EPA Report Card: How well are they doing with the RRP Rule?
Many news outlets and politicians have been using report card scores to express how well they think people, government policies and regulations are performing. Several politicians, government employees and even our president have provided their own self assessment scores as well. It is almost two years now since the EPA RRP Rule went into effect. I thought I would offer my own report card on how I think the EPA has performed so far in four areas regarding the RRP Rule. EPA is welcome to offer their own self assessment score.
Subject: Outreach about the rule
EPA has claimed to have done extensive outreach to consumers and the regulated community. They list a variety of methods used and places where ads and announcements were placed.
Report Card Score: D-
In reality what they have done has not been effective. Either the message is not effective, the placement is not effective or both. According to a survey done by Professional Remodeler magazine 65% of remodelers surveyed estimated that less than 10% of their potential clients are aware of the rule. Only 5 percent think more than half of homeowners know about it.
On a recent webinar with EPA Officials Regarding RRP Public Awareness and Enforcement Efforts hosted by NCHH, I asked EPA officials if they were doing any tracking to check the actual effectiveness of their outreach efforts. They are not. Essentially the answer was that EPA is not a professional marketing organization and has no way of tracking results. But they said they will be doing more outreach…
Subject: Getting Firms Certified
EPA requires all firms doing renovation, repair and painting work on homes built prior to 1978 become EPA Certified Firms before performing or offering to perform such work.
Report Card Score: F
Before the rule rule came into effect EPA stated; "There are approximately 211,000 firms estimated to become certified to engage in renovation, repair, or painting activities." As of posting this blog EPA’s web site claims that EPA has certified 97,746 firms (118,885 firms including those approved by authorized states). According to a report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, the most recent government census showed more than 650,000 businesses received a majority of their revenue by providing remodeling services in 2007 and that number does not include the large number of part-time, semi-retired, and “moonlighting” contractors reporting gross revenues of less than $25,000. I think we also know there are many illegally operating contractors as well that did not make it into the census count.
Admittedly not all remodeling companies work on pre-1978 homes. However, there are many other business types other than remodelers who disturb lead paint. One example is exterminators. According to Exterminator.com there are over 20,000 extermination companies in the US. Others who would need to become certified include landlords, property management firms, banks that own foreclosed properties, housing authorities, cities/towns and municipalities. (According to Google answers there are 18,443 cities, towns, villages, and other such governing groups in the United States, not including any island areas other than Puerto Rico) I am sure you could list other business and entity types that would fall under the rule. My best guess is that EPA has only certified about 10% of the firms that should be certified and has completely misjudge the number of firms affected by this rule.
As a side note, I contacted EPA to find out how many workers have become Certified Renovators so far. I was told they are still trying to decide how to count them…
There are 12 states that have taken over the rule so far. That leaves 38 states plus American Samoa, District of Columbia, Guam, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico under administration and enforcement by EPA.
Report Card Score: F
So far EPA has only published one violation since the rule came into effect in April of 2010. On the other hand the state of Massachusetts took over the rule in July of 2012 and has published over 20 violation enforcements to date.
Though not confirmable facts, one commenter on a LinkedIn discussion claimed “there are only 37 Certified Firms in Maui County when there are 1,500+ Licensed Contractors and double to triple unlicensed contractors”.
Industry insiders report EPA has been doing RRP investigations. EPA claims we will hear more about violations and enforcement very soon.
Subject: Protecting children and others from lead poisoning due to renovations
“The purpose of the Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule is to minimize exposure from lead-based paint dust during renovation, repair, or painting activities. This is a key effort in reducing the prevalence of childhood lead poisoning, particularly lead poisoning caused by housing contaminated by renovation activities. This will also minimize exposure to older children and adults who are also adversely impacted by lead-based paint dust exposure.” (From EPA Web site)
Report Card Score: Incomplete
It is a fact that lead is poisonous and RRP activities can cause poisoning. However, EPA does not know how many children were actually poisoned by RRP activities before the rule came into effect. If you check any of the data it refers to RRP activities as the “likely source” of lead poisoning, not “the cause”. That being the case, EPA has no way to know if the RRP rule is making a difference or not. It is ‘likely” that it is helping. But, without knowing where EPA started and where we are now that the rule has been in place for almost a year, EPA has no idea if what they have been doing is effective enough and or if or where it can improve effectiveness within the rule.
Unfortunately, the rule may also be causing more children to be poisoned than before the rule came into effect, because of EPA's inability to adequately enforce it. As reported in this press release, to keep costs down, consumers are hiring non-certified firms to work on their homes and the required lead safe-practices are not being used. Also, contractors are reporting that some realtors and insurance adjusters are falsely telling consumers that the rule does not apply at their homes based on location and or for the work they are having done. All of this has fostered an underground economy of contractors taking advantage of purposely ignoring the rule to keep prices down and improve their ability to sell jobs.
How do you think EPA has been doing with the RRP Rule so far? Consider using the comment area below to offer your own subjects and report card scores.