A train crosses Weaver Road in Boxtown where Byhalia Connection Pipeline wants to build.
A train crosses Weaver Road in Boxtown in Southwest Memphis. The predominantly Black neighborhood got its name from the formerly enslaved people who built it from train boxcars. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50.

Update, March 2: A Memphis City Council committee Tuesday delayed consideration until next week of an ordinance and a resolution regarding the Byhalia Pipeline.

A Memphis City Council committee will consider an ordinance next week that would require the council’s permission before a company can build a pipeline across city property.

The ordinance specifies streets, alleys, squares and highways and is sponsored by Councilmen Edmund Ford Sr. and Jeff Warren who have advocated against plans for a crude oil pipeline through Southwest Memphis.

Byhalia Connection Pipeline

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In 2019, Byhalia Pipeline — a joint venture of Texas-based Plains All American Pipeline and Valero Energy Corporation — revealed plans for a 45-mile route between the Valero Memphis Refinery and a company facility in Marshall County, Mississippi. The proposed route runs through the 38109 ZIP code, which includes parts of the predominantly Black communities of Westwood, Whitehaven and Boxtown.

The Council’s Public Works, Solid Waste and General Services Committee will consider the ordinance Tuesday along with a resolution, which they held for the second time this week, that would oppose the project and ask the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division to deny the company’s easement request. The resolution is also sponsored by Ford and Warren.

Warren said he thinks an ordinance is the best chance the council has to stop the pipeline.

“If we have an ordinance, then I think that provides us with a way to legally say, ‘No, you can’t do this because we have a law against it.’ And to argue that in court if we need to — but I’m sure we’re going to have to argue in court,” Warren said.

The city’s legal authority to stop the pipeline was unclear during the committee’s discussion of the resolution on Tuesday. The resolution is non-binding, council attorney Allan Wade told the committee, but he warned against passing a stronger resolution before he could assess possible legal ramifications. 

Critics of the pipeline, including Memphis Community Against the Pipeline, argue that because the route runs above the Memphis Sand Aquifer, it would pose a risk to the city’s main source of water.

Carrington J. Tatum is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Email him at carrington.tatum@mlk50.com

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