The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week that it completed 127 federal enforcement actions during the past year related to lead paint, mostly targeting  contractors, landlords and property managers. Most of them were for violations of the controversial Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule, which many in the door and window industry say is preventing the much-needed replacement of older, inefficient windows because compliance expenses increase the cost of performing renovations.

The EPA announced the enforcement actions as part of Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

“EPA’s work to enforce federal lead paint laws helps protect communities across the country and ensures those who break the law are held accountable for their illegal actions,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These cases are also helping maintain a level playing field for companies that follow the rules and building compliance with the law in order to prevent future violations.”

From October 2016 through September 2017, EPA finalized 121 civil settlements for alleged violations of  the three lead-based paint rules (the RRP Rule, the Lead Disclosure Rule and the Lead-based Paint Activities Rule for abatements). It also filed three complaints for ongoing actions. Additionally, EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecuted one criminal case and finalized two Clean Air Act settlements. Collectively, the actions led to $1,046,891 in penalties.

Seven alleged violators who reached settlements agreed to fund a community-based lead paint abatement project, like window replacements, to eliminate risks. Those projects are valued at $2,406,734.

One settlement involved alleged RRP violations that were televised on national TV.

From March 2014 to May 2016, seven properties in Denver built before 1978 (and thus subject to the RRP rule) were renovated for the HGTV show Raise the Roof. Video from those episodes were used in the EPA’s investigation, which resulted in a civil penalty of $30,000 for KGN Asset Management LLC, KGN Asset Management Inc., and Restoration Realty Inc.

For a full list of the EPA’s lead-related legal settlements during the past year, follow this link.

The RRP rule requires any renovation work — and all door and window replacements — that disturbs more than six square feet of a pre-1978 home’s interior to follow work practices to protect residents from exposure to lead, which is especially dangerous for young children. The work must be supervised by an EPA-certified renovator and performed by an EPA-certified renovation firm.

Industry Fights RRP Rule

The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) and the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) have been longtime critics of the RRP rule. Both groups have pointed out that there is a lack of an accurate lead paint test kit. They’ve also noted that removing the opt-out clause in 2010 for homes without a child under the age of six or a pregnant woman more than doubled the number of households subject to the RRP rule.

And in an August 2016 letter to the EPA, AAMA president and CEO Rich Walker noted the expenses associated with RRP compliance and the direct effect that has on energy-efficiency efforts.

“The estimated increased cost to replace windows in a house determined to have lead-based paint, using the EPA LRRP was $121.50 per window in 2010,” Walker wrote. “The 2016 number is $134.30. If one assumes a typical house with 15 windows, then that equates to $2,014.65 per house job. This exceeds the EPA’s initial estimated overall average cost of $35 per house job by 5,656 percent!”

Walker then noted how those extra compliance costs can deter homeowners from replacing older, poorly performing windows.

“Requiring RRP practices in cases where lead is not present continues to be an unnecessary expense that may deter fenestration product replacement which would otherwise improve the energy efficiency of the building,” he wrote. “In order to support energy efficiency improvement for the many existing buildings with older, inferior or leaking windows, AAMA urges the EPA to re-evaluate the economic impacts that current lead testing options are creating under the rule.

In August, WDMA announced that the association is working to secure a meeting with high-level officials at EPA to discuss unresolved issues with the RRP rule.

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