Power Play

China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) has long been a watchdog without a bite. Charged with ensuring that the country's natural resources aren't trampled by its headlong economic growth, SEPA must go up against other branches of government, state-owned companies and China's burgeoning private enterprises—and it usually comes out on the bottom.

Last week, however, the agency pulled off a rare victory. On Wednesday, SEPA vice director Pan Yue announced that it had successfully halted construction on 30 major projects, including the massive Xiluodu Dam on the upper Yangtze River, all of which had apparently failed to carry out...

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