Southwest Memphis residents celebrate cancellation of Byhalia pipeline

Published: Jul. 3, 2021 at 4:24 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In a surprising announcement Friday night, the company pushing the Byhalia pipeline called off the project.

It comes after months of protests against the pipeline.

Some viewed it as a battle of David versus Goliath.

In a statement, Brad Leone, director of communications for Plains All American, announced the company was no longer pursuing the Byhalia pipeline.

Leone said the decision was “primarily due to lower US oil production resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Byhalia Connection LLC announced today that it is no longer pursuing the Byhalia Connection construction project primarily due to lower US oil production resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Leone. “We value the relationships we’ve built through the development of this project, and appreciate those that supported the project and would have shared in its ongoing benefits including our customers, communities, energy consumers, landowners, area contractors, and suppliers.”

The pipeline would have extended 49 miles from the Valero oil refinery in Memphis to Byhalia, Mississippi.

But community members worried the pipeline would contaminate the Memphis Sand aquifer, where the city gets its drinking water.

Many people also didn’t want the pipeline running through their neighborhood.

“This is a nice neighborhood, quiet and comfortable and we want to keep it that way,” said Patricia Rogers, who lives in Boxtown.

“Memphis has always been a city that is known for its great water and we need to continue along with that,” said Joann Mason, another Boxtown resident.

Those neighbors fought against the pipeline with the help of community leaders like Justin Pearson, who recruited others concerned about the environment, including former Vice President Al Gore, to join their cause.

Gore sent out a tweet congratulating the community for its work to stop the pipeline.

Pearson says it was a team effort.

“This win in our community is a big moment for our movement for justice in ending environmental racism and the terror of pollution in our community,” said Pearson.

He says there’s still work to do, including legislation to protect the Memphis Sand aquifer from future projects that could threaten it.

But as for the Byhalia pipeline, those who fought tooth and nail against it are celebrating.

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