The last coal delivery to Duke Energy’s power plant in south Asheville arrived Monday by train. It was a milestone in the pending closure of the Lake Julian power plant, which has been operating since 1964.

Duke is closing down the plant and transitioning to a one fueled with natural gas. The new plant should be up and running by the end of this year or early next year.

Duke last year announced plans to close all of seven of its North Carolina coal plants, a process it said would take a total of 30 years. The company is making the move for a number of reasons. It can generate more power with the new gas-fired plant, and it can address environmental concerns such as moving to more wind and solar power. Another reason to move away from coal – to stop dealing with costly, dangerous coal ash disposal and remediation. Local and national environmental groups have waged tough and successful legal battles against the utility on that front over the past several years.

Utilities across the country are moving away from coal, and while environmentalists cheer that, they also don’t see a natural gas plant as all that much better. They’re continuing to push utilities to go deeper into renewable energy sources.

Councilwoman Julie Mayfield, who works as co-director of the environmental nonprofit MountainTrue, shared the coal trail photo in a Facebook post on Tuesday. Here’s some of what Mayfield wrote:

“As the sign says, this is the last coal train to ever come through Asheville to deliver coal to the Lake Julian plant. This reflects the success of the Asheville Beyond Coal Campaign, led by the Sierra Club, MountainTrue, and the Waterkeeper Alliance – all ably represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center. Securing the closure of this plant is the kind of victory that is hard to come by in this work, and I am proud to have worked alongside so many smart, strategic, dedicated people to achieve it.”

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