Press Release | March 7, 2022

Tennessee legislature’s reckless pipeline amendment takes power from local governments

The amendment strips power from local communities and hands it over to private, out-of-state oil and gas companies, who would be able to build pipelines near homes, drinking water sources, and schools.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An amendment proposed by Tennessee lawmakers would prevent all local governments – rural and urban – from having a say in where crude oil, petroleum, and methane gas pipelines and tanks are built.

If passed, the amendment would allow out-of-state fossil fuel companies to construct pipelines near schools, homes, drinking water sources, and other places that are currently protected from oil and gas infrastructure. 

The amended versions of Senate Bill 2077 and House Bill 2246 would have a broad impact across the state. Water utilities adopt local plans to protect drinking water wellfields and intakes in order to ensure communities have access to safe drinking water, and city and county leaders use zoning codes and local ordinances to reinforce those protections. This bill, if passed and upheld in court, would make such protective measures illegal and give a green light to companies looking to build risky oil and gas pipelines near critical drinking water facilities. Even a small pipeline leak near a drinking water intake or well could contaminate drinking water with hazardous chemicals, like benzene, toluene, and xylene.

The bill would also prohibit local governments from regulating petroleum and methane gas infrastructure near school playgrounds and other sensitive areas. 

“Building crude oil and methane gas pipelines and tanks – which can leak, burst, and, in some cases, explode – near schools, hospitals, and drinking water sources is dangerous. Local governments should have a voice about what happens in their communities, and they should be empowered to protect the health and safety of their friends and neighbors. Our General Assembly should not tilt the playing field unfairly by placing a muzzle on all local governing bodies in Tennessee,” SELC Senior Attorney George Nolan said. “To put it bluntly, this amendment prioritizes pipeline company profits over the health and safety of Tennessee communities.”

“Allowing this amendment to go forward will weaken any checks and balances our local governments have to govern for the sake of their constituents and ensure that corporate polluters aren’t placing profits over our environment and our communities,” Scott Banbury, Conservation Programs Coordinator with the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club said. “The state legislature should not hamstring local governments and state agencies by preempting their authority and right to self determination. We urge members to consider these factors and deny the requested amendment.”

Tennessee’s Senate Commerce and Labor Committee and House Commerce Committee will be taking up this bill on Tuesday, March 8. SELC and The Sierra Club strongly urge legislators to vote down this irresponsible measure that puts Tennessee communities at risk. 

Press Contacts

Eric Hilt

Communications Manager (TN)

Phone: 615-921-9470
Email: ehilt@selctn.org

Partner Contacts

Morgan Caplan

The Sierra Club

Phone: 443-986-1221
Email: Morgan.Caplan@sierraclub.org