Sutton Steam Plant

From Global Energy Monitor

L.V. Sutton Steam Electric Plant is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by Progress Energy near Wilmington, North Carolina. On July 3, 2012, Duke Energy acquired Progress Energy.

The coal plant was shut down in December 2013.[1]

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Progress Energy to shut Sutton and other N.C. coal plants

On December 1, 2009, Progress Energy Carolinas announced that by the end of 2017 it would permanently close all of its North Carolina coal plants without sulfur dioxide scrubbers. The 11 units at L.V. Sutton, Cape Fear, Weatherspoon, and Lee total almost 1,500 megawatts and represent about a third of the utility's coal-fired power generation in N.C. The retirement plan includes the following:

  • Lee is scheduled for retirement in 2013.
  • Sutton is slated for closure in 2014. Progress hopes to replace it with a natural gas-fired power plant.
  • Cape Fear and Weatherspoon will be shut down between 2013 and 2017. The company is considering converting 50 to 150MW of the total capacity to burn wood waste.

The closure plan was filed in response to a request by the N.C. Utilities Commission, which ordered Progress to provide its retirement schedule for "unscrubbed" coal-fired units in North Carolina. The request was a condition of the commission's approval of Progress' plan to close Lee and build a 950-MW natural gas plant at the site.[2][3]

On June 10, 2010, the North Carolina Utilities Commission gave Progress (now Duke Energy) the green light to build a 620 MW combined-cycle natural gas-fired power plant at the Sutton plant. Progress said it plans to retire the three coal-fired units at Sutton by 2014 once the natural gas-fired plant is operational. Progress is also planning on retiring the coal-fired units at its Lee Steam Plant and replacing them with natural gas-fired generation.[4]

Water contamination

Selenium study

A 2013 study by biologist Dr. Dennis Lemly at Wake Forest University, "Biological Assessment to Determine Impacts of Selenium Pollution From Coal Ash Wastewater Discharges on Fish Populations in Lake Sutton, NC," looked at the effects of selenium pollution on fish in Lake Sutton, created in 1972 when Catfish Creek - a tributary of the Cape Fear River - was dammed to provide cooling water for the L.V. Sutton plant. Lemly concluded that pollution from coal ash waste pits at a Duke Energy power plant is killing over 900,000 fish and deforming thousands more each year, due to large discharges of selenium. Selenium in high doses can cause developmental abnormalities and reproductive failure in fish and other wildlife as well as neurological damage and other health problems in humans.


In November 2013 it was reported that "a potentially toxic plume of arsenic and other chemicals" was leaking underground from a dump site at the Sutton Power Plant, threatening private water wells unusable due to groundwater contamination for 400 people in Flemington. Duke Energy confirmed the leak and agreed to pay most of a $2.25 million project to run public water lines to Flemington, after being threatened with a lawsuit.[5]

March 2011: Explosion at plant kills one worker

On March 15, 2011, an explosion at the L.V. Sutton Energy Complex killed 24-year-old Cory Rogers, an employee at the plant since 2004. Progress Energy said Rogers was doing maintenance on one of the plant's three coal-fired units, which was offline at the time. It was the plant's oldest unit, dating back to 1954. Local, state, and federal investigators are looking into the incident that Progress Energy is calling an accident.[6]

On Sept. 15, 2011, N.C. labor officials fined Progress Energy $31,500 for safety violations that contributed to Rogers death. The official explanation for the death was that hydrogen exploded while Rogers was performing maintenance. [7]

Plant Data

  • Owner: Progress Energy Carolinas Inc.
  • Parent Company: Duke Energy
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 672 MW (Megawatts)
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 113 MW (1954), 113 MW (1955), 447 MW (1972)
  • Location: 801 Sutton Steam Plant Rd., Wilmington, NC 28401
  • GPS Coordinates: 34.283786, -77.985205
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source:
  • Number of Employees:

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 3,159,267 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 19,159 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 6,345 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 160 lb.

Coal Waste Sites


On January 8, 2013, conservation groups Cape Fear River Watch, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Western North Carolina Alliance filed a lawsuit against the state Environmental Management Commission, Duke Energy, and Progress Energy seeking the cleanup or shut-down of 14 coal ash pits. The suit challenges a ruling in December 2012 by the Environmental Management Commission, which voted 9-2 that Duke and Progress ash pits were subject to less stringent regulations and were therefore not out of compliance with groundwater contamination standards. The groups argue that monitoring by Progress Energy shows persistent groundwater contamination, including arsenic levels above state standards, at the company’s Asheville Plant and Sutton Steam Plant. Sampling at 12 other coal-fired plants, the litigants contend, also show contamination.[8]

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Sutton Plant

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[9] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[10]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Sutton Steam Plant

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 40 $290,000,000
Heart attacks 59 $6,500,000
Asthma attacks 660 $34,000
Hospital admissions 29 $690,000
Chronic bronchitis 24 $11,000,000
Asthma ER visits 36 $13,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

L.V. Sutton ranked 55th on list of most polluting power plants in terms of coal waste

In January 2009, Sue Sturgis of the Institute of Southern Studies compiled a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments like the one involved in the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill.[11] The data came from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2006, the most recent year available.[12]

L.V. Sutton Steam Plant ranked number 55 on the list, with 548,210 pounds of coal combustion waste released to surface impoundments in 2006.[11]

Citizen groups

Articles and Resources


  1. Planned retirements, Sierra Club, updated March 14, 2016
  2. "Progress Energy Carolinas Plans to Retire Remaining Unscrubbed Coal Plants in N.C.," PRNewswire, December 1, 2009.
  3. Tina Casey, "Progress Energy Joins Stampede Away from Coal," Reuters, December 2, 2009.
  4. "Plans to replace coal-fired generation with natural gas approved" PowerGen Worldwide, June 10, 2010.
  5. Bertrand M. Gutierrez, "Contamination lawsuits push Duke Energy to address pollution," Winston-Salem Journal, Nov 2, 2013.
  6. "One person dead in explosion at Sutton Plant" WWAY, March 15, 2011.
  7. John Murawski, "Progress Energy fined $31,500" Raleigh News & Observer, Sept. 16, 2011.
  8. Anne Blythe, "Environmental groups seek clean up of 14 coal ash pits," News Observer, Jan. 8, 2013.
  9. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  10. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  11. 11.0 11.1 Sue Sturgis, "Coal's ticking timebomb: Could disaster strike a coal ash dump near you?," Institute for Southern Studies, January 4, 2009.
  12. TRI Explorer, EPA, accessed January 2009.

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