The Chinese official who was sacked as environment minister in 2004 is now in charge of environmental policy at the country's planning ministry, AFP reported, quoting state media. Xie Zhenhua is the new minister-in-charge of environmental issues at the National Development and Reform Commission, which said in a press release that the appointment shows the government's commitment to protect the environment and raise energy efficiency. Xie led the State Environmental Protection Administration from 1998 to 2004. He routinely commented on the administration's lack of power to restrict pollution in the face of a booming economy. He stepped down after an explosion at a petrochemical plant in northeast China in 2004 saw 100 tons of benzene leak into the Songhua River.