Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse covers business, environment, public policy, human interest and national news across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out-of-the-way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be heard during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Before taking his current beat, Tom covered state government and the Washington Legislature for 12 years.  He got his start in radio at WCAL-FM, a public station in southern Minnesota. Reared in Seattle, Tom graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a degree in American Studies.

When not sifting through press releases, listening to lobbyists, or driving lonely highways, Tom enjoys exploring the Olympic Peninsula backcountry and cooking dinner with his wife and friends. Tom's secret ambition is to take six months off work and travel to a faraway place beyond the reach of email.

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Cacophony / Wikipedia

The Washington Supreme Court Thursday weighed in on long-running case that has implications for labor shortages at Northwest farms and orchards. The high court unanimously upheld a costly damage award against a farm labor contractor that brought in guest workers from Thailand.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

The "world's most comprehensive collection" of opium smoking paraphernalia has a new home; it's at the University of Idaho. A writer and collector, originally from San Diego, donated the exquisite antiques. Correspondent Tom Banse has the intriguing back story of how these so-called "instruments of self-destruction" came to a small Northwest town.

San Francisco State University

There's more trouble for your hard-working backyard honey bee. Researchers have confirmed the first cases of "zombee" bees in Washington state and in the Portland area. Infection by a parasite prompts the bees to embark on what's being called a "flight of the living dead."

Kyle Miller / Red Cross

Washington state's Department of Health has shipped more than 20,000 face masks to central Washington towns blanketed by wildfire smoke. Air pollution monitors in Wenatchee, Ellensburg and nearby towns are consistently showing the air is hazardous to breathe.

Vladimir Steblina / USDA Forest Service

In central Washington, fire commanders report progress securing fire lines and limiting the spread of wildfires in the direction of threatened homes. But smoky air continues to stress thousands of people in Wenatchee, Cashmere, Entiat and Chelan.

Vladimir Steblina / USDA Forest Service

A tree faller assigned to a wildfire burning north of Wenatchee has died. The U.S. Forest Service says the man became ill Monday afternoon from an unspecified cause. He was transported to a hospital where he later died.

Shelly Pollock

For the first time, the Japanese government says it will help to cover some of the cost of cleaning up tsunami debris on American and Canadian shores. Confirmed debris swept to sea by last year's Japanese tsunami began to wash up here this spring.

Brian Sayrs / Flickr

A survey by the website finds gasoline prices at the pump are stabilizing in the Northwest going into Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately, they're stabilizing right around $4 per gallon for regular unleaded on average statewide . If it's any consolation, a study by a think tank in Seattle finds gasoline consumption in Oregon and Washington is "on a gentle downward slide."

D. Kvamme / PacifiCorp

Federal regulators have granted a short extension to complete the removal of Condit Dam on southwest Washington's White Salmon River. Originally, demolition crews were supposed to be done with the nearly year-long project by August 31.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

A damaging wildfire in central Washington has been declared 100 percent contained, this more than two weeks after it ignited. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Apparently Northwesterners are not afraid of heights and have a yen for adventure. We draw that conclusion because the industry of zip line tours and aerial adventure parks is booming in the Northwest right now. Within the past couple years, fully a dozen commercial zip line attractions have opened in Oregon, Washington and Idaho... not counting at least twelve more in British Columbia and Alaska. The revenue potential has some municipal parks departments looking to add spendy zip line attractions in public parks. Correspondent Tom Banse reports from Eatonville, Washington.

Bryan Flint / Wash. Department of Natural Resources

Fire bosses at the scene of a destructive wildfire in central Washington are letting more evacuees return to their homes Friday.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Emergency managers in central Washington have started to collect damage reports from businesses and homeowners affected by this week's destructive wildfire. That's a prerequisite to apply for federal disaster assistance. State fire investigators have established that the Taylor Bridge Fire was human-caused.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Firefighters on the scene of a destructive wildfire in central Washington are hoping to make major progress Wednesday toward containment of the blaze. The Kittitas County sheriff's office estimates more than 70 homes and cabins have been destroyed. The fire has chased hundreds of people from their homes. Amidst the ashes, correspondent Tom Banse found one unusual story of survival.

Washington’s lieutenant governor has declared a state of emergency in central Washington because of a still-growing wildfire. The emergency declaration allows the National Guard to lend helicopters to the firefighting effort. The blaze has chased hundreds of people from their homes between Cle Elum and Ellensburg.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Heavy air tankers are dropping retardant on a stubborn wildfire still wreaking havoc in Washington’s Kittitas Valley.

Richelle Risdon / Kittitas County Emergency Management.

Firefighters called in from across Washington state are gaining the upper hand over a destructive wildfire in the Kittitas Valley. Crews with bulldozers are digging fire breaks, and helicopters continue to drop buckets of water on hotspots.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Washington state troopers evacuated the state capitol building in Olympia for several hours Monday morning due to a bomb scare. Washington State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins says several witnesses saw a woman deposit a cloth shopping bag in the capitol rotunda and walk away.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Central Washington was considered at low risk for earthquakes back when big hydropower dams went up on the Columbia River many decades ago. But a recently completed seismic hazard assessment has found greater earthquake potential for the area than previously thought. Now the dam owners have to figure out how to respond. Seismic retrofits could cost ratepayers across the region hundreds of millions of dollars. Correspondent Tom Banse has this exclusive report.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Wednesday will mark the 67th anniversary of the Japanese surrender to end World War Two. With each passing anniversary, there are fewer and fewer living witnesses to the event. Correspondent Tom Banse reports time is also running low for an aging U.S. Marine veteran who wants to return a captured Japanese war flag.

Washington-born and raised goalkeeper Hope Solo saved the day, quite literally, according to her teammates in the Olympic women’s soccer final Thursday. Team USA held on for a 2-1 victory over Japan to win the gold medal. When the final horn sounded, U.S. goalie Solo was mobbed by her fellow players. Solo says she knew the game was on the line when she made a dramatic lunging save in the waning minutes of the game.

Harper's New Monthly Magazine

This Sunday, a group of mountain climbers, students and Lummi tribal members will embark on an expedition to re-create the first ascent of Washington’s second tallest peak. That's Mount Baker. The modern-day expedition includes historical touches along with some concessions to practicality.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Public participation in scientific research is mushrooming in the Northwest and across the country. The trend is called "citizen science." It can take the form of volunteer monitoring and data collection, or crowd-sourced science, or science education with a research component. One sign the movement is gaining acceptance and credibility: It's a big topic of discussion at a science conference in Portland this week. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.


Prolonged hot and dry weather is amping up wildfire activity across the inland Northwest.

Asuza Uchikura

A new report on a high profile Pierce County, Wash., murder-suicide concludes that cops and social workers should communicate better. Washington state's social service agency says the child fatality review, released Thursday, supports its belief that no one could have anticipated Josh Powell would kill his two young sons and himself.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Electric utilities in the Northwest have overachieved in meeting requirements to add renewable energy to their portfolios. That's according to fresh regulatory filings.

An audience of thousands is expected at the port of Olympia this Sunday to witness the conclusion of the annual Northwest Indian canoe journey.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Eight junior high students and their teachers from the Japanese tsunami zone arrive in Seattle Thursday. It's an unusual disaster relief effort. The schoolchildren are being treated to a free trip to escape the still difficult conditions at home, at least temporarily.

Patricio Lorente / Wikimedia

A second-time Olympian from Beaverton, Ore., will be the flag bearer for Team USA during Friday's Opening Ceremony at the London Games. U.S. team captains chose fencer Mariel Zagunis for the honor.

Meanwhile, one of the fans cheering the athletes on will be another Northwesterner who revolutionized the high jump.

Diane Gilleland / Flickr

The Northwest is known for its love of coffee. Now evidence of that is showing up in the Pacific Ocean. Researchers have found low levels of caffeine at half a dozen locations on the Oregon Coast.