Nishida picked for Cabinet

January 24, 1995|By Marina Sarris and Timothy B. Wheeler | Marina Sarris and Timothy B. Wheeler,Sun Staff Writers

Pledging that environmental and economic issues will go hand-in-hand in his administration, Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday tapped Chesapeake Bay Foundation official Jane T. Nishida to be his secretary of environment.

Mr. Glendening made the announcement at a gathering in Annapolis of more than 100 environmental activists, who applauded loudly at his choice.

Ms. Nishida, a 39-year-old lawyer, is the Maryland executive director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the largest environmental group in the state with 40,000 members.

As environment secretary, she will oversee more than 900 state and contractual workers, a huge increase from the eight or nine she supervised at the foundation. She will be paid $92,912 a year.

She replaces David A. C. Carroll, secretary since 1993.

Mr. Glendening also previewed his "State of the State" address scheduled for Thursday.

He said he will unveil economic development programs to combat suburban sprawl and direct growth to cities such as Baltimore, Cumberland, Cambridge and Salisbury. The programs will include loans, grants and tax credits to businesses that locate in urban areas.

"One of the most outrageous things that we do is have policies that encourage sprawl in the name of economic development," he said. Suburban sprawl contributes to traffic congestion, the loss of forested land and urban blight, leaving behind it decaying cities without jobs, he said.

"I've told people we could have decades of economic growth and prosperity and still not use up another acre of open space if we did it the right way," the governor said to loud applause.

While environmentalists roundly praised the selection of Ms. Nishida, the reaction among business groups was mixed.

Ernie Kent, a vice president of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, called her "an excellent choice" for environment secretary. "I think she understands the needs of the business community," Ms. Kent said.

But Carolyn T. Burridge, lobbyist for the Chemical Industry Council, said members were worried about Ms. Nishida's environmental activism. Though she "is a very easy person to work with," she has a "very strong 'green' record," Ms. Burridge said.

On behalf of the foundation, Ms. Nishida last year lobbied for legislation that would have required manufacturers to study whether they could reduce their use of toxic chemicals, the lobbyist recalled. The bill was opposed by the chemical industry and died.

"What manufacturers would have loved to see is someone with sensitivity about the cost of environmental regulations," Ms. Burridge said.

Manufacturers object to the costs of "excessive environmental regulations," she said, and want the legislature to bar the state from adopting any rules stricter than what federal law requires.

Mr. Glendening, however, said Maryland should be able to enact tougher laws than ordered by Washington because the bay is a unique resource, and the state has a high cancer rate.

The governor said he plans to help businesses in another arena by eliminating overlapping environmental regulations and streamlining the process by which companies get permits.

He also said the environment and economic development should not be competing interests. "I believe that a healthy economy and a healthy environment are interdependent," he said.

"After all, who wants to live in the most prosperous state in the country if we lose the quality of life?" he asked. On the other hand, he added, who would want to live in state with the cleanest environment if there were no jobs.

Ms. Nishida told environmentalists yesterday that she plans to strike a balance. "I hope those that know me realize that while I'm an advocate for the environment, [I recognize that] the regulatory process needs to be fair and efficient," she said.

A Potomac resident, Ms. Nishida has worked for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for the past three years. From 1984 until 1992, she was a legislative lobbyist on health and environmental issues for Gov. William Donald Schaefer and his predecessor, Gov. Harry R. Hughes.

Ms. Nishida would not say how she planned to deal with the furor over the state's new vehicle emissions testing program, or with other environmental issues likely to come up during the General Assembly.

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