Mitch McConnell's Musical Attack on EPA

Jimmy Rose was a contestant on the eighth season of America's Got Talent. Jimmy Rose was a contestant on the eighth season of America's Got Talent. Debby Wong/

This week's public hearings on the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan have the usual roster of speakers: environmentalists, industry bigwigs, and politicians looking to make stump speeches for or against the rule. But it's likely only one has the résumé of Jimmy Rose: Iraq veteran, coal miner, and third-place finisher on the reality show America's Got Talent.

The Pineville, Ky., native will speak Wednesday at an EPA hearing in Washington as a guest of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell before heading to the Capitol to perform his signature song "Coal Keeps the Lights On." The song carries an obvious—and for the Kentucky senator a politically potent—message. Rose's lyrics invoke red-meat imagery ("tires on the truck and a sundress on my baby girl") to underscore the importance of coal jobs to Appalachia, before admonishing "plumb-down crazy" Washington for anti-coal policies. McConnell has appeared with Rose before and even referenced Rose's song last fall in trying to introduce a bill that would have blocked the EPA rules.

Rose spoke to National Journal about the message he hopes to bring to EPA, how he wrote "Coal Keeps the Lights On," and whether EPA is dodging criticism of its climate plan. Here are excerpts from the interview.

What message are you bringing to the EPA hearings?

I hope they let me sing, but I'll get to sing my song at the Capitol [in a press conference with McConnell]. It's going to be clear and straight to the point about what they're doing to us here in Appalachia. I want to put a face on what they're doing and the restrictions they're putting in place. This war on coal, it's different if you're not from around here in coal country. I want to show them in some way what they're doing to us. It's a real honor to be a part of this with [McConnell]. We've done several events with him. He's fighting this battle, and it's an honor to be with Mitch and to represent coal country as a whole.

McConnell has said that EPA ought to be holding a hearing in coal country. Do you agree?

It's easy for them to hold these hearings outside the real affected area. They don't have to look at the people, they don't have to look at the poverty-stricken communities. They don't have to make up some excuse to make them feel better. It's a sad thing they won't drive through the towns and communities and look at the schools. This is a war on coal, I feel strong about that. I think they should have to come around and listen to the people they're affecting. Any opportunity I get, I'll jump on it to be heard, but it's sad they won't come to the combat zone.

How did your song "Coal Keeps the Lights On" come about?

I wrote that song several years back, even before I was on America's Got Talent. I wrote that in support of my people and my hometown. The people who are losing their homes and their jobs and have to move away just to find work. To me, it's being a voice for my own people. I personalize it when I talk about the bobcats and the mountain lions [local high school mascots], so it's who I am and my grass roots. I wrote it out of anger and out of resentment and from my personal experience. I've worked in the ground; I know how it feels.

Why do you think EPA should hear the song?

If I can sing it to them, I hope they'd truly listen to the lyrics and the true meaning of what I'm trying to say. I think they'd get a sense of the repercussions of the decisions they're making. I'm all for saving the environment, I'm for saving the future, but I think we've got to save us first. I don't know if my song will affect any decisions, but hopefully it will make them consider the impact of their actions.

This article appears in the July 30, 2014 edition of NJ Daily as Mitch McConnell’s Musical Attack on EPA.

(Image via Debby Wong /

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.