This vote was on an amendment by Susan Collins, R-Maine, that would prohibit the EPA from enforcing lead paint regulations on some contractors who have not yet taken the agency’s lead paint classes. The amendment was offered to a bill that would provide supplemental appropriations in fiscal 2010, including extra money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as money for veterans, areas affected by natural disasters, and and funding for some social policy initiatives, such as for teachers and firefighters.
Collins said many contractors are awaiting taking the EPA’s training safe practices classes, and that while they are waiting on EPA they should not be subject to new regulations regarding lead paint. These regulations state that until contractors take these training classes, they can’t engage in any work that involves painting or risk being fined. The rule covers projects at childcare facilities, schools, and homes that were built before 1978, and any facility that contains lead-based paint.
“Unfortunately, while they wait for EPA to deliver this training, they are at risk of being fined up to $37,500 per day, per violation. While I support EPA’s rule because we must continue our efforts to safely rid toxic, lead-based paint from our homes, it is simply not fair to put these contractors at risk of these enormous fines when it is EPA’s fault that these contractors have not been able to get the training that is required under the new rule,” Collins said. “The fact is there are not enough trainers in place to certify the contractors. Let me give my colleagues an example. In three States—Louisiana, South Dakota, and Wyoming—there are no trainers available. How is that fair?”
“Here is the ironic result. The ironic and tragic result is that lead-based paint remains in these homes. It can’t be removed because the contractors aren’t certified to remove it. So that is the irony—the delay of the removal of lead-based paint,” Collins said.
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said EPA’s new rules are intended to safeguard vulnerable segments of society (such as pregnant women and children) from the dangers of lead-based paint.
“This amendment is designed to stop the EPA from enforcing that very important safeguard of removing this lead even if businesses were criminally negligent, even if businesses were willfully breaking the law’s safeguards,” Boxer said. “The reason that is given by Senator Collins for her amendment to prohibit EPA from enforcing this law to protect our kids from lead is that there are not enough trainers available at EPA to train businesses so they are properly trained to do this work. Later on in this statement, I will show why that is false.
“We called EPA. I spoke to Senator Feinstein about this, and we find no such thing. According to EPA, States across the Nation have more than enough trainers to handle renovation needs at this point in the year. In areas of States that may be harder to get to the agency has traveling trainers who go from State to State giving classes,’ Boxer said.
By a vote of 60-37, the amendment was adopted. Every Republican present voted for the amendment. Of Democrats present, 19 voted for the amendment and 36 voted against it (including the most progressive members). The end result is that the measure went forward with language that would prohibit EPA from enforcing rules requiring building contractors to obtain safe practices training before engaging in jobs involving painting or paint removal.