Misguided Opposition to the Byhalia Connection Increases
Al Gore made headlines recently for his efforts to stop the construction of the Byhalia Connection, a new extension of the Diamond Pipeline that will run through Memphis, TN, and his call to revoke all pipelines granted a Nationwide Permit 12 :
“They should revoke the Nationwide Permit 12 for all of the pipelines that have relied upon it for their permits. This Nationwide Permit 12 was intended originally for things like telephone lines. The notion that it can be used as a fast-track approval for oil and gas pipelines without consideration of the environmental harm done to local communities is absurd.”
Nationwide Permit 12 is a key tool in the construction of pipelines that will cross waterways, enabling operators to apply for a single permit instead of multiple ones and shortening approval times prior to beginning construction. Activists have tried to stop pipelines across the country by calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer to deny or revoke these permits, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline – which is no longer applying for the permit – Keystone XL, and now the Byhalia Connection, which is increasingly coming under attack.
In recent months, activists have attempted to inaccurately frame the Byhalia Connection pipeline as a dangerous pipeline that represents an act of environmental racism. Here are some important facts on the project:
Just the Facts
The Byhalia Connection is a 49-mile pipeline that will join together the Diamond and Capline pipelines. The Diamond Pipeline is a key feature of the Valero Memphis Refinery, providing crude oil to the complex that is used to produce regular and premium gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other petrochemicals. These products are then distributed to eight surrounding states, including Tennessee and Mississippi.
The project is currently in its “permitting and acquisition” phase, as the Byhalia Connection team works with landowners to secure the path of the pipeline, with the goal of beginning construction and operations later this year.
In addition to keeping fuel prices down in the area, the project will support jobs both at the Valero Refinery and in new construction expected for the pipeline, all while providing valuable spending contributions tax dollars to the region.
The Valero Refinery currently boasts over 300 employees and 200 contractors and, in 2019, the facility paid over $3.7 million in local property taxes. The Byhalia Connection is projected to deliver over $14 million in economic benefits to the area during construction. The project’s developers will also pay property taxes each year the line is in service and are currently projecting to spend $3 million annually on property taxes to communities and municipalities along the route.
Attacking the Pipeline
The effort to prevent new infrastructure from being built and operated is not new, and activists often draw from the same playbook for different projects. Similar actions were employed against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that was cancelled last year after construction had already begun, as well as the Dakota Access Pipeline which had a months-long camp of activists block construction and has since been shut down and emptied upon court order to conduct an environmental review despite being operational since 2017.
A similar playbook is now being used against the Byhalia Connection, repeating the same tunes – from the same groups – we have heard time and time again to try and falsely convince communities that pipelines are dangerous. That’s because large, well-funded environmental groups like the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Sierra Club are actively opposing this pipeline, claiming environmental racism due to the pipeline’s location. The reality could not be further from the truth. The pipeline’s route was selected in order to minimize the collective impact to landowners, the public and the environment during construction, with the company working alongside key members of the community to ensure it does.
Nonetheless, the pipeline continues to be framed as dangerous and a serious risk to community and its water, employing the go-to tactic of making unsubstantiated claims of damage to aquifers and drinking water. During his speech, Al Gore baselessly claimed the construction of the pipeline would damage drinking water falsely saying that “the risks are real.”
As permitting is finalized and construction begins, activists will undoubtedly increase their unsubstantiated attacks, failing to acknowledge that pipelines such as the Byhalia Connection are critical to meeting the energy needs of the communities in which they are built. The Byhalia Connection will help the region meet the energy demands of the future and provide valuable benefits to communities along its route.