All Legal Actions Against Airport are Over

by May 7, 2009 • 8 comments

A recent ruling ended all pending legal actions against the airport as the United States Court of Appeals denied all legal challenges to the relocation of the Panama City Bay County International Airport.  The legal challenges were brought upon by The National Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife and Friends of PFN, who argued against the FAA and Airport on January 23, 2008.  Baring an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, all legal challenges should be over.

Here is the press release:

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on May 1 denied a pending petition for review of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Record of Decision approving the relocation of the Panama City – Bay County International Airport to a new site in West Bay, Florida.

The National Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife and Friends of PFN argued against the FAA and Airport on January 23, 2008.  The court ruling denying the petition for review ends all pending legal challenges to the airport relocation, absent a petition for rehearing or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The new airport is currently under construction and is 55% complete.  The Panama City – Bay County Airport and Industrial Board’s current schedule anticipates a May 2010 opening for the first international airport built in the United States since Denver International Airport was completed in 1995.

The airport is being built on 4,000 acres donated by The St. Joe Company (NYSE: JOE) and is part the West Bay Sector Plan, a 75,000-acre regional planning effort, one of the largest ever in Florida.

The West Bay Sector Plan includes 41,000 acres of conservation land.  Already approximately 10,000 acres have been permanently protected through an irrevocable conservation easement to the State of Florida as a result of the relocation of the airport.  Ultimately, 33 miles of undeveloped West Bay shoreline and an additional 44 miles of creeks and tributaries that feed the bay will be protected forever.

“We are very grateful to the Court for its conscientious consideration of the case,” said Airport Authority Vice Chairman Bill Cramer.  “I do not believe that a petition for rehearing or appeal will be successful if attempted.  Therefore, the Court’s ruling should bring full closure to all pending legal challenges. We continue to move forward building an airport that will better serve Bay County and Northwest Florida for many decades to come.”

In it’s ruling, the Court found:

  1. The FAA complied with the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in evaluating the proposal to build the new airport at West Bay, and
  2. The FAA’s decision that no prudent alternatives to the proposed West Bay Site existed was “not arbitrary, capricious, and abuse of discretion or otherwise contrary to law.”

“We are focused on building a state-of-the-art facility that will be one of the greenest airports in the world,” said Cramer.  “The Court’s ruling and the consequent resolution of all pending legal challenges will provide a boost to our airline marketing and business recruitment efforts.”

“The Court’s action last week represents another important milestone in our effort to improve air service for the people of Bay County and Northwest Florida,” said Airport Authority Chairman Joe Tannehill.  “We are now past the halfway point with construction.  We are ramping up our airline and economic development marketing efforts, and we have redoubled our commitment to building and operating a ‘green’ airport.  We are looking forward to opening the new airport in less than thirteen months.”

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1 JoePloomer May 7, 2009 at 3:45 pm

In a recent conversation on a local radio talk show, Randy Curtis was asked about a change in the name of the airport which would create state recognition rather than a local one. He said (paraphrased)… that it was a topic being discussed. May I suggest the name change is “a must” for marketing purposes, revenue, attracting
airlines that would benefit in their marketing, bringing people “on board” from other regional areas
such as Ft.Walton,Tallahassee, Destin, Dothan and any other areas in close proximity and many more
benefits. A $330 million price tag does not justify “a relocation” of a regional airport and to follow that
council would be a misguided strategy. An airport that will eventually grow far past regional concerns needs
foresight from those in the decision making process. This view is shared by many in our community. Here are
a couple of suggestions….”Sunshine State International”, “Emerald Coast International” “Florida International” “Gulf of Mexico International” “Southern U.S. Intercontinental Airport” .Once you have commited to a name change, a public contest to come up with a “Title” in which the winner recieves some sort of award or prize would be an excellent P.R. move and make your agency come out smelling like a rose. Please consider this issue as one of importance.


2 Rob N May 8, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Emerald Coast Gets my vote!


3 jamnolfin May 9, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Im with Rob N


4 Gary Stoneking May 12, 2009 at 7:18 am

Make that three informal votes for Emerald Coast International. I checked, and the three-letter identifier ECI is even available.


5 Diane May 12, 2009 at 7:54 am

Isn’t it ironic that just a few days before the court’s decision, one of the issues at the heart of the case — pollution of West Bay, Crooked and Burnt Mill Creeks with uncontrollable stormwater runoff — occurred, just as predicted. And this isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last. Ask a commercial fisherman. Sediment destroys fish habitat and food. What price are we willing to pay based on speculation?


6 Eric Habshey May 12, 2009 at 10:20 am

I like “Emerald Coast” the best also.


7 Larry Couch May 12, 2009 at 10:50 am

I got a great name for the airport – “Swamp Thing”. Jimmy Buffett will be able to land his seaplane on the submerged tarmac.


8 Diane May 12, 2009 at 12:01 pm

“Swamp Thing” is fitting, except I think the correct spelling is t-h-a-n-g.

The airport could be marketed as “scenic”: “A River Runs Through It.”