On August 27, 2020, in Protecting Our Water and Environmental Resources v. County of Stanislaus, Case No. S251709 (“Protecting Our Water”), the California Supreme Court held that the County in that instance could not categorically classify its issuance of groundwater well construction permits as ministerial decisions exempt from environmental review under the
After a long drought, the California Supreme Court at its November 14, 2018 conference voted unanimously to grant review of three decisions involving the question of whether well permits issued pursuant to county ordinances and incorporating state groundwater well-drilling standards are ministerial and thus not subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). Although interpreting different county well ordinances enacted by San Luis Obispo and Stanislaus Counties, the ordinances each incorporated state well-drilling standards (Bulletin 74). Yet, the Second and Fifth Districts reached diametrically opposing conclusions regarding whether those ordinances require the exercise of discretion.