Energy & Environment

Chicago group asks Supreme Court to block Obama library construction

A Chicago-based group is asking the Supreme Court to halt construction of the presidential library for former President Obama as crews break ground in a South Side neighborhood.

In an emergency request filed on Monday — the same day construction began — the advocacy group Protect Our Parks and several other plaintiffs asked the court to consider whether the project violated environmental laws.

Specifically, the group asked the high court to issue an emergency halt on construction in the city’s Jackson Park, claiming that federal, state and local governments illegally segmented the project into smaller pieces in order to evade a full assessment of its environmental impacts.

They argued that authorities ignored the possibility of using an alternate site and called for a rigorous environmental review known as an Environmental Impact Statement.

They said that if construction proceeds it will “demolish significant parts of Jackson Park, its historical resources, parkland, and trees, which will, in turn, adversely affect the human environment, the historic landscape, wildlife, and migratory birds.”

The emergency request to the Supreme Court came after the group was unsuccessful in lower federal courts.

A previous legal effort by the group to press for a location change also fell short. In 2018, Protect Our Parks sued the city of Chicago and the Chicago Park District, arguing that the Obama Presidential Center would benefit private rather than public interests, as required by law.

A federal judge rebuffed that bid. A Chicago-based federal appeals court, with then-Judge Amy Coney Barrett writing for a three-judge panel, similarly rejected the effort. The Supreme Court in April, with Barrett recused, declined to review the case.

An Obama Foundation spokesperson, commenting on the latest round of litigation, said, ​​“We await word from the Court as to next steps.”

“On Monday, August 16 the Obama Foundation officially began construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park,” the spokesperson added, “and we are excited to bring this historic project to the city of Chicago.”

Monday’s petition from Protect Our Parks went to Barrett, who handles emergency matters for the state. Barrett can either act on the petition herself or refer it to other justices.

Protect Our Parks has long opposed construction of the library in Jackson Park and has instead promoted a proposal that would place it in Washington Park a few miles away.

Tags Amy Coney Barrett Barack Obama Chicago Environmental review Illinois Legal challenge Obama Presidential Center Presidential library Supreme Court

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