Memphis councilmember fears Byhalia pipeline could be similar to Flint’s water situation

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Community leaders are opposing the controversial Byhalia Connection Pipeline that would run through South Memphis.

City Councilman Edmund Ford Sr. said it would hurt the African American community and put Memphians’ health at risk.

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“I do not want to be Flint, Michigan. Y’all, please forgive me, but I really have to say this: Flint, Michigan, as Black people, and my district is black people, and that ain’t going to happen. I have issues with that.”

Ford was the most outspoken during the committee meeting. He said communities like Westwood would be the hardest hit.

During a committee meeting, council members talked about a resolution opposing the pipeline, and community leaders showed the faces of people who will be impacted.

The Byhalia Connection pipeline would cut through South Memphis, which includes Westwood, Boxtown and Whitehaven.

The project seeks to run a crude oil pipeline system nearly 45 miles connecting Memphis to Marshall County, Mississippi.

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“We are asking you to choose Memphis over a crude oil company pipeline. The truth is this pipeline is going to burden Black communities for the profit of a wealthy multibillion-dollar corporation,” said Justin Pearson, who opposes the project.

Officials said they do not believe they have the authority to grant or not grant access to the ground above the aquifer.

A spokesperson for Plains All American Pipeline said the company has 94 percent of the land rights required.

There will be a hearing on this topic in two weeks.

The communications manager with Plains All American Pipeline sent a statement to FOX13:

“We’re committed to designing, constructing and operating the Byhalia Connection pipeline in a safe, reliable and responsible manner. We want our neighbors to know that we’re dedicated to pipeline safety and ensuring that our pipelines meet or exceed the applicable standards for pipeline construction and operation.

We’re proud of the respectful, long-term relationships we’ve formed with community residents, landowners, charitable organizations and elected officials. Our team will continue to share information, answer questions, listen to the community’s experiences and expectations, and continue the ongoing dialog with our neighbors.

We take safety very seriously and have a team of more than 180 safety and environmental professionals dedicated to administering our safety programs and practices. As a company, we safely transported more than 90 billion gallons of crude oil last year. During that time, we had 1 federally reportable pipeline release – it was caused by a construction crew, not working for Plains, hitting a pipeline while doing road maintenance work. As a company, we’re pleased with the safety performance improvements we’ve made in recent years but will not be satisfied until we have zero incidents or injuries.

Pipelines like this one, constructed using the latest materials and technology, do not cause cancer or elevated health risks. During every phase of pipeline design, construction, and operation, we put measures in place to ensure the safety and protection of the aquifer. Drinking water sources within the aquifer are located at a substantially greater depth than our pipeline, which will typically be at 3-4 feet below the surface. We’ve spent over 10,000 hours to understand the unique conditions along the route so we could design the pipeline to safely operate within the local environment.

We are pleased to have worked with landowners to secure agreements for 94% of the route. Residents retain ownership of their land; our agreement allows us to construct the pipeline and conduct occasional maintenance. Our offers are above market value; many land owners have been appreciative of this financial benefit during difficult economic times.

We want to have a good relationship with landowners, because we are planning to be neighbors for a long time. Byhalia Connection is a common carrier pipeline with the option to use eminent domain under Tennessee and Mississippi law. Although it has been necessary to initiate eminent domain proceedings in select situations, it’s not our preferred option, and we are still working to find mutually beneficial agreements with all remaining landowners.

During every phase of pipeline design, construction, and operation, we put measures in place to ensure the safety and protection of the aquifer. Drinking water sources within the aquifer are located at a substantially greater depth than our pipeline, which will typically be at 3-4 feet below the surface. We’ve spent over 10,000 hours to understand the unique conditions along the route so we could design the pipeline to safely operate within the local environment.

Our goal for this project is to safely and responsibly build and operate a pipeline that will be a long-term benefit to the community. This project will bring an economic infusion of over $14 million to the area during construction and will pay property taxes every year the line is in service. Once in operation, the pipeline will pay an estimated $3 million in annual property taxes to municipalities along the route. In 2020, we provided more than $1 million in donations to Mid-South charitable organizations and we anticipate providing similar levels of community support in 2021.”