This articles was excerpted from Gulf Currents, GRN's quarterly newsletter. To read the rest of the December 2013 edition of Gulf Currents, click here.
Mobile River at its confluence with Chickasaw Creek. Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual LibraryJust three miles north of downtown Mobile sits Africatown, a community founded by the last known group of enslaved Africans brought to the United States. They were illegally transported to Alabama’s shores in 1860, and subsequently freed by federal authorities. For decades, this group and their descendants continued to practice tribal traditions, and speak their native language. Their incredible story and the strong community that formed there have led to recognition from the National Historic Register and other bodies. However, due to its location on the Tensaw River and its proximity to Mobile Bay, Africatown is now adjacent to industrial development on all sides — including an oil pipeline owned by Plains Southcap that runs from one of their terminals to a nearby tank farm.
To make matters worse, Plains Mobile Pipeline is now proposing the construction of a new pipeline that will run directly through Africatown. Instead of replacing the existing pipeline, Plains plans to build this pipeline in the backyard of the Mobile Training School (built circa 1880), the middle school that serves Africatown. Understandably, members of the community don’t want a pipeline right next to the schoolyard where their children play. In just the past few months, numerous incidents across the Gulf region have occurred involving the transportation of petroleum products, both on railways and through pipelines. This is our wake-up call. Do we continue to put our communities and environment at tremendous risk for industrial gain? Or do we prioritize our need for clean drinking water, safe havens, and healthy air quality? This is our choice across the Gulf Coast. What will we decide?
Jordan Macha is the GRN's Gulf Policy Analyst