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August 03, 2010

Transformers 3 crushes Coast Guard rules

Transformers 3 is such a blaring piece of dreck "major motion picture" that the normal Coast Guard rules don't apply.

So we learn Tuesday, as the Coast Guard declared that it is establishing two temporary safety zones on the Chicago River. The Coast Guard explains that the safety zones are necessary to protect the public "from the hazards associated with the different types of stunts that will be performed during the filming of this movie."

Normally, these kinds of safety zones get established only following a public comment period. In this case, though, the Coast Guard explained in the Federal Register that there was no time for the standard public comment rules to apply because "final details for these events were not submitted to the Coast Guard until July 20, 2010."

Twice, the Coast Guard takes care to refer to Transformers 3 as a "major motion picture." So, all you art-house, indie movie producers need not bother trying to secure the same exemption from the rules.

Just to be nerdy about this: under the Administrative Procedures Act, exemptions to the public comment requirement are permitted only when following the rules is "impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest."

Strangely, though conveniently for the producers of Transformer 3, one of the filming days for which a safety zone was needed already occurred. That was July 27. So: not only is the public comment period forfeited, the fact that the public comment period is forfeited was itself not made public until after the event.

The other filming date is Aug. 8, covering the portion of the Chicago River between the Dearborn Street and Wabash street bridges. Check it out, all you fans of big, loud movies in which alien creatures entertain us by destroying cities.


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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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