To say that Richard Pombo is an environmental skeptic is putting it mildly. Asked if Pombo accepted the worldwide scientific consensus that global warming is a fact, his spokesperson, Wayne Johnson, shilly-shallied. “What I have heard him say is the jury is still out,” Johnson cautiously ventured. “For those absolutely convinced, I would not put him in that category.”
Pombo entered Congress determined to “reform” the Engendered Species Act and other tree-hugging depredations on the rights of private property owners, and while he concentrated on that law, he has put his stamp on a host of other issues, from gay rights to gun control.
Before he ran for Congress, Pombo co-wrote a book entitled This Land is Our Land: How to End the War on Private Property. Part of his book declared that he become active politically after a skirmish with the East Bay Regional Park district about the creation of a public right of way through his property. He later switched his story to say his family’s property values were hurt when family land was designated a San Joaquin Kit Fox critical habitat. Both claims were without merit.
Pombo says the ESA, which is widely regarded as one of the more successful pieces of environmental legislation ever, is a failure. Pombo’s “reforms,” however, recently ran into a brick wall in the Senate. If passed, they would have removed the concept of critical habitat from the ESA - meaning a species would be protected, but its home territory would not. The legislation called for a two-year recovery plan, but the recovery plan would have been voluntary rather than mandatory.
While this approach has resonated with many voters in the 11th district who agree that the ESA goes too far, it has local and national environmentalists screaming. It’s also upset his opponent, Pete McCloskey, who was involved in writing the original law.
Pombo has hit a number of other environmental high points during his tenure. Among them was his idea to allow ham radio operators to erect antennas on the Farallones Islands. He wants to lift the ban on off shore oil drilling. He has read a pro-whaling resolution into the Congressional Record. He has proposed selling off 15 sites within the national parks as a way of raising money for energy development (a proposal that advances Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s Presidio privatization to a new level). He was one of the original sponsors of the legislation to allow drilling on Alaska’s north slope. And last but not least, wants to put a freeway over Mt. Hamilton in San Joaquin County.
Pombo also voted twice to protect MTBE manufacturers from being sued for environmental damage. MTBE helps engines burn cleaner, but has also been found to contaminate water supplies in California, necessitating huge clean-up costs. Why would Pombo vote to indemnify such manufacturers? Well, several of the companies are based on Tom Delay’s district in Texas.
But the 11th district representative has taken interesting stands on all sort of other issues, from civil rights to drugs to gun control to gay rights. Because there are so many, a short list of his congressional voting record will suffice.
Pombo has opposed stem-cell research, supports banning “partial birth” abortion, and has a 0% rating from NARAL the pro-choice group. He voted for the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and against allowing gay adoption in Washington D.C.