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Plan to cut mercury emissions criticized

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration's plan for reducing mercury emissions from power plants was criticized on two fronts Thursday as nearly half of the Senate and 10 states urged the Environmental Protection Agency to propose stronger requirements.

The agency's administrator, Mike Leavitt, has promised to re-examine a plan that envisions a 70 percent cut in mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants by 2018.

The plan has drawn criticism because of the time given to utilities to reduce emissions and because the EPA would let some companies buy pollution credits from utilities.

Mercury can cause neurological and developmental problems, especially in children.

The government's mercury proposals "fall far short of what the law requires, and they fail to protect the health of our children and our environment," the 45 senators said in a letter to Leavitt. Attorneys general from 10 states said the EPA proposal does "not meet the minimum requirements" of the Clean Air Act. The letter was signed by 38 Democrats as well as seven Republicans: Senators John McCain of Arizona, Susan M. Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Judd Gregg and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. The states urging a new approach were Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Mexico.

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