On October 16, 2019, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Joshua M. Kindred to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska. Alliance for Justice opposes his nomination.
Before becoming the Alaska Regional Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2018, Kindred spent five years serving as Environmental Counsel to the Alaska Oil and Gas Association. While in that position, he fought against regulations aimed at protecting Alaska’s air, water, and wildlife. Kindred has an extensive record of extreme hostility towards environmental protections.
He has expressed frustration with the “passionate ignorance” of people who do not share his disdain for environmental regulations. He consistently took positions contradicted by science — a troubling trait for someone, who as a judge, will often need to weigh expert testimony. Based on his record and past comments, it is unlikely that groups fighting to protect the health of Alaska’s environment would get a fair shake in his court room.
As Counsel to the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, Kindred regularly advocated for less stringent environmental regulations on behalf of the oil and gas industry in Alaska:
- Aggressively advocated for the approval of the Liberty Project, an Arctic drilling plan, which would require the construction of a gravel island five miles off the coast of Alaska for drilling rigs and production facilities. His support included submitting comment letters and testifying a at public hearing. The project would require extensive drilling in a fragile ecosystem where the effects of a spill or other accident could be catastrophic. In addition, it would entail developing Arctic reserves that, according to climate scientists, must remain in the ground if carbon emissions are to be kept low enough to limit human-induced global warming.
- Opposed proposed hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) regulations in Alaska. He argued that “hydraulic fracturing, particularly as it is implemented in Alaska, does not pose any harm to the environment.” This arguments directly contradicts a large body of science that shows fracking to have serious environmental consequences, including the release of toxins into our water, air, and soil, and the increased risk of earthquakes.
- Argued that providing a 10-day public comment period as part of the application process for fracking projects would be “unnecessary and burdensome.” The purpose of the public comment period was to allow community groups and others to weigh in on whether companies should be granted fracking permits.
- Complained that the newly expanded definition of “Waters of the United States” issued by the EPA in 2015 was “overly broad.” The expansion only effected around 3% of the nation’s waterways, and the purpose of the rule was to protect vital streams and wetlands that provide drinking water for over 117 million Americans, filter pollution, and reduce the impacts of flooding and erosion.
- Advocated for weakening regulations that implement the Clean Air Act (“CAA”). More specifically, he pushed for more lenient emission standards and guidelines for small, remote incinerators, the removal of compensatory mitigation guidelines for Alaska, and a less strict application of the EPA’s Leak Protection and Repair Requirements. Kindred argued that because of Alaska’s cold climate and the high proportion of wetlands in the state, the gas and oil industry should not have to follow the same rules under the CAA.
- Opposed the Bureau of Ocean Management’s proposed rule on air quality control, reporting, and compliance requirements. Argued that it was “overbroad, premature, and lack[ed] sufficient environmental justification.” The purpose of the rule was “to ensure that offshore facilities and operations are in compliance with the air quality objectives and requirements” and to reduce “the level of pollutants due to proposed emission reduction measures or emissions offsets.”
- Opposed the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed guidance on assessing the effects of underwater noise pollution on marine mammals. A growing body of evidence shows that underwater noise pollution is leading to a decline in population among some species because it interferes with “feeding, reproduction, and social behavior.” According to experts, the “effects include impairing animals’ hearing, brain hemorrhaging and the drowning out of communication sounds important for survival[.]”
- Testified before the U.S. Senate Energy Committee criticizing implementation of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980. ANILCA is a federal law that established special protections for over 100 million acres of federal land in Alaska. It is celebrated as the largest conservation legislation ever passed. In his testimony, Kindred complained that the legislation was hurting the oil and gas industry because it had gone to far to advance conservation and preservation.
- Opposed two pieces of legislation aimed at placing stronger protections on salmon habitat in Alaska because the permitting process would be a burden on the oil and gas companies and make it hard for the industry to grow. The “alarming declines” of salmon are a serious threat to Native Alaska communities. Many of these communtities “are not accessible by road, and residents depend on fishing and hunting to survive.”
- Challenged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed Endangered Species Act (ESA) Compensatory Mitigation Policy. The purpose of this policy is to require companies to take certain steps towards conservation in order to compensate for the impacts of their development activities. Kindred argued that the policy would “result in placing more Alaskan lands into conservation than are necessary for protection of ESA-listed species and their habitat.” In other words, he wanted fewer protections for animals that are endangered or threatened.
- Testified before the United States Senate in opposition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services proposed revisions to its impact mitigation policy: “To be perfectly candid, my recommendation to the Fish and Wildlife Service as they were going through this process was to announce that we are going to impose no regulations on Alaska.”
- Argued that it was unnecessary to require the submission of an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) for Arctic oil and gas exploration because these activities did not negatively impact bowhead whales, ice seals, polar bears, and walrus. The purpose of an EIS is “to provide full and open evaluation of environmental issues and alternatives, and to inform decision-makers and the public of reasonable alternatives that could avoid or minimize adverse impacts and enhance the quality of the environment.” Once again, Kindred’s argument directly contradicts the science, which shows that marine animals are extremely vulnerable to the risks of oil spills, pipeline leaks, shipping accidents, and noise pollution, as well as to the effects of global warming.
- Opposed a conservation management plan for polar bears, arguing that “oil and gas activities do not threaten polar bears, have negligible effects on the species and require no additional management plan.” This goes against the scientific findings that oil and gas development “poses a wide range of threats to polar bears,” including the health effects of oil exposure, displacement from maternity dens, and the negative impacts of “increased ship traffic, pollution from chemical compounds used in drilling operations, and noise.”
- Opposed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services announcement that it was initiating a five-year review for the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In the same letter, he also argued against changing the status of polar bears from “threatened” to “endangered” because the “overall abundance of the species remains stable.” This fails to acknowledge a large body of science, which shows that polar bear populations are set to decline another 30% in the next couple of decades.
- Opposed a proposed rule to designate ringed seal critical habitat. He argued that the National Marines Fisheries Service should “exclude any and all areas identifies as critical habitat because the economic impacts of designation substantially exceed marginal benefits.” The ringed seal population are facing decline as a result of “the warming Arctic climate and the disappearance of ice that they need for food-foraging, resting, and raising pups.”
- Challenged the designation of the bearded seal as “threatened under the ESA” because it would lead to delays and additional costs for developers by adding an extra layer of consultation with federal agencies and perhaps new mitigation efforts to restore or protect habitat. The Ninth Circuit ruled to uphold the designation.
- Lamented that “Climate change-based listings, and related critical habitat designations, for currently abundant arctic species, pose new resource use challenges.”
- Listed “DOI Arctic Regulations” and “Endangered Species Act Issues” as “Impediments to Progress.”
- Argued that, “the onus should be on the science and data to drive regulatory scope and direction,” despite frequently rejecting the scientific basis for environmental policies.