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.