Cohen asks Biden administration to block permit for oil pipeline proposed in Memphis and Mississippi

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The Valero refinery in southwest Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Congressman Steve Cohen is asking the Biden administration to direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rescind its permit for a proposed crude oil pipeline that would cut through Memphis neighborhoods.

Cohen (D-Memphis) sent a letter to the White House Monday outlining opposition to the Byhalia Connection Pipeline, which would run 45 miles from Byhalia, Miss. to the Valero refinery in southwest Memphis.

Byhalia Pipeline LLC, a joint venture between Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. and a subsidiary of Valero, says the connection between two existing pipelines will “strengthen the region’s economic vitality and American energy independence.” The company says safety to Memphis and North Mississippi is its top priority.

But Cohen says the pipeline would cut through historic, predominantly Black neighborhoods like Boxtown and cross over the Memphis Sand Aquifer, which could contaminate the City of Memphis’ source of drinking water.  

Opponents of proposed oil pipeline through South Memphis take message to county commission before vote

“As you take immediate action to address the climate crisis, I write to ask your administration to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to rescind its recent verification of the use of the Nationwide Permit 12 for the proposed Byhalia crude oil pipeline that would threaten the drinking water and disrupt the property rights of predominantly Black neighborhoods in my district,” the letter states. “The proposed Byhalia Pipeline would impose yet another burden on Black neighborhoods in southwest Memphis that have, for decades, unfairly shouldered the pollution burdens of an oil refiner, and coal- and gas-fired power plants.”

Several groups joined in support of Cohen’s letter, including the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club and community groups Memphis Community Against the Pipeline and Protect Our Aquifer.

“Memphians should not be asked to shoulder the risk of this pipeline so that oil companies can reap the reward,” the Black Clergy Collaborative of Memphis said in a letter.

In recent days, the project has gained some national attention with former Vice President Al Gore and actors Danny Glover and Jane Fonda posting their opposition.

The Corps outlined its reasons for approval of the project’s permit in a letter here.

Byhalia Pipeline has information on its project here.

The Memphis City Council may vote Tuesday on a resolution in opposition to the pipeline.

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