The Virginia-based Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleging that running the proposed Byhalia Pipeline through Memphis violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Byhalia, according to its website, is a crude oil pipeline that is supposed to run nearly 49 miles from Memphis to Marshall County, Mississippi. The pipeline, the website went on to say, will connect the Diamond Pipeline with the Capline Pipeline. The Diamond Pipeline provides the Valero Memphis Refinery with crude oil to produce gasoline and jet fuels. The Capline Pipeline, meanwhile, runs between Central Illinois and the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Staff for the Southern Environmental Law Center said in a press release Friday that they have submitted an administrative complaint to the EPA under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This, on behalf of a group they identified as Memphis Community Against Pollution.
“The complaint alleges the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, or TDEC, violated Title VI by making a permit decision that disproportionately burdens black communities in southwest Memphis without a substantial justification for doing so. Specifically, the permit authorizes construction of a crude oil pipeline over the drinking water source and through black communities that already bear the health and financial burdens of an oil refinery, retired coal plant, active fracked gas plant, wastewater treatment plant, and many other industrial facilities,” according to the press release.
“The complaint further alleges that TDEC violates Title VI on a continuing and ongoing basis by adopting a policy that it cannot and will not consider the environmental justice impacts of its water quality permitting decisions, including whether those decisions disproportionately burden communities on the basis of race.”
Former Vice President Al Gore, speaking of the Byhalia Pipeline, said earlier this year that “building more fossil fuel pipelines is reckless and many proposed routes are racist.” Gore, however, did not explain how the proposed routes are racist.
The team promoting the Byhalia Pipeline, meanwhile, said on their website that safety matters most.
“We work to involve a wide variety of community leaders and experts in this project and its safety — from environmentalists and scientists to city and county officials. We meet or exceed local, regional and federal safety standards as we construct and operate our pipelines. We train employees and work with local emergency response crews, to react to potential incidents quickly and safely,” according to the Byhalia Pipeline website’s Frequently Asked Questions page.
“Before construction begins, the Byhalia Connection Pipeline team considers multiple factors, such as potential protected species, prominent environmental features like wetlands and waterways, as well as schools, recreational facilities and historic and cultural sites. We collaborate with engineers and environmental scientists, community leaders and regulators to weigh these different factors and select the best route before a single piece of pipe is placed in the ground.”
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