Obama Drops by the E.P.A.

Source: JOHN M. BRODER • New York Times  • Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2012

President Obama told E.P.A. employees on Tuesday that he champions their work.Getty Images

President Obama told E.P.A. employees on Tuesday that he champions their work.

President Obama, who has been both applauded and jeered for his record on environmental issues, paid a brief visit to the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington on Tuesday to try to raise spirits at an agency that has been under siege for the past year.

All the Republican presidential candidates and the House Republican majority have criticized the agency for what they cast as intrusive environmental regulations that cost jobs and harm the economy. Several of the candidates have vowed to do away with the E.P.A. or sharply trim its authority. House Republicans have passed a series of bills that would block or reverse E.P.A. measures to control air, water and coal mining pollution.

Mr. Obama, in a nine-minute address to E.P.A. employees, said he was proud of his administration’s actions to improve car and truck efficiency, reduce toxic emissions from power plants and clean up rivers and streams. He said the nation did not have to choose between jobs and a clean environment.

“I do not buy the notion that we have to make a choice between having clean air and clean water and growing this economy in a robust way,” he said. “I think that is a false debate.”

Mr. Obama did not mention the two most controversial environmental actions he has undertaken — halting the E.P.A.’s efforts to tighten its smog standard and to take steps to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to the warming of the planet.

His decision in September to reject the proposed smog rule stunned E.P.A. officials and infuriated environmental advocates. The greenhouse gas rules, which have not yet been issued, are widely opposed by business and utilities and are likely to provoke a major backlash when they are proposed later this year.

Mr. Obama kept his message short and upbeat. “The main reason I’m here is simple,” he said. “I just want to say, ‘Thank you.’”

He closed by saying, “You’ve got a president who is grateful for your work and will stand with you every inch of the way as you carry out your mission to make sure that we’ve got a cleaner world.”