BENTON TOWNSHIP, Michigan — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land criticized a federal plan Wednesday to regulate many of the country's streams and wetlands, echoing farmers' concerns that even puddles could fall under government oversight and that they would need permission to move cattle across fields.
Land's contentions are disputed by the Environmental Protection Agency as "myths."
"We need to rein them in, work with our customers, which are our farmers," Land told reporters while visiting a 4,000-acre corn and soybean farm outside Potterville on the same day Democrats filed a complaint over her campaign's use of two large pickup trucks.
Land takes issue with the federal Clean Water Act, which gives the EPA authority to regulate "U.S. waters." Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 limited regulators' reach but left unclear the scope of authority over small waterways that might flow intermittently.
Under a rule proposed by EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers in March, seasonal and rain-dependent streams — and wetlands near rivers and streams — would be covered by the law. Others would be considered on a case-by-case basis. According to the EPA, exemptions already granted for farming activities would continue. The Farm Bureau says otherwise.
John Forell, who owns the farm with his wife, told Land that he met with EPA officials in Washington earlier this year and while they told him they did not intend to cause trouble for farmers, he remains worried over the rule's wording.
"The problem is when politicians and our leaders allow unelected officials to just take control of a situation, it could be ugly," Forell said.
Land, a former secretary of state, is running against Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters for the seat opening with Carl Levin's retirement.
The Michigan Democratic Party asked the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday to investigate whether her campaign broke the law by renting two pickup trucks from her brother-in-law Roger Lucas for below-market rates, since he has already donated the maximum $5,200 to her campaign.
The International Extreme trucks are worth around $100,000 apiece, according to the complaint, which questions how Land could pay, on average, $269 a month per truck since July 2013 when leasing a smaller pickup would cost at least $750 a month, according to the party's estimates. The campaign began paying $1,000 a month for truck rental in January.
Land spokeswoman Heather Swift said the monthly payments for an "almost decade-old" truck cover usage from September 2013 through this November. Use of the first truck was minimal last year and will increase through Election Day and the payments "properly reflect that valuation," she said.
Land's campaign said it began using a second truck only recently and will disclose it on the next quarterly campaign-finance report. Democrats demanded specifics on the cost of renting the trucks for fair-market value.
"This is just them not wanting to talk about the issues," Land said when asked about the complaint.
Land also spoke Wednesday about the lack of a formal debate with Peters, after WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids said Tuesday it was postponing a proposed Senate debate because Land had not signed on.
She said she was "always willing to talk to voters" and had twice shared a stage with him at candidate forums. Asked if she would be satisfied if Election Day came and no debate had been held, Land said "I'll be satisfied when I win — and put Michigan first."
When pressed on whether she was open to a true debate, Land said she wanted to know Peters' position on the EPA regulations and instituting a cap-and-trade pollution system. A reporter suggested a debate would be a way for voters to learn the positions, but Swift jumped in to say there would be more details later.
"Terri Lynn Land should stop hiding behind million-dollar sound bites and false, negative ads and start good faith efforts to have a debate," Peters spokeswoman Haley Morris said in a statement.
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