NAHB Urges EPA To Revise 3 Important Regulations

red tape houseNAHB is urging the Environmental Protection Agency to make significant revisions to federal regulations involving wetlands, stormwater and lead paint. That is because they have a disproportionate and negative impact on small businesses, especially the building, development and remodeling businesses that make up our membership.

During an agency hearing on Tuesday, NAHB Assistant Vice President Michael Mittelholzer discussed the regulations in detail – and how their cumulative impact affects builders and buyers. “Regulations imposed by government at all levels account for nearly 25% of the cost of a new single-family home,” leaving “14 million American households priced out of the market,” he said.

EPA is responding to President Trump’s Executive Order 13777: Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda, which directs each federal agency to create internal task forces to identify existing regulations that hinder job creation or have costs that outweigh the benefits. EPA is accepting public comment until May 15.

NAHB asked the agency to focus on three regulations.

Clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The act itself and definitions of what are and are not “waters of the United States” continue to generate substantial confusion, Mittelholzer said.

“Over the years, the federal government has exerted more power over small streams that only flow when it rains, isolated ponds and many ditches, often times on questionable statutory and Constitutional grounds. As more features are deemed jurisdictional, more projects require federal permits,” he said.

In 2002, NAHB found it took an average of 788 days and $271,596 to obtain an individual CWA permit and 313 days and $28,915 for a streamlined nationwide permit – figures that EPA cited in its 2015 regulatory revisions and that likely have continued to get larger.

Builders need a rule that provides clarity and increases administrative efficiency without unlawfully regulating every ditch, isolated pond or channel that only flows when it rains. EPA should also explore ways to lessen the administrative burden placed on regulators by making it easier for states to administer wetland permit programs, he said.

Streamline the stormwater permit process. In states where EPA administers the federal stormwater permitting program, single-family builders disturbing less than an acre of land within a larger subdivisions have to comply with the same highly complex EPA Construction General Permit as the larger subdivision developer, essentially regulating the same site twice.

“NAHB worked with EPA staff to develop a streamlined voluntary compliance plan template that has been well received. Unfortunately, we do not yet have a green light on developing a permit based on this model. We ask the agency to make this a priority,” Mittelholzer said.

Amend the Lead Paint Rule. Seven years into the enactment of the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP), EPA has yet to approve an inexpensive, accurate test kit to confirm the presence of lead paint for contractors and home owners – and save the home owners the significant expense of lead-safe work practices when they are not necessary.

Mittelholzer told EPA that NAHB wants the agency to reinstate the “opt-out provision” allowing home owners of pre-1978 housing units and who don’t have young children to waive the RRP requirements EPA could also limit the scope of the RRP rule to homes built before 1960, which have the greatest likelihood of containing lead-based paint.

“It is imperative that new and existing regulations address policy goals while recognizing the burdens of compliance, particularly for small businesses and the communities they serve,” Mittelholzer told officials.

 

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