Reuters reports China’s environment impact assessment (EIA) agencies will sever all connections with local governments by year-end to avoid conflicts of interest and help bolster the environment ministry’s battle against rampant air, water and soil pollution. According to Xinhua, 337 EIA agencies had already been de-coupled from local government or been disbanded. The remaining 13 will be detached this month. Earlier this week, China punished nearly 700 officials for inadequately protecting the environment in the latest round of rolling inspections. The previous round led to more than 3,000 officials being disciplined and 198 million yuan ($29 million) in fines being handed out for environmental violations. China’s environment ministry was given authority earlier this year to investigate regions and enterprises without prior warning, and was empowered to summon any local government or company official to account for their actions.