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A cyclist passes a French flag on the eve of the French presidential election in Paris

France ordered to fight pollution or pay millions in fines

PARIS (AP) — France’s highest administrative body ordered the government to take immediate measures to combat pollution in Paris and several regions or pay up to 20 million euros ($22.6 million) a year in fines.

The Council of State’s unusual ruling Friday came after the government failed to fulfill a 2017 order to reduce pollution in accordance with EU rules.

The national French government and local governments have announced multiple anti-pollution measures in recent years, and the Council found they met EU requirements in some regions but were insufficient in eight other regions.

Several environmental groups asked the Council of State to find a way to force the government to act. In Friday’s ruling, it said the fines were necessary because of the “the importance of respecting EU law, the seriousness of the consequences on public health.”

It noted that the potential fines — 54,000 euros ($61,000) per day of inaction — are the highest the Council has ever imposed – and threatened to raise them even higher if the French government doesn’t act. The money could go to environmental groups taking action against pollution.

The government did not immediately respond to the ruling.