"It continues 24 hours a day, scraping and rattling," Weekley said. "That's 24 hours a day, seven days a week I have that when I'm sitting here on the porch."
Gardner and White responded that the Dal-Tex operation complies with current environmental rules. Gardner scribbled notes on a bright yellow legal pad.
"I think that it's important that we listen to everything you have to say so we're not going to dispute or argue about anything," Gardner said. "I'm not disputing that you can feel a blast and I'm not saying I don't believe you when you say it knocked a picture off your wall. But the record shows we're not in violation of the regulations."
Weekley asked how the coal company officials would feel if "a coal company or a chemical company or a logging company came in and destroyed where you lived all your life."
Gardner responded, "I don't deny your sincerity, Mr. Weekley. When you say you are attached to your home and your property, you are sincere."
White said, "I can't say how I'd feel. I try to empathize with Mr. Weekley, but I can't say how I'd feel."
Weekley also took Gardner, White and a herd of reporters and camera crews on a walk up Pigeonroost Branch.
At times, the group walked along the creek in areas Arch Coal plans to bury under a valley fill.
"Look around you, sir," Weekley said. "Look at how beautiful it is."
Just a few hundred feet up the hollow from Weekley's house, his 84-year-old mother, Sylvia, sat on the porch of her own home. "This is her homeplace," Weekley said. "I was born here."
"When you come in here and do this, all I'm going to have left are memories," Weekley said. "Money can't buy my memories. Look at all the species of trees and plants that are going to be destroyed. Why? Why? Why?"
Gardner said, "The reason, Mr. Weekley, is that we have a resource that is valuable and that the market wants. That is coal."
Legislators cancel mine tour, hear from residents anyway
By Martha Bryson Hodel
FOSTER (AP) - Southern West Virginia residents told state lawmakers Monday they're tired of being ignored by state officials and abandoned by insurers when they try seek reprieve from nearby blasting at massive strip mines known as mountaintop removal mines.
The concussion and debris from explosions at mines in Boone, Logan and Mingo counties damages homes and endangers lives, residents told the members of a House Government Operations subcommittee that toured the community of Foster in Boone County.
Trying to get reimbursed for the damage is all but impossible, they said, whether from the coal company or their insurance company.
"The coal company said the damage occurred because the house was settling. Then we talked to our insurance company about it, and they canceled our policy," said Tressie Judy, who lives at the head of Foster Hollow, below Elk Run Coal Co.'s Black Castle strip mine.
The Government Organization subcommittee, made up of both delegates and senators, decided in January to get a firsthand look at the blasting that takes place near mountaintop removal sites. But the legislators who took Monday's tour heard no explosions.
Although the panel originally was to tour the Black Castle mine above Foster Hollow, that part of the tour was canceled and no explosions were heard. No representatives of either Elk Run Coal Co. or its parent company, A.T. Massey Coal Co., were present during Monday's tour. Chris Hamilton, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said the mine was on vacation and there were not enough employees available to accommodate a legislative tour.
Judy told the lawmakers that she didn't believe company representatives' explanations that damage to both an old farmhouse and her new "dream house" built nearby in 1991 were the result of the house settling.
"This house was settling. That house was settling," Judy said.
The farm house "was built in 1893. And they're telling me it took it 100 years" to start settling, she said.