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Butler County mining company, agencies settle suit

| Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

A Butler County mining company that sued to recover $317,336 from state and federal wildlife officials is declining to discuss the settlement of the lawsuit.

“We have a confidentiality agreement with the state game commission,” said John Stilley, president and CEO of Amerikohl Mining Inc.

Travis Lau, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said the settlement was nonmonetary. He declined to elaborate, also citing the confidentiality agreement.

The company sued the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and game commission to recover money it was required to put into the state's Indiana Bat Conservation Fund so that it could obtain permits for its Alexander and Kozora surface coal mines in New Sewickley, Beaver County.

The federal agency later acknowledged that the Pennsylvania-only regulation was unenforceable, though it remains on the books, and government officials refused to return the company's money, according to the lawsuit filed in 2012.

The Indiana bat was listed as endangered by federal officials in 1967 because people were disturbing hibernating bats in caves during winter, resulting in large numbers of their deaths.

Surface mining is an activity that can affect their habitat, Lau said.

“When there is any land disturbance and activity in an area with endangered species, there are certain restrictions that apply,” Lau said.

If, for example, a company removes trees, a company will pay a “buyout,” Lau said.

The money goes to the Game Commission, which uses it to improve habitats of endangered species.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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