The Castex government will have to pay a hefty bill. After more than a decade of free warnings, formal notices – by the European Commission in particular -, ultimatums, deadlines … the sanction has fallen. In a decision issued Wednesday, August 4, the Council of State condemns the State to pay a fine of 10 million euros. In question, its inability to bring the levels of air pollution below health standards throughout the territory. The administrative judge had never imposed such an amount to force the State to execute a decision. A record fine justified by “The seriousness of the consequences in terms of public health” and “The resulting urgency”. According to the calculation methods, it is estimated that air pollution is the cause of 48,000 to 67,000 premature deaths per year in France.
New meeting in six months
This decision is the culmination of a long procedure. In 2015, the NGO Les Amis de la Terre appealed to the Council of State to obtain the application of the 2008 European directive on air quality. For nitrogen dioxide (NO2), emitted mainly by road traffic, the thresholds should have been respected since 2010. And even since 2005 for fine particles PM10 (less than 10 micrometers). In July 2017, the Council of State ordered the government to take all the necessary measures to bring back the concentrations of NO2 and PM10 below the limit values ” in the shortest possible time “. Three years later, he believes that the executive has not implemented adequate action plans. Exceedances are still observed in eight agglomerations: Paris, Marseille-Aix, Lyon, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Toulouse, Reims and Fort-de-France. In July 2020, the high court gives him an ultimatum: it gives him six months to act, under penalty of a penalty of 10 million euros per semester late, or a little more than 54,000 euros per day.
It is this penalty that the administrative judge has just decided to liquidate. It corresponds to the first semester of 2021. And it could be repeated: in six months, the Council of State will meet again to assess the action of the State. In the event of insufficiency, he may again order payment of the penalty payment. And this, as long as the government has not fully implemented the 2020 decision, that is to say, as long as there are exceedances of the standards. In 2020, they only concerned the agglomerations of Paris and Lyon for the NO2. But this improvement is cyclical: it is the result of the historic drop in pollution due to containment and not public policies, notes the Council of State. He also believes that a post-health crisis “rebound” cannot be ruled out for all areas.
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