SEATTLE -- Outside money is pouring into local elections in Whatcom County and may influence whether the area becomes home to the largest coal shipping terminal on the West Coast.

A $600 million Gateway Pacific Terminal project proposed outside Bellingham could export as much as 48 million tons of coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asia.

An environmental political action committee has independently spent $224,000 to back candidates they believe oppose the project.

Meanwhile, coal interests have given more than $100,000 to a local conservative political committee backing candidates they believe favor the project.

Four of the seven seats on the Whatcom County Council are up for grabs in the Nov. 5 election.

The council will decide whether to approve permits for the coal-export terminal, but the project also requires permits from the state and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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