WASHINGTON – In a letter letter sent to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael O. Leavitt Thursday, U.S. Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) and 41 other Senators urged Leavitt to withdraw the EPA's proposed mercury rule package and re-propose a rule that better protects public health and the environment. In the letter, the tripartisan group of 45 senators criticized the EPA's proposed rule for failing to comply with the Clean Air Act. The proposed rule, the senators said, does not adequately reduce industrial plant emissions or effectively address the scientific evidence, much of it from the EPA itself, identifying mercury as one of the most serious hazardous emissions. As evidence of the serious health threat that mercury-laced emissions pose, the senators cite an EPA report that concluded that the number of infants with unsafe levels of mercury in their blood had doubled from EPA's original estimates. During a 12-month study between 1999 and 2000, the EPA found that an estimated 630,000 infants had unsafe levels of mercury in their bloodstreams. The senators' letter also makes clear that lakes, rivers, streams and the wildlife that inhabit them will continue to be damaged until a stronger mercury rule is proposed and implemented. "Mercury is a serious health risk, but EPA's plan to tackle this toxic menace does not face up to the problem," said Leahy. "EPA has set the bar far too low and has stretched out the timeline far too long. Even the polluting industries admit they could achieve greater mercury reduction in a shorter timeframe than EPA has proposed. EPA is ignoring sound science and catering to special interests, instead of the public interest. The proposed mercury rule and the way it was written has created a giant credibility gap." "The public health of our nation is increasingly being put at risk by sky-rocketing levels of mercury," said Snowe. "Unfortunately, EPA's proposed mercury rules do not live by either the letter or intent of the federal Clean Air Act. At a time when women of childbearing age and unborn children are increasingly at risk, the EPA needs to confront this threat through swift and decisive action to require strict controls at our nation's power plants – there currently are none – so the overall health of our nation can be improved." "The Bush Administration has proposed to delay any mercury controls at power plants for another decade or longer than the law provides," said Jeffords, the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "The Clean Air Act is clear and unambiguous - advanced mercury controls are to be applied by 2008, not 2018. The Bush proposal is a bad faith effort to get out of a settlement agreement and to help out corporate polluters. This is the first time that a President has proposed to delay and weaken already-scheduled reductions in hazardous air pollutants that put more than 600,000 unborn children at risk." "Mercury pollution from power plants is jeopardizing our health in Minnesota and across the country and threatens our way of life," said Dayton. "The EPA's recently proposed rules to regulate mercury emissions do not do enough, quickly enough. We have waited for decades for mercury emissions to be controlled, but these proposed rules are insufficient. I will not stand by while the EPA does not do what it needs to do to stop power plants from polluting our waters." The letter asks the EPA to fully analyze the range of available and affordable mercury control technologies recommended by states, utilities, and environmental and public health specialists in re-evaluating the rule. Leahy said that by not following the letter and the spirit of the Clean Air Act, the Administration plan ignores available technologies that can reduce mercury by up to 90 percent. The Administration's current proposal would only reduce mercury emissions by 70 percent and would not start until 2018. Internal EPA analysis suggests the agency could even fall short of that target date, he said. The 45 senators urging Leavitt to withdraw the rule are: Leahy, Snowe, Jeffords, Dayton, Lieberman, Gregg, Cantwell, Reed, Feingold, McCain, Lautenberg, Kohl, Schumer, Sarbanes, Akaka, Durbin, Boxer, Carper, Daschle, Mikulski, Harkin, Wyden, Feinstein, Edwards, Dodd, Clinton, Collins, Murray, Chafee, Biden, Kerry, Hollings, Kennedy, Pryor, Rockefeller, Nelson (Fla.), Reid, Corzine, Sununu, Inouye, Graham (Fla.), Stabenow, Levin, Bingaman and Alexander.