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China Cracks Down on Power Companies Over Pollution

China's top environmental watchdog agency has ordered four leading energy companies to halt all new projects after they failed to meet environmental standards.

A spokesman for the State Environmental Protection Administration says the government has suspended new projects for the four companies in three northern Chinese cities and one southern city.

The spokesman said that the cities do not have the capacity to handle more pollutants.

The agency has also released a list of 82 projects that it says failed to meet environmental standards. The projects are worth $14.4 billion.

The moves are seen as highlighting China's determination to control pollution while meeting its massive energy demands.

Earlier this week, the government admitted that it failed last year to meet its goals for saving energy and controlling pollution.

China's target for 2006 was to cut energy consumption by four percent and emissions of major pollutants by two percent. But state media reported on Wednesday that only the capital Beijing and five other regions managed to reach those goals.

Officials say China had 161 serious environmental accidents last year, its largest number to date. He also notes that complaints about pollution rose 30 percent last year to 600,000.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.