China's former environment minister, who resigned over the mishandling of a major industrial accident, has been given a new job overseeing key environmental policies, state media and government Web sites reported.
Xie Zhenhua (
The post marks Xie's return to political life. He headed the State Environmental Protection Administration for over a decade, gaining a reputation as a competent technocrat leading a politically weak agency. But he resigned in late 2005 after a factory explosion sent benzene and other cancer-causing chemicals into the Songhua River in the industrial northeast.
Xie's role in the slow and initially ineffective efforts to contain the spill -- which forced the shutdown of the water supply to the provincial capital of Harbin -- has never been made clear.
China's communist government is beginning to grapple with the country's severely degraded environment, a byproduct of decades of breakneck economic growth with little environmental regulation.
Xinhuanet, the Web site of the government's Xinhua News Agency, said Xie took up his new job at the end of last year.
His portfolio covers two priorities the government set in its five-year economic plan: cutting emissions of sulfur dioxide, which is chiefly caused by coal burning, by 10 percent and reducing the nation's energy needs by 20 percent.
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