- President Donald Trump's administration, according to a report in The New York Times, is fast-tracking approvals for energy and mining projects on federal land in advance of President-elect Joe Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. These deals are allegedly spurred on by investors who want to see the projects on firm ground before the new administration steps up.
- Projects around the country are being pushed through, despite opposition from environmentalists and other activist groups. These include a copper mine in Arizona that will be built on sacred Native American land; a helium drilling project in Utah where energy leasing has been banned; an open-pit lithium mine in Nevada located above a prehistoric volcano; and a natural gas pipeline with a route through the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia and West Virginia and under the Appalachian Trail.
- The Biden administration will still have the ability to stop or slow down projects, such as a planned uranium mine in South Dakota, that have not received their final permits. However, projects like the Nevada lithium mine will have secured the necessary permits prior to the inauguration and will be difficult to stop.
The South Dakota project that is not far enough into the approval process to guarantee that its permits will be secured before Trump leaves office is a planned uranium operation on more than 12,600 acres near the Black Hills and next to the 2.8 million-acre Oglala Lakota Nation reservation. The mining would produce 1 million pounds of uranium a year but could contaminate groundwater in the process, according to advocacy groups. The tribe is suing to stop the project.
These actions by the Trump administration follow four years of waiving environmental regulations — i.e., the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act — for U.S.-Mexico border wall projects and issuing similar directives to federal agencies intended to speed up and streamline the construction permitting process.
When Biden takes office, however, it's still up in the air as to how he will approach issues that could affect the construction industry. Jimmy Christianson, vice president of government relations at the Associated General Contractors of America, told Construction Dive in November that it is unlikely Biden will impose new regulations that slow down construction projects since he has committed to creating union construction jobs.
Where Biden can have the most impact right away, said Ben Brubeck, Associated Builders and Contractors’ vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs, is through executive order — just as Trump did when he first entered office — and by appointing like-minded individuals to positions of power within the administration.