Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

Activists attend a rally opposing the Byhalia pipeline

Activists attend a rally opposing the Byhalia Connection pipeline. (Photo: @Hunter_Demster/Twitter)

'Triumph for Environmental Justice': Oil Companies Scrap Pipeline Plans Amid Grassroots Pressure

"We've shown them that we aren't the path of least resistance," said a local organizer. "We are the path of resilience."

Julia Conley

Community activists in Memphis, Tennessee and northwest Mississippi celebrated a grassroots victory on Saturday after two oil companies canceled plans to build a pipeline that would have run through wetlands and several low-income, majority-Black neighborhoods. 

Valero and Plains All American Pipeline had long planned to construct the Byhalia Connection pipeline, which would have been 49 miles long and linked two pipelines that transport crude oil to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. 

The two companies announced they were canceling the project “due to lower U.S. oil production resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic," but opponents of the pipeline noted that the announcement followed grassroots organizing by climate action advocates, homeowners, and elected officials at the local and federal levels. 

"This is a win for the entire community of Memphis, Tennessee, but especially those in the Black community who fought it courageously," Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, tweeted.

Community members in Memphis neighborhoods including White Chapel, Westwood, and Boxtown objected to the pipeline project, which would have run over the Memphis Sand Aquifer—leading to fears that an oil spill would pollute the drinking water of about one million people.

Local organizations Protect Our Aquifer and Memphis Community Against the Pipeline (MCAP) led rallies and garnered the support of former Vice President Al Gore and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), while the Memphis City Council weighed an ordinance to make it harder for the companies to begin construction.

MCAP leader Justin J. Pearson organized canvassers and lobbied the city council, and called Friday's announcement "an extraordinary testament to what Memphis and Shelby County can do when citizens build power toward justice."

A representative of the two oil companies sparked local outrage when they said South Memphis, where the Boxtown community was established in the 1860s by people who had been enslaved, had been identified as "the point of least resistance."

"We've shown them that we aren't the path of least resistance," said Pearson. "We are the path of resilience."

Lawyers for the two companies began legal proceedings against local landowners who refused to make deals with project officials; they planned to invoke eminent domain against the property owners. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in a separate case in New Jersey that a company could use eminent domain to build a natural gas pipeline on state land.

"Their playbooks are the same everywhere," Pearson said on Twitter on Friday. "Find the poor. Appease the rich and politically powerful. Misinform the community. Make local leaders afraid to stop them. Exploit the poor. Reap billions in profits from the deaths of the poor and marginalized."

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), which helped landowners fight the two companies in the legal battle, called Friday's announcement "a triumph for environmental justice."

"We are so inspired by the people of Boxtown, Westwood, and White Chapel, and the work of our amazing partners MCAP and Protect Our Aquifer, for showing what is possible when a community stands together," said Amanda Garcia, director of the SELC's Tennessee office.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Ahead of Historic House Hearing, Fresh Big Oil Misinformation Campaign Exposed

"It's always helpful to remember that big fossil fuel companies (besides being overwhelmingly responsible for carbon pollution) are also skeevy disinformation hucksters."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Very Welcome' Progress as Iran Agrees to Restart Talks on Nuclear Deal Sabotaged by Trump

One peace advocate urged all sides to reconvene negotiations "as soon as possible and with renewed urgency" to avert "disastrous" consequences for Iran and the world.

Brett Wilkins ·


House Progressives: 'When We Said These Two Bills Go Together, We Meant It'

"Moving the infrastructure bill forward without the popular Build Back Better Act risks leaving behind working people, families, and our communities."

Andrea Germanos ·


As US Makes Case for Extradition, Global Demand Rises For Assange's Immediate Freedom

"Virtually no one responsible for alleged U.S. war crimes committed in the course of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars has been held accountable... and yet a publisher who exposed such crimes is potentially facing a lifetime in jail."

Julia Conley ·


Wyden's New Billionaires Income Tax Plan Applauded as Step Toward Justice

"For too long, families have been denied basic supports... while billionaires evade taxes on obscene amounts of wealth. This dynamic is economically dangerous and morally unsustainable."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo