[UPDATE: The White House denies the rumors, saying it opposes spending-bill riders that would undermine environmental protection.]

The Associated Press is reporting that the White House is insisting to congressional Democrats that they endorse Republicans’ proposed environmental rollbacks.

A Democratic lawmaker familiar with a meeting Wednesday between Obama and members of the Congressional Black Caucus said the administration made it clear that some House GOP proposals restricting the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory powers would have to make it into the final bill. In order to characterize the White House’s position, the lawmaker insisted on anonymity because the meeting was private.

It’s not clear which proposals the White House might accept, but those backed by Republicans would block the government from carrying out regulations on greenhouse gases, putting in place a plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and from shutting down mountaintop mines it believes will cause too much water pollution. 

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This report is likely to be credible, as President Obama failed to mention the Clean Air Act during his major energy speech today — giving his negotiators room to maneuver with Republicans. In addition, the White House has been positioning itself as a friend of the fossil-fuel industry, opening up massive new coal mining equivalent to the construction of 300 new coal-fired power plants and issuing a spate of new Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling permits.

I must say, it’s not surprising that Obama is choosing to attack core environmental laws. Despite all-time low poll numbers, he seems to believe that voters want him to continue making major concessions to Republicans on the environment, health care, taxes, and other major issues in the interests of seeming bipartisan. Perhaps more importantly, the environmental movement and progressives in general have had little appetite or ability to seriously push back when he attacks even the most basic values.

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If that doesn’t change soon, the environmental movement will find this Democratic president dismantling the basic laws that protect Americans’ clean air and water, and they will have done little to stop it.