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Justice Barrett Gives Green Light to Construction of Obama Presidential Center

August 20, 2021 by Dan McCue
Amy Coney Barrett, Associate Justice. (U.S. Supreme Court)

CHICAGO — A long running effort by local environmentalists to block construction of the proposed Obama Presidential Center in Chicago’s Jackson Park ended on Friday when Justice Amy Coney Barrett declined to intervene in the case.

The environmentalists, who collectively call themselves “Protect Our Parks,” don’t oppose honoring the former president, in fact they welcome the construction of the combined presidential library and education center on the city’s South Side.

What they oppose is erecting the $830 million building in a dedicated public park where, they say, the mature trees are critical to migratory birds and the grounds the habitat of wildlife and a fragile ecosystem.

In the near-term, they argued, the noise and air pollution generated at the site during construction would diminish the quality of life of those who use and live near the park.

Justice Barrett, who handles appeals to the Supreme Court from Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, did not explain her rationale for rejecting the environmentalists’ appeal.

However, as a federal appellate judge, Barrett rejected some of Protect Our Parks’ claims in a separate lawsuit last year before sending that case back to a lower court.

Protect Our Parks sued the city, the Obama Foundation and federal officials in April, claiming reviews of site plans did not follow regulations.

U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey denied Protect Our Parks’ request to halt construction on Aug. 5, but did not issue a detailed opinion explaining his decision until Aug. 12.

The delay in issuing the opinion severely impacted the environmentalists, whose immediate appeal was rejected by a federal appeals court last week.

In their brief to the Supreme Court, attorneys for Protect Our Parks say the delay “severely compromised the ability of applicants to point out any specific errors of law or fact in [Blakey’s] opinion.” 

The Obama Center is set for completion in 2025, nine years after officials announced their intention to build in Jackson Park. An official groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for fall.

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