U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, I – Vt., the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today decried the Bush Administration's mercury policies as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today reported a national increase in fishing advisories. According to the EPA's annual national listing of fishing advisories in 2003, 48 states, the District of Columbia and American Samoa issued 3,094 fish advisories, 280 more than the previous year. With these additions, 35 percent of the total lake acres and 24 percent of the river miles in the nation are now under advisory. States issue fish consumption advisories if elevated concentrations of chemicals such as mercury or dioxin are found in local fish. According to the EPA listing, Vermont reported 12 fish consumption advisories in 2003. Jeffords said, "This listing clearly indicates that we are moving in the wrong direction on mercury pollution. Power plants are the largest unregulated source of mercury in the country, emitting almost fifty tons each year into our air. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has spent the last three years protecting the profits of dirty power plants rather than public health and our environment. The President's proposal delays compliance with mercury protections for almost a decade. There is no excuse for this delay. The technologies exist today to cut mercury and other pollution dramatically and cheaply." Legislation authored by Jeffords would reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent by 2008. The Bush administration plan would aim to cut mercury emissions by 29 percent by 2010, and by 70 percent by 2018. In 2003, the Centers for Disease Control found that one in twelve women of childbearing age has mercury levels above EPA's safe health threshold – due primarily to consumption of poisoned fish. This totals almost five million women, and results in almost 300,000 newborns with increased risk of nervous system damage from exposure in the womb. Earlier this year, it was disclosed that parts of the Bush Administration mercury rule were written verbatim from memos and proposals from lobbyists working for power plants. At the request of Jeffords, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D – Vt., and others the Inspector General is conducting a review of industry influence on the drafting of the rule. The EPA report is available at: www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish.