Florida environmentalists scored a major victory today in defeating Coastal Petroleum Company’s efforts to obtain twelve offshore drilling permits ranging from Naples to St. George Island.
In a 65-page order, an administrative law judge decided that Coastal had provided insufficient information about the environmental impacts of the proposed drilling. The Tallahassee office of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund — the nation’s largest public interest environmental law firm — represented the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Florida Audubon Society and the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club in the legal challenge.
“The Apalachicola River Estuary, St. George Island, and Sarasota and Naples beaches are some of the most environmentally rich treasures of this state: to allow drilling before we know the likelihood or extent of drilling impacts is unthinkable,” said Earthjustice Attorney David Guest.
“This victory is a vital step in protecting Florida’s Gulf coast from the perils of oil and gas drilling,” said Manley Fuller of the Florida Wildlife Federation.
“It’s an important step in the multi-year battle we’ve been fighting to protect our coast,” said Clay Henderson, President of the Florida Audubon Society. “This decision means that the department can make companies protect our fragile coastal ecosystem if they’re going to drill.”
“Any other decision would have critically impaired our coast.” Said Peter Belmont of the Sierra Club, Florida Chapter.
A related lawsuit – in which the department denied a permit application to drill off the coast of Apalachicola – has been appealed. Oral argument is set for May.
In that earlier case, scientists projected that a spill could have created a slick of over two hundred miles, arcing all the way down Florida’s Gulf coast as far south as Tarpon Springs. This case ensures that the agency has similar information about additional drilling projects before it issues permits to drill.
Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest, environmental law firm that employs approximately 50 attorneys in nine offices across the country. The group has headquarters in San Francisco and field offices in Juneau, Honolulu, Seattle, Denver, New Orleans, Tallahassee, Washington, D.C., and Bozeman, Montana.