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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Not in our backyard. That was message Monday from some neighborhood leaders who do not want the expansion of an oil pipeline through South Memphis.

Shelby County Commissioners are discussing the possibility of ending a moratorium that went in effect last year on selling county-owned tax delinquent properties in South Memphis. Those against the pipeline fear an amendment would allow land to be sold to the developers of the proposed Byhalia Connection Pipeline.

The proposed pipeline would run from the Valero facility in southwest Memphis to Marshall County, Mississippi. It is projected to start construction early this year. The company says the route was chosen to “limit the project’s impact to landowners, the community and the environment.”

The issue brought out passionate opposition from some Monday in a march from the National Civil Rights Museum to the county building.

“We must fight, we must take what’s ours and we are not going anywhere,” said Batsell Booker, president of the Boxtown Neighborhood Association. Booker says an oil pipeline stretching through parts of South Memphis is the last things people living in the area need. 

“They come into our neighborhood, in covert operations, often preying on the poor, the poor people, the disenfranchised,” Booker said.

Justin Pearson, with the group Memphis Community Against the Pipeline, says those who would be negatively impacted are those living in lower income, majority black neighborhoods. 

“We are building a movement for justice and equality. An end to environmental racism, that is being perpetuated by people in power and corporations who aren’t even from here,” Pearson said.

There’s also concern over how close the line could be to the area’s water supply.

Ward Archer, president of the group Protect our Aquifer, asked the city, county and MLGW to stand against the project.

MLGW said in a statement Monday that the utility company is in the process of evaluating the situation and identifying concerns, if any, they may have regarding the safety of the drinking water provided by MLGW in the area.

“Our goal is to provide clean and safe drinking water to our customers now and into the future,” MLGW said.

The County Commission voted to delay the amendment to the land sale moratorium until at least March 17 at the request of Commissioner Tami Sawyer.

Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr., who had sponsored the amendment, defended it and said the issue had been “hijacked” by pipeline opponents.

Representatives with the Byhalia Connection released the following statement when asked for comment: