The Environmental Protection Agency's Lead RRP program is facing the budget ax, The Washington Post reported this week (see: "Trump’s EPA moves to dismantle programs that protect kids from lead paint," by Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin). "The proposed cuts, outlined in a 64-page budget memo revealed by The Washington Post on Friday, would roll back programs aimed at reducing lead risks by $16.61 million and more than 70 employees, in line with a broader project by the Trump administration to devolve responsibility for environmental and health protection to state and local governments," the paper reported. "One of the programs falling under the ax requires professional remodelers to undergo training in safe practices for stripping away old, lead-based paints from homes and other facilities."

Some states already enforce the lead-safe training and job-site rules at the state level. "EPA spokeswoman Julia Valentine said in an email that the two programs facing cuts are 'mature,' and that the goal of their elimination is to return 'the responsibility for funding to state and local entities,'" the Post reported.

Meanwhile, lead exposure is a health risk for remodelers and their crews, not just for building occupants. For guidance on protecting yourself and your employees from lead poisoning, see "Working Lead-Safe," by Tom O'Brien (JLC 5/16).

This year's stormy spring has taken a toll, according to the March "Global Catastrophe Recap" from analytics firm and reinsurance broker Aon Benfield. The March 6 to March 10 severe weather outbreak in the central United States did damage estimated at $1.7 billion, Aon Benfield reported, with insurance payouts likely to hit $1.2 billion. "The storms, which were most significant in parts of Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Illinois, caused extensive tornado, wind and hail damage," said the report. "Dozens of tornado touchdowns combined with up to baseball sized hail and straight-line winds to cause major damage to residential and commercial properties, and vehicles. In the aftermath, very gusty synoptic winds led to widespread damage in parts of the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast."

The active spring comes on the heels of several quiet years in a row: 2016 and 2015 were two of the slowest years on record for tornadoes in the United States, according to NOAA statistics (see: "Tornadoes: Annual 2016"). And as of early April, severe weather shows no sign of easing off: storms killed people in several states last week, as the Weather Channel reported on April 6 (see: "A State-by-State Look at Damage After Storms Hit South, DC Area").

Google Street View cars have started sniffing out natural gas leaks in major cities. NPR has this report (see: "Google Street View can now map invisible gas leaks in your city," by Andrew Wagner). "These electronic bloodhounds roamed the streets of five places in the country: Boston, Indianapolis, Syracuse, New York, Burlington, Vermont, and the Staten Island borough of New York City," NPR reports. "Boston, Syracuse and Staten Island topped the charts due to antique pipe systems."


Kentucky: What do you know: In a cost-saving measure, the Kentucky Coal Museum in Benham, Ky., is installing photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, according to NPR station WKMS (see: "Kentucky Coal Museum Installing Solar Panels on Roof to Cut Energy Cost"). Among other attractions, the museum houses a collection of memorabilia donated by famous coal miner's daughter Loretta Lynn, who is still producing energy.

Louisiana: Governor John Bel Edwards got a rough reception in Washington last week as he testified before a House committee. Critical members panned Edwards' performance in handling severe flooding that hit the state last August. See: "John Bel Edwards, House panel spar over response to August flood," by Richard Rainey (New Orleans Times-Picayune); and "Louisiana flood response blasted by Congress after state, FEMA 'fell on its face,' lawmaker says," by Elizabeth Crisp (The Advocate). The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is set to release $1.6 billion in federal aid for Louisiana's recovery from the flood damage.

Florida: Building code reform bills are moving through the Florida legislature, but the House and Senate flavors of the idea are different, the politics-watching reports (see: "House, Senate move in different directions on building code reform," by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster). The House proposal would continue using the latest version of the International Codes as a baseline, but change the code revision cycle from a three-year to a five-year cycle. The Senate version would stop using the International Codes, but instead would base new code versions on the existing Florida Building Code.

California: The state's drought is officially over, Governor Jerry Brown has declared. For coverage, see: "California's drought is finally over, but its legacy will live on," by Joseph Serna and Shelby Grad (The Los Angeles Times); and "California, Drenched by Winter Rain, Is Told ‘Drought’s Over’," by Matt Stevens (The New York Times). Still, the state's dry climate, growing population, and thirsty farm economy mean that “conservation must remain a way of life,” said Governor Brown.