Washington Report

Advocacy Updates from Washington D.C.

NAR Submits Letter on Lead Paint Proposal

NAR and its partners in the “Commercial Properties Coalition” recently submitted a comment letter to the EPA regarding consideration of a program regulating lead paint hazards arising from renovation and remodeling activities in public and commercial buildings. The letter was signed by 22 trade organizations whose members are involved in almost every facet of commercial and multifamily property development, ownership, management, contracting, and building product supply — including the major national real estate organizations — along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

The letter emphasized the following points:

  • Before EPA can propose regulating RRP activities in public and commercial buildings, it must first develop a rule (under Section 403 of the Toxic Substances Control Act [TSCA]) identifying whether “dangerous levels of lead” even exist in such buildings.

Notably, it took EPA more than seven years (after publishing a final Section 403 hazard rule for “target housing”) to decide how to regulate renovation activities in residences. “A similar deliberative process, within a comparable sequence and time frame for agency action, should be conducted here,” the coalition wrote.

  • Given the fundamentally different uses, occupancies, and renovation work practices that attend to commercial buildings versus residences, EPA cannot simply extrapolate from data gathered in residential settings to justify a regulatory program governing commercial or public buildings.
  • EPA should avoid treating commercial buildings as a “generic, monolithic grouping.” Instead, it should cultivate “a better understanding of our heterogeneous industry, and a deeper appreciation of the diverse assets that comprise ‘commercial buildings’” — recognizing that the “commercial buildings sector is not dominated by structures of a single type, use, activity, or occupancy.”
  • EPA should coordinate closely with other federal agencies to study the “massive stock of federal buildings” for any lead-based paint hazards; identify actual renovation projects in these structures; and assess the effectiveness of associated work practices. In effect, the coalition said, the hundreds of millions of square feet in the U.S. government’s real estate portfolio could serve as a “laboratory” for developing any future Public & Commercial LRRP rule and assuring “a sound, scientific, and fact-based record.”
  • In accordance with previous White House directives aimed at streamlining federal regulations and avoiding duplication of efforts, EPA should examine whether existing regulatory programs and industry practices already address any potential lead-based paint hazards and renovation work practices in public and commercial buildings.

The Commercial Properties Coalition met with EPA staff on this matter in Nov, 2012; many of its members, including The Roundtable, are now preparing to participate in the upcoming public hearing scheduled for June 26. Issues regarding lead-based paint in buildings are also expected to be raised at the upcoming nomination hearing for President Obama’s nominee to head EPA, current Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy.

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