Tucson Electric Power Co. officials told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday it proposes converting its big Tucson power plant to natural gas from coal.

That would be a way to meet proposed EPA air quality standards aimed at clearing the air over national parks in Arizona.

“It makes a lot of sense," TEP spokesman Joseph Barrios said. "It’s better for the environment. It’s a cost-effective alternative. And it’s something that we feel is ultimately in the best interest of our customers.”

The proposal came at an EPA hearing in Tucson on the proposed emissions standards that would affect six industrial sites in the state, including the TEP Sundt power plant on South Irvington Road and the CalPortland Rillito cement plant northwest of Tucson.

The EPA believes the proposed emission levels will not affect business at any facility, but will protect 17 national parks and wilderness areas in five states.

“We want to protect those places," said the EPA's Colleen McKaughan. "But we want to do it in a way where businesses can still continue to operate in a very profitable way and serve their customers to.”

The proposals are open for public comment through March.