- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Tucson Electric Power is halting the use of coal at its largest facility after years of pressure from environmentalists.

The electric utility company fed the last 5 tons of coal onto conveyer belts that supply generators last week and will rely on natural gas.

The Arizona Daily Star reports (https://bit.ly/1TCVJRj) TEP got its south-side power plant out of the coal-burning business on Thursday.

The announcement came on the same day that U.S. Sen. John McCain visited TEP employees. The Republican told employees he opposes a federal plan that would require the utility to use still less coal.

The changes come over two years ahead of schedule under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to end coal use by Dec. 31, 2017.

Environmentalists had been pressuring TEP to stop coal-burning because it produces heat-trapping greenhouse gases and can harm public health.

“With the current low cost of natural gas, ending our use of coal at the Sundt Generating Station is a cost-effective way to improve our environmental performance while preserving the reliability of our local electric service,” said David Hutchens, TEP’s president and CEO.

The plant will be cleaned over the next weeks for any remaining coal.

TEP delivers energy to 414,000 customers and is the second-largest investor-owned utility in Arizona.

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