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Lead-Safe Regulations Again Up in the Air For Minnesota Renovators and Remodelers

The Minnesota Department of Health's initiative to replace the EPA's Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule with its own is delayed once again. In response to the Trump Administration's efforts to reduce federal regulatory burdens, Minnesota elected to take responsibility from the EPA for overseeing the RRP rule. The rule is meant to protect the public and contractors from the serious health hazards caused by disturbing lead paint when renovating pre-1978 buildings. 

Last December, a federal court gave the EPA 90 days to update both its lead hazard standard for residential and child-care facilities and its definition of lead-based paint under the Toxic Substance Control Act. The EPA argued that it did not know when the 90-day clock started. On March 28, the court granted a 90-day extension, until June 26, giving the Inspector General time to determine whether the EPA has an effective strategy and budget to implement and enforce its RRP rule.

Because the state rule must be at least as tough as the federal rule, MDH cannot finalize its rule until the court-ordered review of the EPA RRP rule is complete. The result is that the regulatory issue is effectively on hold at least through June.

BATC Housing First Minnesota is deeply engaged with MDH to ensure that the construction industry's concerns are considered when drafting the rule. As chair of BATC Housing First Minnesota's regulatory affairs committee, I will bring you timely updates as they become available. For now, Minnesota contractors should continue to follow the EPA RRP rule.

Lead Safety Costs and Consequences

The dangers of lead paint are better understood today than they were when the EPA promulgated its original rule. Health advocates are concerned that the current acceptable lead levels are too high and that lead-safe practices are too lenient to protect children, pregnant women, the elderly, and the construction workers themselves. They used the court to compel the EPA to re-evaluate both acceptable levels and lead-safe practices.

There is broad agreement that lead dust and chips generated by remodeling should be contained and properly disposed. However, the industry maintains that actual health risks should be balanced against the cost of implementing the rule on a property-by-property basis. The fear is that the additional cost of renovating structures containing lead paint will either make projects unaffordable or drive them underground to unqualified individuals to avoid the cost of complying with stricter regulations.

In addition to the Inspector General's review and the second 90-day reprieve, the fall elections also could impact how Minnesota responds to the lead paint rule.

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