Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Sen. Cathy Osten and Sen. Paul Formica watch the vote (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Unwilling to allow a nuclear plant closure in Connecticut, the Senate passed legislation Friday that asks energy regulators to examine the Waterford facility and determine if it’s necessary to give them the power to bid on energy contracts.

The bill, which now goes to the House, passed 23-8 with four members recusing themselves and one who was absent.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said early Friday morning that he didn’t know what would happen with the legislation in the lower chamber.

“It’s very controversial in our caucus,” Aresimowicz said.

Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said the bill is not only a jobs and economic issue, but an energy issue because Millstone provides 50 percent of the power to the state of Connecticut.

This “will allow this station to operate over the short term,” Formica said.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has been critical of plant owner Dominion Energy, is expected to be supportive of the legislation.

Dominion Energy has threatened to close the nuclear reactor, which employs more than 1,100 workers and provides an economic benefit to that part of the state.

“Without action this year, the prospects for continued operation of Millstone diminish,” Paul Koonce, CEO of Dominion’s Power Generation Group, has said.

Malloy signed an executive order this year that required the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Public Utility Regulatory Authority to examine Millstone and its place within Connecticut’s energy portfolio.

The executive order says resource assessment is needed to determine how Connecticut should take action to support existing nuclear power facilities. Malloy pointed out that facilities across the country have been closing.

Part of the reason facilities are closing is related to the low price of natural gas and the high cost of keeping the facilities running. Malloy acknowledged those competitive pressures and environmental concerns in his executive order.

Representatives of Dominion Energy have repeatedly said they would decline to share financial information with state regulators, but lawmakers felt that stance might soften as the process continues.

The legislation builds on Malloy’s executive order and if the appraisal of Millstone is accepted then it would allow the DEEP Commissioner to issue a bid for zero carbon electricity.

The bill requires the commissioner to solicit proposals for up to 12 million megawatt-hours of energy annually, in the aggregate, from zero-carbon electricity generating resources that meet certain requirements.

Opponents say it sets up a system where Dominion will be the only company that can win the bid. They don’t believe the nuclear facility is struggling financially.