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GOLDSBORO, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s main electric company is shutting down a coal-burning power plant near Goldsboro as it shifts to generating power with cleaner natural gas.

Progress Energy Carolinas officially closed its Lee power plant on Saturday. New gas-fueled units will begin operating early next year.

The subsidiary of Duke Energy opened the first of its three coal units there in 1951 as one of Progress’ first major construction projects after World War II.

Progress says it plans to close all of its coal-fired plants lacking advanced environmental controls by the end of next year.

Progress retired one coal-fired power plant near Lumberton last October. It also aims to shut down plants near Moncure, Wilmington and Hartsville, S.C., by the end of 2013.

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