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House unit will act on lead reduction mandate.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to mark up legislation tomorrow that could have a devastating impact on housing activities in local communities beacuse it will impose costly training and certification mandates on city employees.

The bill, the Lead Exposure Reduction Act of 1992 (LERA), is expected to be introduced by Reps. Al Swift (D-Wash.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). It is designed to create training and certification standards for personnel who perform activities that may increase the risk of lead exposure to workers and children.

Touted as a worker protection bill, it will require training and certification for anyone performing work in any "public or private dwelling, public or commercial building, bridge, or other structure or superstructure" that contains hazardous levels of lead.

However, this bill will clearly place unfunded mandates on cities. Employees who are "deleaders or who are engaged in demolition, lead inspection, renovation or remodeling, or in removing lead from bridges" must be trained through an accredited agency in order to perform the aforementioned work.

A city must receive a license from an accredited agency before it can have its workers perform any of the activities described in the act. Cities then will be responsible for training its workers to comply with the act.

Currently, there only are six university centers that are in place to provide training in these areas: University of Massachusetts at Amherst, University of Cincinnati in conjunction with the University of Maryland at Baltimore, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Kansas, and the University of California at San Diego.

Cities will thus be responsible for transportation costs and training costs until accreditation agencies are established.

The bill also does not define "renovation" in the context of posing risk to lead exposure. This could mean that general maintenance work like repairing a door or replacing a light bulb could pose a risk of contamination.

EPA authority

The bill would give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broad authority in determining the training and certification requirements. EPA's authority would supercede existing Federal laws and regulations that do not meet LERA's standards. Finally, the bill does not provide the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with any role or authority in addressing this issue.

Impact on affordable housing

There is no estimation on the impact this bill will have affordable housing. There has not been any discussion with the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development to balance the provisions of this bill with the provisions of the housing reauthorization bill. This bill has been drafted without any input from housing representatives. Swift and Waxman's staff have no intention of speaking with the staff of the housing subcommittee. In fact, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chair of the full Energy and Commerce Committee, has made it clear that he will not allow real estate related amendments during this mark up for fear that the housing subcommittee will assert jurisdiction.

Action Needed

It is imperative that city officials contact their Representatives on the Energy and Commerce Committee and express NLC's opposition to the bill. Express support for the intent of the legislation, however, this bill imposes another unfunded mandate on municipalities.

Make it clear to them that this issue must not be addressed without thoughtful consideration to the impact this will have on affordable housing.

If you have any questions, call Julio Barreto at 202-626-3029.
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Title Annotation:Energy and Commerce Committee
Author:Barreto, Julio
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Aug 3, 1992
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