy retrofit projects in terms of reduced and more efficient energy consumption. But such building rehabilitations are also the same projects that are likely to trigger the potential exterior and interior RRP rules currently contemplated by EPA. These RRP rules could likely impose regulatory costs that are so high they would nullify any financial incentives offered for energy efficiency projects, and thereby discourage building upgrades designed to lower power consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs as part of a new energy economy."

Jeff Inks, WDMA vice president of codes and regulatory affairs, adds, "As we stated in our comments, WDMA and the coalition do not believe that the EPA has the authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act to impose the new regulations they are considering for public and commercial buildings. We also believe that EPA has much more work to do before it can reasonably conclude these regulations are necessary." He continues, "We're very concerned that these regulations would unduly discourage needed building improvements in public and commercial buildings, especially the replacement of windows and doors, without providing a clear benefit."

Some companies in the window replacement industry also have concerns about the proposed rules. Tom Wright with Sound Glass Sales in Tacoma, Wash., says his company has had to add about 25 percent in additional costs to the customers.

"This is hurting sales. Not to mention that there are a lot of companies not following the program and they our under cutting us," says Wright. "They [the EPA] put in all kinds of regulations without any plan or thought of how to regulate them. All this is doing is creating stress for the contractor and customer."

In addition to its ANPRM, EPA announced it will extend the comment period for its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Lead; Clearance and Clearance Testing Requirements for the Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program rule until August 6 (CLICK HERE to read the notice). Under this proposal, the current regulations would be expanded to require renovation firms to perform more regimented dust wipe sampling after certain renovations including replacement of door and window frames, and for the samples to be tested by an EPA accredited lab.

CLICK HERE to read the coalition's comments.

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