MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Commission put a stop to the sale of property needed to move the Byhalia Pipeline project forward.
The Byhalia Pipeline wanted to buy two properties owned by Shelby County Government, but the county commission said no to that request at its meeting on Monday.
The proposed crude oil pipeline is 49 miles long and would start at the Valero refinery near downtown Memphis and go all the way to Byhalia, Mississippi.
The pipeline would run under historic Black neighborhoods in South Memphis. And opponents worry it would endanger the aquifer, Memphis’ source of drinking water. Critics also say the pipeline would threaten lives with possible contamination that could cause cancer in the community.
The commission gave each side five minutes to state their case.
“I’m speaking to you as a cancer survivor myself,” said Byhalia Connection spokeswoman Katie Marin. “I would never want anyone to go through what I did and what those close to me have gone through. If I thought for one minute that my company and this pipeline were going to hurt people in Memphis, I wouldn’t be here talking to you today.”
“Our community faces the most significant environmental injustice and environmental racism case in our country,” said Justin Pearson, founder of MCAP - Memphis Community Against the Pipeline. “The support that is building locally and nationally is proof of that.”
Former Vice-President Al Gore recently visited Memphis to take part in a Byhalia Pipeline protest. Celebrities including Jane Fonda and Danny Glover have also tweeted their opposition to the pipeline project.
One commissioner said they’ve received 4,000 emails about the Byhalia Pipeline, making this the most contentious issue in Memphis and Shelby County in years.
The county commission voted down a resolution to sell two properties to the pipeline group by a vote of 9 to 2. Byhalia Pipeline officials say they will look at re-routing, which they say could impact other property owners.
*Editor’s note: A previous version of this story reported Byhalia Pipeline officials said re-routing the project could take the pipeline under even more houses. We’ve corrected the story to say re-routing the pipeline could impact other property owners.