Obama Thanks EPA Staff for 'Vital' Work

President Obama visited the Environmental Protection Agency today to thank the staff for their "vital" work and to defend the mission of the agency, which has been targeted by Republicans on Capitol Hill and the campaign trail.

Although the president did not call out the EPA's critics by name, he spoke out against claims that the agency's policies hinder economic growth.

"Safeguarding our environment is also about strengthening our economy," Obama said in his first visit to the EPA headquarters as president. "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. I think that is a false debate. … What's good for the environment can also be good for our economy."

The president thanked the agency's staff for protecting the environment and making progress toward energy independence.

"The main reason I'm here is simple:  I just want to say thank you," Obama said. "You help make sure that the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we eat are safe.  You protect the environment not just for our children, but their children.  And you keep us moving towards energy independence.  And it is a vital mission.

"I know that sometimes spending time getting these policies right means less time at home than you'd like, and, you know, you're missing birthday parties or you're missing the soccer game, and the spouse is not happy with you.  I know a little bit about that sometimes," the president joked.

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