May 6, 2019 / 1:01 PM / 20 days ago

China's top coal province defies Beijing, allows new coke projects: ministry

FILE PHOTO: A worker inspects a conveyor belt carrying coal at a coal coking plant in Yuncheng, Shanxi province, China January 31, 2018. Picture taken January 31, 2018. REUTERS/William Hong

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s top coal and coke producing region Shanxi has relaxed environmental policies regarding its coking industry despite repeated orders from Beijing to curb production from coke plants, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said on Monday.

The MEE said the province had allowed and encouraged the expansion of coke capacity and had also fallen behind on a campaign to switch rural households to using gas rather than coal for heating.

About 30 percent of households that had gas boilers installed had not been connected to a gas pipeline by November 2018, the MEE said.

Some residents had resumed burning coal for heating due to a lack of gas supplies and high prices, the ministry said.

The criticism reinforced worries that local governments across eastern China, faced with a slowing economy and pressure to preserve local jobs, were easing pollution standards.

Shanxi plans to add more than 10.7 million tonnes in new coking production capacity despite the low utilization rate of its current plants, the MEE said.

Reporting by Meng Meng and Domnique Patton; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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