Coal Company Wants Bat Money Back

     PITTSBURGH (CN) – A coal mining company sued the state and federal governments, claiming they illegally forced it to pay $317,000 to help save the Indiana bat.
     Amerikohl Mining sued the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission, in Federal Court.
     It claims the defendants forced it to pay more than $317,00 to Pennsylvania’s Indiana Bat Conservation Fund, and it wants the money back.
     Indiana bats, and other bats in the Eastern United States, are being decimated by white-nose syndrome.
     Amerikohl claims that the defendants took the money under “an illegal and unenforceable Pennsylvania-specific policy developed, implemented and applied by a local office of USFWS.”
     Amerikohl mines coal from two surface mines in Beaver County, Pa., where a “documented presence” of the Indiana Bat has been determined, according to the complaint.
     Amerikohl claims that it paid the money to the bat fund “in order to obtain the necessary approvals to conduct surface mining activities at surface mines” in Beaver County.
     After paid, though, Amerikohl claims it discovered that the payments were not necessary, because the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had granted its applications for a post-mining reclamation plan.
     Individual states’ regulatory powers over surface coal mining and reclamation are granted by the Federal Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act.
     Mine operators must evaluate possible adverse impacts that mining may have on surrounding environments as a part of the application for a surface mining permit.
     Because the endangered Indiana bat lived in Beaver County, Amerikohl’s application had to be approved under the “Range-wide Indiana Bat Protection and Enhancement Plan Guidelines” established by the defendant agencies in 2009.
     Amerikohl claims that its application had to include a Protection and Enhancement Plan, “implementing site-specific post-mining reclamation measures (such as planting a specific number and variety of trees) in order to create a post-mining restoration of forest habit” for the Indiana bat, so that it could receive an “incidental take” approval issued by the State College Field Office.
     But it claims that the Fish and Wildlife Service has acknowledged that the “imposition of a requirement to obtain an ‘incidental take’ approval” is “not appropriate or enforceable is an abuse of discretion and otherwise arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law.”
     Amerikohl seeks “a declaration and confirmation that the actions of the State College Field Office of USFWS (‘State College Field Office’) in developing, implementing and applying certain aspects of a Pennsylvania-specific policy relating to the Indiana Bat (an endangered species threatened under both federal and state law) in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were not appropriate or enforceable and thus were illegal, unenforceable and an abuse of discretion.”
     It is represented by Thomas Reed and Brandon Coneby, with Dinsmroe & Shohl, in Pittsburgh.

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