President Obama reassured employees at the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday that he will stand by their work amid growing attacks from Republicans and a decision by the White House last year to scuttle the agency’s smog regulations.

“I want you to know that 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 we’ve got a cleaner world,” Obama told EPA staff during a visit the agency’s headquarters.

Obama also took a jab at Republicans and industry groups, who have mounted a massive campaign to delay or block a slew of EPA regulations, arguing they will burden the economy and cost jobs.

“I don’t 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,” Obama said. “I think that is a false debate.”

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