The new environment minister is Jaume Matas. He replaces Isabel Tocino, who held the post from May 1996. From 1996 to 1999 Mr Matas was president of the Balearic autonomous government, where he implemented stricter planning controls on new building aimed at limiting the environmental impact of the booming tourist industry. His appointment was greeted with surprise in the Spanish media because he is largely unknown outside his home region.
Isabel Tocino's dismissal has been widely interpreted by the Spanish media as the political price of her handling of the aftermath of the 1998 Doñana mine spill disaster and her failure to steer important legislation through parliament, including the national hydrological plan. Her replacement has been welcomed by a coalition of all the main Spanish environmental NGOs, which accused the outgoing minister of "unwillingness to participate in dialogue".
The choice of senior telecommunications executive Ana Birulés to head the newly-created science and technology ministry was also unexpected. The department takes over several important functions of the now defunct industry ministry, including environmental research and the development of renewable energy. Responsibility for the rest of the energy sector is being taken over by the economics ministry.
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