An ongoing discussion of politics, law, pop culture, and fine draperies.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More on Tom Connolly's

Halloween adventure

I'll start off on an unrelated note, lest your attention get spent before we get too much further. The Boston Phoenix has this
list of the 40 Best Concerts in Boston History. I proudly attended three of them … well, two plus a third that should be in there – Pearl Jam at the Orpheum in April 1994, which was questionably beaten out by the band's show on the previous night at the Boston Garden. My outrage is reflected on the message board. The others I attended were this one and this one. Nice recap of the Great Woods' sod filling the sky while fires burned in the outfield during the Ministry set. Surreal!

Now then …

The Press Herald has been good enough to post oodles of nice material about Tom Connolly's arrest yesterday, after his apparent protest against the Taxpayer Bill of Rights initiative campaign went haywire. The
story has generated quite a bit of print, despite being little more than an embarrassed police response to a benign political sparkplug's badly executed joke.

It warrants being remembered that Connolly isn't merely some goofball, at least, hasn't always been seen as such, as his
alma mater fondly recalls. This is someone who was nominated by the state's largest political party to run as its candidate for Governor in 1998 (albeit, in a well-foreseen impossible race against Angus King), and someone who has litigated some of the state's most well-know criminal trials. However, with this stunt, it's more likely that those identifiers will be pushed aside as is was after Connolly was identified as the source for the Bush DUI conviction story.

Connolly, in better days

Ultimately, Connolly was completely at fault yesterday, whereas the police response barely even registers as an overreaction to this point. If an overreaction arises, it will be a political one trying to make more of this than it's worth. Bill Nemitz provides that opinion in a few more words, offering that Connolly's
Methods overshadowed the Message. Fair enough.

Here's a link to a
not-quite-ready-for-COPS video of the arrest, as provided by WCSH-TV.

The only thing to add is how goofily he failed in his attempt to lampoon the TABOR crowd – having Bin Laden hold a sign saying "I Love TABOR." As the video reveals, a complaining driver-by apparently reported the sign's text to the police as "I Love the Taliban." More signs that our national literacy programs are failing, I guess.

Meanwhile …

On the lighter side of the news, the U.S. Supreme Court today heard arguments in a potentially huge administrative law case involving the EPA's
interpretation of the Clean Air Act and the required cleanness of emissions released from newly modified power plants. As Press Herald reporter Bart Jansen reports:
The case will determine whether utilities must install modern pollution-control equipment when upgrading their plants. At stake are billions of dollars in additional costs that power companies say could discourage improvements, versus thousands of tons of pollution that environmentalists argue could be spewed into the air.

Forbes Magazine's Jessica Holzer zeros in on the odd alliances in the case, which position the EPA on the same side of the courtroom as activist groups led by Environmental Defense. Holzer notes:
But the government's support of the environmental group is in fact only, not in spirit. The EPA's stance in the case can best be described as: It was against the power industry before it was for it, and now it's against it again, but only for the moment.
The government's tortured turnaround in the case and on the issue of air pollution as a whole will be on full display in the courtroom.

Environmental Defense, which had joined the EPA as a plaintiff in the case, wanted to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. But the Bush administration demurred and even wrote a brief to persuade the high court not to review the case. It also proposed a new rule that would essentially adopt the industry position in the future.

As a result, the EPA will be awkwardly advocating an interpretation of the Clean Air Act before the high court that it no longer supports simply to be consistent with its stance in the lower court.
More interestingly, perhaps, is that the case may end up being deciding on ground completely apart from the environmental or even administrative law issues alleged to be at the heart of the dispute. Forbes' Holzer identifies this issue within the fact that the appeal arose through the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, and not the D.C. Circuit, as Congress intended for such cases:
But it's not at all clear that the justices will even get to the merits of the case. Not since 1971 has the Supreme Court granted review on a case at the exclusive request of an environmental group and over the objections of the EPA. That has fueled suspicion that the justices are more interested in the jurisdictional aspects of the case.

Congress decreed that all challenges to Clean Air Act regulations must be funneled through one appellate court, the D.C. Circuit, and made promptly, not decades after the fact. Environmental Defense claims that Duke Energy lost its chance when it didn't successfully challenge the regulations for aging plants back in the 1980s, when they were handed down.
The opinion should be released sometime before the June 2007 recess.


Blogger B said...

I've been looking forward to the beginning of Mass. Vs. EPA for a while now... I'm ready for disappointment, but it has far reaching implications beyond this single case.

anyway, glad to see you're possibly back...

2:24 PM

Blogger weasel said...

The whole EPA having to back a position it has to oppose elsewhere business is making my head spin. I need to read this again tonight with a notepad on my knee...

9:30 AM

Blogger Rikki said...

B - I agree. That case should be monumental. On the flipside, this one is likely to stand for nothing of any permanence except that when Congress says "All must go to the DC Circuit" it means it.

Weaz -- I'll post a few other links later, but here is the PPH's guy's impressions of yesterday's argument. I hope Nina T. provides something on NPR, too.

10:04 AM


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