Environmentalists say administration is putting on a show to placate the public It would be easy to imagine that the State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa) has been winning the hearts and minds of the nation's environmental movement. For the past five months, the environmental watchdog has been on a nationwide crusade, launching a series of regulatory actions in the name of halting the mainland's ecological decline. However, the campaign has not exactly impressed the mainland environmental community. 'Sepa is just putting on a show to convince the public that it is doing its job,' said one environmental expert who works with the agency on several projects. 'It is diverting attention from the fact that it has failed to clean up the environment.' In an unprecedented move, Sepa ordered a temporary halt in January to 30 construction projects, including three by the Three Gorges Development Corp, because developers failed to complete environmental impact reports. During the same month, Sepa rebuked 46 power plants for not installing desulfurisation equipment. With Premier Wen Jiabao backing the effort, the mainland media praised the agency for its courage in tackling polluters. A Xinhua editorial said: 'Sepa's actions prove that the government is trying to contain pollution from its source and is realising the nation's determination to achieve sustainable development.' But the agency did not stop there. In March it ordered a halt to the Yuanmingyuan restoration project and openly accused the Ministry of Water Resources of overstepping its legal authority by releasing information on pollution levels in the Huai River basin. Critics accused Sepa of focusing on the bureaucratic process of ecological protection, but not controlling pollution - its main mandate. They also point out that all 30 projects halted in January are now back in operation. The most common accusation against Sepa is that its actions are simply a political show by its outspoken 40-year old vice-director, Pan Yue . 'This is all the work of Pan Yue,' said one senior official from the National Development and Reform Commission. Mr Pan, a former journalist, has been a seasoned political infighter since his days with the State Council's now-disbanded economic restructuring office. His lobbying led to 56 environmental NGOs issuing a joint statement supporting the agency during the January crackdown. Sepa's supporters admit they are suspicious of Mr Pan. But they ardently defend the agency's efforts to enforce the environmental impact assessment law. 'Sepa has brought the need for environmental impact reports to the attention of every government agency or company. They can no longer disregard the environmental regulatory process,' said one environmental activist.