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How an election in a small Washington town could change the planet

The smoke stacks at a coal power plant.
The smoke stacks at a coal power plant.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

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A tiny political race in a tiny county is on the verge of making a big decision for the American coal industry. Whatcom County in northwest Washington State is the possible future home of a shipping port that would send 48 million tons of coal a year from the American West to China. 

But the fate of the giant port hinges on a local race for four seats on the county council. As the nation's appetite for coal shrinks, this shipping port could have a huge impact on the coal industry, the environment and even trade relations across the Pacific.

Coral Davenport covers energy and the environment for the National Journal, she joins the show to explain.