Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s nominee for Maryland environmental secretary said yesterday that she would promote economic development through cleanup of contaminated sites and look for innovative ways to reduce pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.

Lynn Buhl, a former administrator for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and longtime attorney for Chrysler Corp., described herself as a former Sierra Club member and environmentalist "who has respect for a natural resource and wants to preserve it."

Maryland environmentalists, though, are wary of Buhl, noting that the Michigan administration rolled back and weakened restrictions on business pollution.

Sue Brown, a spokeswoman for the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, said state residents are accustomed to a different approach to environmentalism from its government.

"I hope that is not a precursor of what is to come in her mind," Brown said. "That's not what people here expect when it comes to protecting the Chesapeake Bay."

In a briefing with reporters, Buhl, 47, said that she would strike a balance between the environmental and business interests of the state and that she recognized the importance of Maryland's natural resources to the state's economy.

"I'd like to try to come up with innovative solutions to nutrient loading problems" of the bay, she said, referring to the flow of millions of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorous from farm fields, urban streets and suburban lawns.

Buhl said she submitted her re{acute}sume{acute} to Ehrlich after he was elected and asked former Michigan governor John C. Engler (R), for whom she worked, to put in a good word for her.

He did, she said, "though I don't know what was said in the conversation."

In a statement, Ehrlich described Buhl as "a business-savvy lawyer and environmentalist who will effectively strike a careful balance between a healthy environment and a healthy economy."

Buhl was an attorney for Chrysler from 1988 to 1999 on its brownfield program, testifying before Congress on behalf of the auto industry in favor of business incentives to redevelop polluted sites.

When she was hired by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Buhl said, she expected to continue to work on brownfield issues. But she found that the state program was working "just fine," so she turned her attention to issues involving water and sewage infrastructure.

Environmentalists in Michigan could not cite any controversy involving Buhl, but they said anyone in the agency at that time "would be extremely suspect."

"When we met with her, I found her not to have anything substantive to say, and I attribute that to who she was working for," said Detroit lawyer Tom Stephens.

Buhl said she realized that Michigan has been on the opposite end of a lawsuit Maryland has filed with other eastern states, alleging that Midwest states such as Michigan, Ohio and Illinois are responsible for allowing polluted air to drift east.

She pledged to "go slow" on air issues, educating herself on Maryland's lawsuit before making any statements about the problem. Buhl also said she wants to review a landmark law Maryland passed in 1998, holding poultry companies -- and not the farmers who grow the chickens for them -- responsible for the waste the birds produce.

Buhl has a long history of experience with poultry and wastewater treatment. She recalls her father, an engineer for many years for Perdue, taking her to visit one of its waste treatment plants as a child.

What impressed her? "The odor," she said. "That and the aeration ponds. I was amazed that they actually worked."

If confirmed by the Senate, Buhl said, her first day would be Feb. 10.

Lynn Buhl said she would try to strike a balance between environmental and business interests.