In 2007, Pan said, his agency and other government departments would intensify a campaign to vet new projects to ensure they meet pollution standards.
"It's dawned on us that gentle measures don't work against this surge of high-energy consuming, high-polluting industrial expansion," he said.
Pan's comments come amid a raft of reports and studies pointing to the impact of unchecked pollution on China's environment.
On Thursday, state media quoted a government study which found that a third of all fish species in the Yellow River had been killed off by a combination of pollution, over-fishing and falling water levels.
Speaking to the Southern Weekend, Pan said a key obstacle came from officials eager to promote strong growth, whatever the price to the environment, based on a "crazy expansion of high-polluting, high-energy industries".
"Protected by local governments, some businesses treat the natural resources that belong to all people as their own private property," he told the newspaper.
Senior Chinese officials have become increasingly worried at the impact the country's breakneck economic growth is having on the environment.
Recent government announcements have emphasised sustainability and the long-term economic benefits of environmental protection.
The SEPA, however, still has a relatively low status in China's government, and critics say that while senior officials may mouth concerns about environmental damage, those are usually overruled by short-term concerns about economic growth.