Shelby County Commission shoots down Byhalia land sale

    A map of the proposed Byhalia Pipeline with new routes in yellow. (Map: Byhalia Connection)
    A map of the proposed Byhalia Pipeline with new routes in yellow. (Map: Byhalia Connection)

    In Memphis Monday, the Shelby County Commission shot down the sale of South Memphis two lots to the joint venture behind construction of the controversial Byhalia Pipeline. 

    Shelby County acquired the two lots through delinquent taxes, and approval of the resolution would have allowed Texas-based Plains All American Pipeline and Valero Energy Corporation to purchase them for $11,363.  The vote failed 9-2, with only District 1 Commissioner Amber Mills and District 2 Commissioner David Bradford voting in support. 

    “I believe that we owe it to not just residents of Southwest Memphis, but I think we owe it to all citizens in Shelby County to avoid doing anything that could facilitate construction of this pipeline,” said Dwan Gilliam, chief administrative officer for Shelby County, speaking against the property sale.   

    The rejection by the commission marks another obstacle for construction of the proposed pipeline, which 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. 

    Two weeks ago, All American and Valero filed for eminent domain against several landowners who refused to sell the property. Several settled out of court but two landowners remain locked in a legal battle with the oil companies and on March 12, Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Felicia Corbin-Johnson ruled a community organization, Memphis Community Against the Pipeline (MCAP, can join the landowners as defendants. 

    Members of the organization called into the commission meeting Monday to discuss the environmental consequences of the pipeline, which would cross  over seven Tennessee streams and be built upon a below-ground drinking water supply that “ provides drinking water to more than one million people,” according to their website. 

    The pipeline project has drawn attention from national figures including former Vice-President Al Gore, who was in Memphis March 13 to meet with project opponents. A Byhalia spokesperson said a community advisory council is involved in the project and the project has gathered 8,000 letters of support.