Attempts to build an oil pipeline through mostly Black neighborhoods in Memphis, Tennessee, were thwarted Friday, July 3 as the company planning to build the Byhalia Connection Pipeline announced they were suddenly canceling the project. The proposed 49-mile pipeline was to connect two existing crude oil pipelines running through Tennessee and Mississippi, eventually transporting crude oil from Texas to Louisiana for export.
The project had been facing increasing opposition, as it was routed primarily through communities of color, including Boxtown, a city founded by freed slaves during the Civil War. Residents and celebrities alike also raised concerns about oil spills and drinking water contamination, one calling the pipeline “a reckless, racist rip-off.”
Even though the company announced that construction was cancelled due to “lower U.S. oil production resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” organizers are taking credit for its cancellation. And they should. As environmental activist Bill McKibben once said about the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a struggle lasting over a decade, “when enough people rise up we’re stronger even than the richest fossil fuel companies.”