Memphis council delays anti-Byhalia vote

    Memphis residents are pushing back against the Byhalia Pipeline project. The proposed pipeline, has been the subject of controversy since 2019. The joint venture project would build a 49-mile pipeline between Memphis and Mississippi and would run through several Black communities in Memphis. VALERO Memphis Refinery (PICTURED) is located on along the Mississippi River's Lake McKellar in South Memphis. (Photo by Karen Pulfer Focht)
    Memphis residents are pushing back against the Byhalia Pipeline project. The proposed pipeline, has been the subject of controversy since 2019. The joint venture project would build a 49-mile pipeline between Memphis and Mississippi and would run through several Black communities in Memphis. VALERO Memphis Refinery (PICTURED) is located on along the Mississippi River's Lake McKellar in South Memphis. (Photo by Karen Pulfer Focht)

    On Tuesday at the Memphis City Council meeting, advocates and critics of the Byhalia Pipeline achieved a truce of sorts and legal actions have been dismissed. 

    After almost a year of protests and legal action against construction of the Byhalia Pipeline through Memphis, the council agenda included a vote on an ordinance that would create a pipeline review board to regulate pipelines.  

    Instead, the vote was delayed after both council members and supporters of the pipeline project argued that the ordinance left too many questions about how it would actually operate, leaving it open to legal action.  

    Byhalia pipeline partners Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. (Plains) and Valero have dropped their eminent domain case against several Memphis landowners who refused to sell their property, but made it clear that if the ordinance were to have passed today, they would challenge it. 

    Council attorney Allan Wade said that the ordinance had been amended in rapid succession at least three times due to worries from groups that could potentially be affected by the ordinance, including the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. 

    The latest draft—that led to debate—was created by council members Jeff Warren and Edmund Ford. 

    Robert Spence, a lawyer representing the Byhalia pipeline, likened draft changes to “placing lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig,”

    Warren reassured the council that the ordinance was not intended to overreach but had provided the public a chance to deliberate on any new projects that could potentially affect the city’s aquifer, which serves as the city’s sole source of drinking water. 

    “This ordinance is not intended to be against anything, it’s intended to be prowater, pro community and pro business by protecting this community’s precious asset,” said Warren. 

    While the vote has been delayed until the ordinance can be tightened up, the council intends to check on its progress on May 18.