Illinois Officials Announce Plan to Sue over O'Hare Airport Expansion Agreement

JUNE 2, 2002

Claiming an agreement to expand O'Hare International Airport is illegal, U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde and state Senate President James "Pate" Philip said today they will file a lawsuit to stop it.

Hyde and Philip said they plan to file the lawsuit Monday in DuPage County Court against Gov. George Ryan and Mayor Richard Daley, who in December agreed on a plan to reconfigure O'Hare runways and increase the number of annual flights from 900,000 to 1.6 million. Hyde and Philip claim Ryan had no statutory or constitutional authority to enter an agreement, and is illegally trying to override the General Assembly.

Philip, R-Wood Dale, also said the plan is premature because there is no budget for it and nobody else has agreed to it. "It has got people very uptight. That is why we filed the suit to prevent them from doing it," Philip said.

Ryan, in a statement, called the lawsuit "frivolous." "It is unfortunate that we will have to waste taxpayer dollars defending this nuisance suit," the governor said. "Mayor Daley and I agreed to this plan for the long term economic benefit for Chicago, Illinois and the entire Midwest region."

Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin has introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate that would make the expansion plan federal policy. Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker said a vote on the bill would proceed regardless of the suit and, if passed, supersede any state action. Plaintiffs' attorney Joseph Karaganis said a federal law would not override state permit requirements.

Durbin last month said he has the votes to overcome a filibuster if Sen. Peter Fitzgerald again tries to stall the bill, which could come up for a vote as soon as next week. Fitzgerald favors construction of a new airport in south suburban Peotone.

The village of Bensenville will join the lawsuit, claiming Chicago is buying property there for expansion without proper authority. "Daley and Ryan simply cannot create out of thin air the legal power and authority for Chicago to come in and bulldoze parts of Bensenville, Elk Grove Village or whatever other municipality that stands in their way," Bensenville President John Geils said.

A spokeswoman for Daley refused to comment on the lawsuit. "We believe it is premature to comment on a lawsuit that hasn't been filed yet," said Jacqueline Heard.

Source: The Associated Press