President Obama sent a strong message to the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday when he told agency staffers he 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.”
During his speech at the agency, the president highlighted what most Americans expect: clean air, clean water and their health protected. His unwavering support for the dedicated men and women at the EPA is a welcome vote of confidence after the year-long battering the agency has taken from Big Polluters and their Tea Party allies in Congress.
In their anti-government fervor, these forces have claimed the EPA thwarts job growth. But an agency that can create 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term jobs and prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths with just one clean air standard has proven that public health protection and economic growth go hand-in-hand.
President Obama agrees. On Tuesday he said:
We don't have to choose between dirty air and dirty water, or a growing economy. We can make sure that we are doing right by our environment and, in fact, putting people back to work all across America. That's part of our mission. When we put in place new commonsense rules to reduce air pollution, we create new jobs building and installing all sorts of pollution-control technology. When we put in place new emission standards for our vehicles, we make sure that the cars of tomorrow are going to be built right here in the United States of America, that we're going to win that race.
Like the president, the American people value the work of the EPA as well. A survey conducted in October by Public Policy Polling commissioned by NRDC found that 78 percent of Americans want the EPA to hold polluters accountable for what they release into the community.
They know that in the absence of government safeguards, their families would be exposed to more mercury, particulate matter, raw sewage, and chemicals in drinking water. That’s how things used to be before the EPA existed—my colleague Peter Lehner’s blog has some powerful photos from that era—and I don’t know one American who wants to return to dirtier days.
The EPA staffers—along with the Republican and Democratic presidents and Congressmen who supported the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and other bedrock laws—deserve our thanks for their service.
As the president said, “The EPA touches on the lives of every, single American every, single day. 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.”