Obama to visit EPA to thank employees

President Obama will meet with staff members at the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday to thank them for their work.

The visit marks Obama’s latest push to show support for the agency in the aftermath of the White House’s decision last year to scuttle EPA’s planned smog regulations amid constant and aggressive attacks from Republicans.

Obama will travel to EPA headquarters “to address the men and women of the agency, and thank them for their hard work protecting the air our children breathe and the water we drink,” the president’s daily schedule says.

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The agency has unveiled a number of high-profile regulations in recent months, including national standards to limit mercury and other toxic air pollutants from power plants that have been linked to developmental disorders and childhood asthma.

Obama called the regulations a “major step forward in my administration's efforts to protect public health and the environment.”

But the rules, along with a slew of other regulations put forward by the agency, have come under intense scrutiny from Republicans, some centrist Democrats and industry groups. Opponents say the rules will burden the ailing economy and cost jobs.

The president's visit immediately became fodder for election-season battles over EPA regulations.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who shepherded bills through the House last year to block the EPA rules, claimed over Twitter that Obama would visit EPA to “tout its job-destroying agenda.”

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an industry group, similarly claimed that Obama and EPA will “celebrate job-destroying regulations.”

“The EPA’s actions are not a cause for a celebration. Their heavy handed and unnecessary assault on the American economy only serves to destroy jobs by raising the cost of energy and possibly making electricity less reliable,” said Evan Tracey, the group’s senior vice president, in a statement.

But Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke said the visit from Obama is a "breath of fresh air."

“The president is highlighting what most Americans expect: clean air, clean water and their health protected,” she said in an email circulated to reporters Tuesday. “His unwavering support for the dedicated men and women at EPA is a breath of fresh air after a year of senseless assaults on the agency led by Big Polluters and their Tea Party allies in Congress.”

--Ben Geman contributed.

This story was updated at 11:49 a.m.

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