Locals protest a bill that will bring Byhalia Connection Pipeline project to South Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — No local control, that’s what one amendment to a bill in the Tennessee legislature will do, if passed.

The proposal has Memphis activists and residents once again protesting at the possibility of the Byhalia Connection Pipeline project could be revived.

On paper, the original Tennessee House Bill 2246 and Senate bill 2077 seemed harmless to Sarah Houston, executive director of Protect Our Aquifer.

“The original bill was just about mapping oil and gas infrastructure, and then they pulled a switcheroo,” said Houston.

She said the bill is until an amendment was introduced taking away local government control across the state… including here in Shelby County.

“We’re calling it the ‘Pipelines Over People’ bill, and it would undo and void all laws that we’ve already passed here in Memphis and even across the state. It takes away all local control for deciding where these oil and gas projects would go,” she said.

The two bills are in the hands of the House and Senate Commerce Committees and have groups like Memphis Community Against Pollution, or MCAP, working in overdrive once again.

Justin J. Pearson, president of MCAP, said, “Our county commission and our city council passed legislation to protect our water, to protect our community in a bipartisan way, liberal folks to the most conservative people in both bodies of government.”

The amendment would override any laws passed locally.

For Westwood resident Angela Johnson, it brings back the fear that she and her neighbors could be displaced by oil and gas industries moving in.

“We’re just hard-working people who want to be able to go to work, go to school, live in our city, and enjoy our lives without having to have this impending fear that our state legislators are not going in our favor. They were voted to be protectors and they’re not doing that,” said Johnson.

Last week, the House commerce committee tabled this bill to March 22.

The Senate commerce committee also tabled it, but it will be discussed this upcoming Tuesday again.

Last summer the companies behind the proposed Byhalia Connection Pipeline pulled the plug on the project citing a fall in demand for US oil production because of the COVID-19 pandemic.