Contractors can no longer offer homeowners the opt-out clause as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP), effective July 6. But some industry associations still are working to retain the opt-out clause . On July 8, the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA), along with a coalition of housing industry associations, filed suit in federal appeals court against the EPA for removing the opt-out provision.

The opt-out provision, which was in the original final LRRP rule, let homeowners grant permission to contractors to forgo extra preparation, clean-up and recordkeeping requirements in pre-1978 homes if there are no children under 6 or pregnant women present. EPA issued a final rule on May 6, which removed this option for homeowners, and it became effective on July 6, 2010.

“It’s clear that EPA’s removal of the opt-out provision will significantly impact the window, door and skylight retrofit market,” says WDMA chair Steve Sisson, general manager of Karona Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich. “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.”

At least one industry representative says he was pleased with the news.

“This is a critical step in saying enough to the government’s intrusion into matters of personal responsibility,” says David Steele, chief executive officer for The Window Gallery in Augusta, Ga. “Their science is flawed and their approach to regulation is arrogant.”

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the Hearth, Patio & Barbeque Association, and the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association joined WDMA in the suit, which was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The coalition is challenging the removal of the opt-out provision on the grounds that EPA substantially amended the LRRP rule without any new scientific data before the regulation was put into place on April 22.

“Removing the opt-out provision more than doubles the number of homes subject to the regulation,” says NAHB chairperson Bob Jones, a home builder and developer in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “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.”

“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,” he adds. “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.”

Steele was pleased with the NAHB’s involvement in this important issue.

“Go, NAHB—I’m glad all my years of dues paying will go for something I believe in,” he says.

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