Brunswick County power plant notorious for questionable environmental practices shutters

The Capital Power plant in Southport will cease operations at the end of the day Wednesday. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy of Capital Power)

SOUTHPORT — Wednesday marks the last day of operations for a Brunswick County power plant that has earned a controversial reputation for threatening the environment and posing health risks to the community.

Canadian-based Capital Power, or CPI USA, said in a statement it will not renew its expiring power-purchase agreement with Duke Energy for its 88-megawatt plant in Southport.

RELATED: Environmental concerns raised over ‘far too lax’ Southport power plant discharge permit, hearing this week


The closure was first revealed in a state-consent filing last October, almost a year after heightened public outcry for increased accountability of the facility.

A November 2019 hearing held by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality for Capital Power’s pollutant discharge permits was well-attended by residents of local beach communities troubled by the dumping of potentially harmful wastewater into the ocean. As well, neighbors voiced displeasure with residue from smokestacks coating their homes, cars and gardens.

Although the permits were issued that winter, the month following the hearing, the plant was fined more than $470,000 by DEQ for excessive sulfur dioxide emissions. The state consent order with DEQ required Capital Power to step up its control of sulfur dioxide for the remainder of its days.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, a litigation group that has advocated for reduced air pollution by Capital Power, noted in a statement that sulfur dioxide pollution irritates skin and eyes, and exacerbates asthma and heart problems. Poor air quality can also heighten the risk of death from Covid-19.

“CPI’s harmful and unlawful pollution has gone on long enough,” attorney Leslie Griffith of Southern Environmental Law Center said in the November statement. “This order will mean cleaner air and water for Brunswick County.”

‘Considerable public interest’ in the site

For 15 years Capital Power has owned and operated the plant in Southport, providing steam to the neighboring food processing plant, Archer Daniels Midland Company on East Moore Street. Before 2006, Primary Energy Ventures ran the site.

Capital Power is engaging a project manager and environmental consulting firm TRC to see that the facility is closed cautiously over the next four to eight weeks.

“We’ll safely secure the facility once operations end to ensure that the site is managed in an environmentally sound manner and start the decommissioning process,” Capital Power stated.

Work to remove equipment, demolish structures and site reclamation will continue through 2021 and possibly into 2022.

The company said it will directly reach out to residents and stakeholders with updates on the decommissioning of the Southport facility. It also plans to publish details on its website starting Thursday, April 1.

Once the land of the Capital Power plant is cleared and the terms of the lease are finalized, the land will return to Duke Energy and rejoin the 1,200-acre Brunswick Nuclear Plant site, according to the electric power holding company.

A spokesperson for Duke Energy said there are no plans for the future of the property as of yet.

“We are committed to being good neighbors and recognize there is considerable public interest in future development at the site,” the spokesperson said. “When we have a clearer idea for how the site could be used, we will share those plans with our neighbors.”

Moving forward

As a “farewell,” Capital Power gifted contributions to the Southport Fire Department, Dosher Memorial Hospital Foundation, Brunswick Family Assistance Agency and Brunswick County NAACP.

It’s providing “transition support” to the staff of both the Brunswick County plant and Person County facility in Roxboro, N.C., which is also closing as the power-purchase agreement nears expiration. CPI employs 50 workers at the Southport site and 35 in Roxboro.

In a press release, CPI highlighted plans to pursue solar-power generation in North Carolina. Construction on three new solar development projects totaling 160 megawatts across Gaston, Lincoln, Rutherford and Stokes counties are expected to break ground in late 2021 or early 2022.

“We appreciate the opportunity to deliver reliable power and support the local economy, as well as to contribute to local charities and community organizations,” Capital Power stated in the release.


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