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Marcellus driller settles with Pa. land owners

DARLINGTON, Pa. -- A natural gas drilling company has settled federal lawsuits by western Pennsylvania landowners who contested the company's drilling leases and were, in turn, countersued by the company for permission to cut down trees sometimes inhabited by a protected bat species so the wells could be drilled.

A spokeswoman for Chesapeake Appalachia LLC declined to comment on the settlements filed Wednesday in federal court Pittsburgh. Attorneys for the landowners in Beaver County couldn't immediately be reached for comment and settlement terms weren't disclosed.

The landowners claimed they were tricked into signing unfair leases later purchased by Chesapeake. Chesapeake countersued to get permission to clear trees from the land earlier this year before Indiana bats began living in them. Trees can be cut from Nov. 1 to March 31 because the bats hibernate in caves during those months.