BATH — Mike Rounds doesn’t think certain factions in Washington, D.C., understand the Midwest, and South Dakota’s former governor said he’s ready to help change that in the U.S. Senate.
Making his comments during a Friday afternoon campaign stop at Northern Electric Cooperative in Bath, Rounds talked about the stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline project, the future of corn production, entitlements and a proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency that he said would potentially hurt the state’s farmers and ranchers.
On the EPA, Rounds said the agency is “not sensitive to what we care about in the Midwest” and added that the federal arm is part of a long-term problem overreaching government regulation facing the nation.
“The EPA wants to redefine which waters the EPA has water quality control responsibilities for,” Rounds said. “In the past, we’ve always kept them out of the farmyards and stock tanks and the courts have reinforced what we’ve said. Now, since they’re not winning in the courts, they’re trying to change the rules. They want to be able to look at water quality if you get a wet year and there’s any overflow of a stock damn or a farm pond. They believe they should have jurisdiction over that water and you’d have to come see them about a permit.”
Speaking to a crowd of about 40, Rounds’ stop in Bath preceded a visit to the Sanford Aberdeen Medical Center and the Brown County Republican campaign office in Aberdeen. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., was scheduled to accompany Rounds Friday, but came down with an illness and could not attend, according to the Rounds campaign.
Even without Hoeven, a vocal Keystone XL proponent, Rounds wasted little time getting into the pipeline issue.
“I have a real interest in seeing this pipeline built,” Rounds said. “I think the folks around here should be interested in it for what it would do to get oil off of the rail lines and the economic interests involved in that. BNSF tells us that about 10 unit trains per week would be transferred off the trains, which would be about 10 percent of the unit trains coming out of North Dakota with oil. Back here, you’ve seen the corn piled up, and we’ve seen the beans bagged up. Taking care of some of that congestion would helps our producers and help every small town.”
One of Rounds’ opponents, Democrat Rick Weiland, is opposed to the pipeline and thinks the potential environmental dangers outweigh any benefits. He’s said the number of jobs Keystone XL will create is minimal and that the pipeline will ultimately be used to help transfer Canadian oil to China.
Independents Larry Pressler and Gordon Howie are also on the ballot Tuesday.
After touching on the pipeline and the EPA’s proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, which will be in a formal comment period until Nov. 14, Rounds said that he still thinks ethanol has a future as a sought-after commodity.
“I think ethanol has a bright future,” Rounds said. “But I think the future for ethanol is as an oxygenate because it’s the least expensive oxygenate, which is an octane booster, that we’ve got. We still need a couple years to get the ethanol industry going. With mileage standards set to go up, they’re going to have to make engines that have higher octane fuel, and that’s where ethanol comes in.”
Rounds also fielded a few questions, including one on entitlements.
“When you drive up and down the road in (Aberdeen), you see all the signs — everybody is looking for help,” said FEM Electric Association general manager Scott Moore. “I guarantee you that there are enough people in this town to fill those jobs, but people don’t work because of the entitlements. I know some of these people. They just say ‘why work?'”
While saying that a safety net is “needed for the very young and very old,” Rounds agreed that entitlement programs need to be altered.
“The feds limit a lot of that themselves,” Rounds said. “They tell us what we can do and can’t do on a lot of that. There is a frustration that is out there, but most of those improvements would need to come at the federal level, not the state level. Like any federal program, those entitlement programs should be reviewed.”
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