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Some California Water Well Permits Require Environmental Review

March 9, 2021, 8:16 PM

Proposed water wells in California don’t all require environmental review under state and local permit laws, but state standards governing well location will sometimes require local governments to make discretionary decisions, triggering such a look, a state appellate court said.

The California Environmental Quality Act requires discretionary decisions—those that require an agency to exercise judgment in deciding whether to approve a project—to undergo an environmental review. Ministerial decisions made to determine legal compliance, however, don’t require such weighing.

In a 2014 suit, environmental groups sued Stanislaus County. They alleged it illegally classified all permit issuances for water wells as ministerial,...

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