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Heinze Confirmed by Alaska Legislature

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Harold Heinze, a controversial and outspoken former oil company executive, was confirmed Thursday as Alaska’s commissioner of natural resources by a joint session of the state House and Senate.

Heinze, former head of Atlantic Richfield Co.’s transportation and Alaska subsidiaries, was confirmed in a 56-3 vote, despite vocal opposition by environmentalists and questions about his past involvement in oil-spill cleanup decisions.

Heinze, who was appointed to the post last December by newly elected Gov. Walter J. Hickel, said the vote was “a recognition in the legislative confirmation process that the most important criterion is (a person’s) competence to perform the job.”

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Environmentalists said the vote was not surprising. “This is after all a state that is well fed on oil,” Anchorage environmental activist Jim Stratton said.

“I think it’s going to mean that the environmental community is going to have a competent adversary when it comes to land management and resource development throughout the rest of the Hickel administration,” he added.

During confirmation hearings, questions were raised about Heinze’s role as an Arco representative in spill cleanup decisions by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., which operates the trans-Alaska pipeline. Questions also arose about his role as a former director of a failed Alaska bank.

As an oil executive, Heinze once called the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a “flat, crummy place” and accused environmentalists of being “extremists.”

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