Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE
TALLAHASSEE - A battle over the future of Florida's coastline and the resources that lie just beyond is shaping up in the Legislature, as lawmakers, lobbyists and advocates on both sides mobilize for what could be one of the major fights of the coming session: whether to open state waters to offshore oil drilling.
On one side are powerful legislators and organizations that see a potential economic boom in the underwater petroleum.
On the other side are environmental groups who see the state poised to endanger its vital tourism industry and take a step backward in the changing energy industry.
"In the 27-year history of the fight to keep our coasts rig-free, we're definitely as close as we've ever been to seeing this shortsighted policy become reality," said Mark Ferrulo, executive director of Progress Florida, which opposes offshore drilling.
Supporters say the time has come to discard Florida's once bipartisan opposition to exploring the state's waters, capitalizing on safer technology to minimize …