Joint Statement on the Announcement of xAI in Memphis

Jun 6, 2024 | Catch the Green Tea, Policy Statements, Young, Gifted & Green Blog Series | 0 comments

MEMPHIS, TN—On Wednesday, June 5, 2024, the Memphis Chamber of Commerce announced that xAI, a tech startup owned by Elon Musk, intends to build the world’s largest supercomputer in Southwest Memphis. This area is heavily industrial—down the street from Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) retired coal plant and coal ash ponds, their Combined Cycle Gas Plant, and the City of Memphis Maxson Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Protect Our Aquifer, Memphis Community Against Pollution, and Young Gifted & Green are thankful that high-tech industries value Memphis, but we must ensure that these state-of-the-art facilities use state-of-the-art environmental precautions. Researchers have found that large-scale cloud computing facilities create a significant carbon footprint via high electricity usage, massive air conditioning units, and generators that negatively impact the environment. As reported by local media, xAI will need up to 150 megawatts of electricity to run its facility — enough energy to power 100,000 homes. 

Before we welcome xAI with open arms, we must consider how an industry using such a tremendous amount of electricity will further impact communities already overwhelmed with pollution and a high energy burden, such as those around the xAI facility in Southwest Memphis. The energy burden measures how much of a family’s income goes to paying their utility bill. The national average is three percent, but in Memphis, the average is 27 percent. Will xAI bear the cost of TVA’s fuel adjustment fee in times of high energy demand?

More so, with our recent history of severe weather events and rolling blackouts, TVA and Memphis Light, Gas & Water’s (MLGW) must work closely with this facility to keep energy use off peak demand hours. In the interest of public health and safety, during times of emergency, our utility providers must have a plan to ensure that residents receive the power and water they need ahead of corporate demand.

xAI is also expected to need at least one million gallons of water per day for its cooling towers from MLGW Davis Wellfield in Southwest Memphis. This wellfield is where the Byhalia Connection Pipeline threatened to bisect and where levels of arsenic have been detected in shallow groundwater. We encourage xAI to support investment in a City of Memphis wastewater reuse system to reduce strain on our water supply and drinking water infrastructure. 

At this time, the air quality impacts are unknown. However, we call upon the Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) to immediately assess its oversight and regulatory authority regarding air quality (including but not limited to air permits) and other environmental metrics around the xAI facility to ensure there are no negative public health impacts, drawing on data from the Shelby County Health Department, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and the EPA EJScreen Tool. Additionally, xAI should proactively provide transparent reporting on CO2 emission reduction in alignment with the Memphis and Shelby County’s Climate Goals. 

Lastly, xAI should immediately consider the inclusion of binding community benefits agreements that enshrine its obligations to the local community, including targeted hiring, apprenticeship programs, and funding for neighborhood revitalization efforts. We encourage Elon Musk and xAI to build solar for the site and invest in a greywater reuse facility to reduce the strain on the water supply and electric grid along with hiring from low-income and disadvantaged communities to boost the local economy.


About Protect Our Aquifer

Media Contact: Sarah Houston | | 901-214-5181

Protect Our Aquifer is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization incorporated in late 2016.  POA has become a leading voice in the science-based protection of our Aquifer as a shared resource and drinking water supply. The organization serves as a critical tool to unify the diverse stakeholders of water protection, always elevating community concerns. 

About Memphis Community Against Pollution

Media Contact: Yolonda Spinks | | 901-859-1445

Memphis Community Against Pollution (MCAP) is an environmental justice organization founded in Memphis, Tennessee. Its mission is to pursue environmental justice for Black communities in Southwest Memphis, protect the area’s health and environment, and prevent environmental racism. 

About Young Gifted & Green

Media Contact: LaTricea D. Adams |  | 901-289-4625

Young, Gifted & Green (Formerly Black Millennials 4 Flint) is a national civil rights and environmental justice organization that aims to unite like-minded organizations to advocate against the crisis of lead exposure and environmental injustice in disadvantaged communities.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *