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Beijing fines 652 firms for pollution in four months

BEIJING (Reuters) - Authorities in the Chinese capital fined 652 industrial facilities for breaching environmental regulations in the first four months of the year as it stepped up efforts to fight pollution.

Beijing's air quality has come under intense scrutiny since January last year, when heavy smog settled over the city to the alarm of its residents.

Premier Li Keqiang in March promised a "war on pollution" as the country seeks to stem public anger over premature deaths while weaning the economy off over-dependence on energy-guzzling heavy industry.

Beijing's Environmental Protection Bureau handed out fines totalling 14.5 million yuan ($2.3 million) over the first four months of the year, it told state media on Sunday.

"The amount is twice as high as for the same period last year," said Zhong Chonglei, chief officer at the Bureau's supervision department.

China has introduced a range of policies and plans to solve environmental problems but it has long struggled to bring big polluting industries and growth-obsessed local governments to heel.

In March, Beijing for the first time took charge of supervising its pollution levels. The city can hand out fines of up to 500,000 yuan and can impose additional daily fines on wrong-doers who don't pay up on time.

Three-quarters of the fines handed out were for air pollution.

The Beijing Yueju Heating Company received the biggest fine of 200,000 yuan for manipulating emissions data for one of its coal-fired boilers.

(Reporting by Kathy Chen and Stian Reklev; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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