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TN Politics: Is Race Factor in Oil Pipeline Route Through Memphis?

A proposed pipeline designed to pump crude oil from the Valero refinery in Southwest Memphis to a second Valero facility south of Collierville would run nearly 50 miles across North Mississippi. But the first few miles, at least, would pass through some predominately African American neighborhoods where activists have been fighting the project for at least a year. 

More recently, environmental activist groups such as Protect our Aquifer, have also objected to the route on the grounds that the Memphis aquifer -- which provides the city's drinking water -- could be vulnerable in that area if ever there were an oil spill. 

As political analyst Otis Sanford pointed out in a recent column, the company has been writing goodwill checks to organizations in the pipeline's path, and projecting a PR image of safety, environmental friendliness and economic development on its website. 

But Sanford says communities such as Westwood, Boxtown and Whitehaven, which already lie in the shadows of Memphis' major industrial areas, have a reason to be concerned when big corporations create new risks to the environment just outside their backdoors. 

Reporting from the gates of Graceland to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Christopher has covered Memphis news, arts, culture and politics for more than 20 years in print and on the radio. He is currently WKNO's News Director and Senior Producer at the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting. Join his conversations about the Memphis arts scene on the WKNO Culture Desk Facebook page.