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Byhalia Pipeline protesters fear contamination of soil, water

Despite several meetings with community residents and environmental advocates, pushback continues against the Plains All-American Pipeline Company’s Byhalia Connection Pipeline.

A Tuesday afternoon march by a group few in number was the latest act of protest. The main organizer, Salamander Pride, said those who joined the effort had similar concerns for the threat to the quality of soil and water on and around the proposed pipeline’s route.

“Mama Peaches” (left) and two Democratic Socialist Party members found common cause in opposing the proposed pipeline. (Courtesy photo)

“We had some members of Black Lives Matter, Party of Socialism and Liberation, the Sunrise Movement, Ms. Z, and the Democratic Socialists of America,” said Pride. “We are all concerned about the environment, particularly the land and our water supply. In just a few years, people are going to be fighting about water. Life on earth won’t be sustainable.”

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) conducted a virtual public hearing in late August to hear concerns of those who will be most affected by the pipeline’s location as well as environmentalists warning against contamination.

On Nov. 9, TDEC published an online record of objections expressed by residents and environmentalists, along with the department’s official response to those concerns.

The hearing was designed for opponents of the pipeline to request that all applications for permits to proceed with the project be denied.

Many of the concerns had to do with “environmental social justice” and disregard for the “historically underserved, low-income and minority communities” which would be directly affected.

TDEC responded in the publication that there is no EO (Environmental Order) or specific language that “requires or provides TDEC… (to) consider environmental justice within the environmental regulatory program actions.” It went on to state that equal treatment of all communities in administrating environmental…programs is a priority of the department.

On Nov. 17, Vice-President of Environment and Regulations Compliance William Gore, was sent a letter from TDEC granting the permits requested, “subject to conformance with accepted plans, specifications and other information submitted in support of the referenced application.”

The state of Tennessee issued “certification for the proposed activity,” enclosing the documents in Gore’s letter. The missive added, “This certification also serves as an aquatic resource alteration permit. Failure to comply with the terms of this permit or other violations of the Tennessee Water Control Act of 1977 is subject to penalty in accordance with T.C.A. § 69-3-115.”

Tuesday’s march followed a Saturday afternoon meeting at T.O. Fuller State Park. Pride complained in a statement following the meeting that the pipeline is “cutting across some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.”

Baxel Booker, a resident and community organizer, said Saturday, “For too many years, Boxtown has been the dumping place for the rest of Memphis.”

Plains All-American Pipeline principals released a statement, in part, stating: “As we engage in the community, we are working to share the benefits and clarify some incorrect assertions about our project by reinforcing the facts, including:

  • “The vast majority of the pipeline will be underground.
  • “The pipeline will not be routed under homes.
  • “The aquifer is located at a substantially greater depth than our pipeline, which will typically be 3-4 feet below the surface.
  • “There is no expected impact to the air quality when the pipeline is in operation.”

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