Andrew P. Miller, candidate for the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nomination, owns stock in a firm that has multimillion-dollar nuclear power construction contracts with the Virginia Electric and Power Co., according to a statement filed by Miller.
As attorney general of Virginia, Miller in recent years was responsible for representing consumers in Vepco rate cases that often involved controversy over the cost of the glant utility's nuclear construction program.
Nevertheless, Miller's campaign director, Walter A. Marston, said in an interview that Miller was unaware until today that the construction firm, Babcock and Wilcox, has contracts with Vepco.
"In any event," Marston said, "the only valid question to raise about conflicts of interest is whether the ownership interest influenced the things he did or said as a public official. It is clear from the public record that it did not influence him."
In a recent Vepco rate case, the attorney general's office in fact introduced evidence from an expert witness contending that Vepco's power demand forecasts were too high. The state lawyers argued that Vepco should slow down its nuclear program to keep in step with lower demand.
Vepco did reduce its demand forecasts and showed down construction for that and other reasons.
The company also canceled plans in recent weeks to build two more nuclear power generating units in Surry County. Two nuclear units are in service and four more are under construction.
Babcock and Wilcox is building the nuclear reactors and other parts of the steam generation system at two units in Louisa County, called North Anna 3 and 4. It has contracts to build the generating systems at the now canceled units. Surry 3 and 4.
Both Miller and his opponent for the Democratic nomination in the June 14 primary, former Lt. Gov. Henry E. Howell, have called on the State Corporation Commission to determine whether management mistakes led to the canceling of Surry 3 and 4 and, if so, to require Vepco stockholders rather than its customers to bear the cost of the cancellation.
The company has estimated that it may have to pay from $75 million to $140 million to Babcock and Wilcox and other contractors under its contracts for work at the now canceled units.
Miller said in a speech on March 22 that Vepco's explanation for the cancellation "is simply not adequate considering the magnitude of the consequences of the company's action."
Vepco attributed the cancellations primarily to lower demand forecasts, but Miller said: "If the increased demand for electricity has simply been pushed back a few years, we need to know why the projects were canceled rather than simply postponed."
Marston said this statement was intended to underscore the need to investigate Vepco's reasons for canceling the units, not to suggest that the cancellations should be rescinded a move that would benefit Babcock and Wilcox.
He said that two days earlier, Miller said in another speech in Fredericksburg that the Surry 3 and 4 cancellations indicated the need to look to coal and other power alternatives to avoid the high costs of nuclear construction.
Miller's conflict-of-interest statement is one of nine filed by Democratic candidates for statewide office as required by law. Miller, Howell and some candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general went beyond the requirements of the law by naming the companies in which they have ownership interests.
The law requires only that they list the types of businesses in which they have interests that exceed $5,000 or 5 per cent of a company or other financial entity. The law does not require the candidates to disclose the value of their holdings and Miller did not. Marston said Miller's Babcock and Wilcox stock is worth "a little more than $5,000."
Howell's statement shows that he owns stock in two small banks and a large bank holding company, giving him a financial interest in both sides of a major legislative controversy earlier this year.
In February, Howell opposed legislation that would have made it easier for large banks to establish branches to compete with small, independent banks. The bill was defeated.
His conflict statement shows that he and his wife Elizabeth M. Howell, own 500 shares in the Bank of the Commonwealth and 120 shares in the Bank of Suffolk, both small institutions. He also owns 1,020 shares in The First Virginia Corp., a large bank holding company.
"Obviously my position on the branching bill had nothing to do with my bank stock," Howell said in an interview. "I have always opposed legislation would threaten banks that are close to the people."
Howell said his two small banks investments "have not been so good" but that his stock in First Virginia, whose interests he opposed this year, "has been terrific."
"I only paid $900 for that stock some years ago," he said. "I should have mortgaged the house and sold the kids and bought all I could."