|November 29, 2013|
Previously published on November 2013
He did not win a game on the baseball diamond this year, but Los Angeles Dodgers hurler Josh Beckett scored a legal victory when a federal court determined that Beckett could go forward with his suit to redirect a pipeline built on his Texas deer ranch. Beckett claims his Herradura Ranch is home to a protected species of ocelot and that the pipeline threatens the animal's natural habitat.
The ocelot is a wild cat with a gorgeous dappled coat. Primarily found in South America, the breed can make its home as far north as Texas. The ocelot is an endangered animal, with reports stating that there may be as few as fifty living in the United States. Apparently, some of these vulnerable felines have decided to share the mound with the two-time World Series champion. Beckett himself claims to have seen ocelots cross his property several times and has quickly become the species' super-agent and most ardent conservationist.
Beckett and his business partners own the 7,000 acre Herradura Ranch near San Antonio - which is enough land for more than 2,000 baseball fields. The ranch offers luxurious multiday guided hunting trips for white-tail deer, doves, quail, javelina, coyote, and bobcat. In the spring of 2012, Eagle Ford Midstream ("Eagle Ford") approached Beckett and offered to pay for the right to build a natural gas pipeline across Heradura. But, like an anxious righty trying to hold Brett Gardner on first base, Beckett balked at the offer. Unfortunately for Beckett, later that year, Eagle Ford procured an eminent domain right-of-way in state court that allowed the pipeline to be built. At the same time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the findings of the shale extractor's experts and certified that Eagle Ford was in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.
Soon after construction commenced in October 2012 and shortly after the Dodgers traded for him, Beckett filed a complaint seeking to reroute the pipeline (Beckett Ventures Inc. v. Eagle Ford Midstream LP, No. 12-00164 (S.D. Tex. filed Oct. 16, 2012)). The complaint stated that Eagle Ford engaged in "willful destruction" of ocelot habitat by clearing the land on Herradura to build a pipeline. Specifically, Beckett alleged that the pipeline builders violated Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits harassment or harm to protected species. The complaint further alleged that "harassment" and "harm" are broadly defined to encompass "significant habitat modification" and "acts [creating] the likelihood of injury to wildlife."
Eagle Ford maintains that there are no ocelots on Herradura and therefore Beckett has suffered no damages. It characterizes Beckett's habitat preservation argument as "merely a sham to leverage additional money from [Eagle Ford] in exchange for an easement" and claims that Beckett is actually concerned about the pipeline's effect on an irrigation system and the ranch's hunting business.
Ruling on a motion to dismiss, U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana found that Beckett should stay in the game and has standing to sue since he allegedly demonstrated actual injury from potential lost ecotourism revenue. The court also rejected Eagle Ford's argument that the relief sought by Beckett is moot because the pipeline is already installed, finding that the court could grant injunctive relief compelling the company to reroute the pipeline or restore the habitat to minimize the disturbance to the endangered ocelot.
Here's hoping that Beckett, who spent much of this past season on the disabled list, is home at the ranch re-habbing and getting ready for Thanksgiving alongside his two pet ocelots.