Memphis City Council votes to oppose Byhalia Pipeline

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Memphis City Council is taking steps opposing the proposed Byhalia Pipeline project.

The oil pipeline would cut through parts of southwest Memphis. Opponents say the risk to Memphis’ water supply is too great to reap any reward, and it unfairly targets African American neighborhoods, like Boxtown.

The city council signed off on a resolution opposing the project. They’re also looking at options that would have more long term impacts.

“I want us to look at this as Memphis. Not just black communities, or Latino communities or white communities. This is Memphis and we all have to stand up and fight for what’s right!” Councilwoman Rhonda Logan said.

Logan passionately told members they need to think about the lives now and generations to come. Much of Tuesday’s discussion centered around what kind of power the council holds regarding the project.

All 12 present members in the committee meeting voted in favor of a resolution opposing the project. But legal questions came up over a separate proposed ordinance.

It would give the council a say in pipelines that could affect the Memphis Sand Aquifer. Logan said the council needs to act now. As well as consult with attorneys and experts to get more insight. 

“And if we’re going to fight then we need to arm ourselves with information,” Logan said.

Councilman Worth Morgan added, “Sometimes you just gotta take on Goliath.  I don’t believe the catastrophic risk to our drinking water is worth the minimal benefit to some charitable and the annual taxes that we’d receive.”

Morgan said he believed the council can pass the ordinance, nevertheless the question comes down to will it have the authority. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland recently said the seven permits on behalf of the pipeline have been put on hold while more research is done on the project.

As the city is doing research, former Vice President Al Gore visited Memphis Sunday and voiced his opposition.

“I really and truly believe this is a reckless, racist rip off. I really do,” Gore said.

That ordinance will take three readings. The committee voted for it favorably on Tuesday.

Those with the pipeline say they’re investing in the community and chose a route with mostly vacant land. 

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