COURT AFFIRMS DENIAL OF PERMIT TO DRILL OFF FLORIDA COAST
Today a Florida appellate court affirmed its decision that Coastal Petroleum Company cannot drill for oil off the coast of St. George Island, Florida, and clarified an earlier statement that the company was entitled to compensation because its permit had been denied. The court held that the question of whether the company should or should not be compensated as a result of the permit denial would have to be determined in a separate proceeding by a separate court.
In the June 26 order, the First District Court of Appeal ruled on a motion filed by several parties in a four-year courtroom battle begun when Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund challenged a permit request by Coastal Petroleum Company on behalf of three conservation groups. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state Attorney General, Florida Wildlife Federation, Audubon of Florida, and the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club had asked the court to reconsider its October 6, 1999, ruling that the company should be compensated for the permit denial. Today the court agreed with the state agencies and conservation groups.
"We argued that the denial of a single permit to protect Florida's coastal waters and wildlife couldn't be considered a 'take' of property in this court, and we won," said David Guest, managing attorney of the Tallahassee office of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. "This is a crucial milestone in the protection of Florida's pristine coastal waters."
"It's been a long, bitter fight but justice has finally prevailed," said Manley Fuller, President of the Florida Wildlife Federation. "Offshore oil drilling is bad news for Florida."
"We now know the permit is dead and the court has put off any decision on property rights to a completely separate proceeding, said Charles Lee, Senior Vice President of Audubon Society of Florida. "This is great news for all of Florida's coastal waters."
The Tallahassee office of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund -- the nation's largest public interest environmental law firm -- filed a lawsuit opposing the permit almost four years ago on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club and Audubon of Florida. The lawsuit, joined immediately by Attorney General Bob Butterworth, argued that the environmental consequences of such drilling were far too great to allow a permit. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed the Department of Environmental Protection's denial of the permit in its October 6 order.