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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Crist loves the new airport & so does St. Joe



The controversial Panama City airport relocation -- estimated to cost taxpayers more than $300-million -- got its final federal permit Thursday, and Gov. Charlie Crist hailed it in a news release.

Crist, who won plaudits from environmental groups last month for his crusade against climate change, saluted the permit for the airport project -- even though the Natural Resources Defense Council has attacked it as the "airport to nowhere," designed solely to boost the development plans of the St. Joe Co., which is donating the site 30 miles north of Panama City.

--Craig Pittman

Crist contended the airport relocation "has the potential of becoming a strong economic development platform for Bay County and the Panhandle as long as it continues to be coupled with a real commitment to protecting the natural attributes that make the area so special.” Crist's predecessor, Jeb Bush, was a strong backer of the airport move.

The airport is not only popular with Republicans -- Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson wrote a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration last year urging approval of the project. One group that opposes it: the voters of Bay County, who in a 2004 non-binding referendum rejected the project 54 percent to 46 percent.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 12:58pm]


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