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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When a massive tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan in 2011, waves of water overtopped sea walls, swallowed buildings and surged higher than anticipated. One thing those images prompted was a reexamination of the tsunami risk in the Pacific Northwest.

With an assist from Microsoft, Washington state’s Department of Transportation has launched a feasibility study of bullet train service in Cascadia.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Seattle raised strong objections Tuesday at a Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., about e-commerce taxation.

Olympic National Park is inching ahead on a plan to reduce or eliminate its population of non-native mountain goats. A draft plan released Monday for public comment includes options to relocate or kill the animals.

If you liked the warm, dry start to our Northwest summer, you'll probably like the rest of it. There's no change to the dominant weather pattern in sight.

Texting or holding a phone to your ear while driving is already illegal in Washington state. But starting Sunday, Washington state troopers and local police will begin enforcing a toughened law against distracted driving.

The statewide unemployment rate for Washington is holding at its record low in the latest jobs report out Wednesday. The state's Employment Security Department pegged the jobless rate in June at 4.5 percent, the same as in May.


When you were younger, do you remember there being a piano store in your neighborhood or at the mall? There are many fewer piano dealers today than there used to be. Those who weren't done in by cheaper electronic keyboards or the last recession are changing their tunes to stay in the money.

An archaeologist from Eugene has just returned from an expedition to an uninhabited South Pacific island with new clues about the possible fate of Amelia Earhart. The pioneer aviator and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared 80 years ago—creating an enduring mystery and fascination.

A Richland, Washington, flower shop owner who was on the losing end of a same-sex wedding discrimination case now wants to piggyback on an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court argument.

Heavily armed police officers found no evidence Wednesday morning of an active shooter on the Washington State Capitol Campus following a report of suspicious noises that sounded like gunshots. 

The entire campus in Olympia was put on lockdown at approximately 9:30 a.m. while officers armed with rifles searched a pair of buildings on the east campus that house the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Social and Health Services.

Fewer than one in five homeowners in the West carry earthquake insurance, according to an insurance industry survey. That would set back our region's recovery if the Big One were to hit tomorrow.

Now both Oregon and Washington state are looking to California for a possible solution to get their numbers up.

For the first time since 1983, there will be no statewide initiatives on the November ballot in Washington state. More than 30 initiatives to the people had been filed in Washington since January.

Friday was the deadline to turn in qualifying signatures.

Online shoppers in Washington state may soon have to pay sales tax on out-of-state e-commerce purchases. Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday is expected to sign a package of tax increases just approved by the state legislature to balance the next two-year budget.

But the internet sales tax seems likely to be challenged in court.

Courtesy of R2AK Facebook page

Here's what your sporty friends should be talking about today. An Orcas Island, Washington, man is the first person to complete the Race to Alaska on a standup paddleboard. He stroked 750 miles solo from Port Townsend up the Inside Passage, crossing the finish line in Ketchikan Sunday.

Evergreen State College President George Bridges said he'll be seeking state assistance to add more training, equipment and staff for campus security. Student unrest and outside threats caused repeated disruptions during the recently ended spring term on the Olympia campus.

Law enforcement prepared for protesters and counterprotesters on the Evergreen State College campus in Olympia, Washington, Thursday afternoon—the day before this year's graduation ceremony.

Now that it's legal in Washington state, a handful of farmers and the Colville tribe have submitted applications to grow industrial hemp. On Tuesday, Moses Lake will be the scene of a "first planting" demonstration of the non-drug cousin of marijuana.

Friday classes have been canceled at The Evergreen State College, making for two days of missed education after the campus near Olympia was abruptly closed and swarmed by police due to a telephoned threat.

Civic boosters in an Olympic Peninsula rainforest town are looking to a trove of movie props and costumes to maintain the flow of vampire tourism. A collection related to the bestselling "Twilight" teen vampire romance series, which was set in real life Forks, Washington, opened to the public there Thursday.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday ordered a second 30-day overtime session of the state legislature. It began immediately after the adjournment of the first special session.

Consumers who thought they were doing the right thing by buying rooftop solar systems made by a Pacific Northwest company called Silicon Energy are in a pickle. Many of those solar panels have now been labeled defective and a fire risk.

The majority of Washingtonians with a regular driver's license will have an interesting choice to make the next time they renew—a choice possibly coming to Oregon too. Continue with the same old license they have grown accustomed to or apply for a so-called "enhanced driver license."

A crowd of women in pink Planned Parenthood T-shirts surrounded Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday morning as he signed a bill to improve access to birth control.

Vulnerability assessments by utilities and emergency planners along the U.S. West Coast suggest it could be weeks or a month or more before water service gets restored after a major earthquake - not to mention electricity, sewage treatment and fuel supply too. The social and economic disruption does not have to be that bad though, given adequate preparedness and investments in critical infrastructure as demonstrated in Japan.

A thorn in cross-border relations between the northwestern U.S. and Canada is going away. And therefore so too is one of the best protest mascots in recent history.

For more than a decade, a character named Mr. Floatie—a piece of poo wearing a sailor's cap—nagged greater Victoria's politicians and citizens in falsetto voice to stop dumping the capital region's raw sewage in shared border waters.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Public schools in Washington state would be encouraged, but not required, to hold at least one earthquake drill per year under a measure scheduled for the governor's signature tomorrow.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Police in Olympia had their hands full Monday night with a May Day mob that smashed windows and engaged in running street battles. 

The Chelan County Public Utility District Board of Commissioners is playing ball with Alcoa Corporation in hopes of bringing back hundreds of well-paid manufacturing jobs. Commissioners voted 4-0 to postpone a big charge the aluminum maker faced for idling its smelter near Wenatchee at the beginning of last year.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Public utility commissioners in Chelan County, Washington, take a high stakes vote Monday that could influence whether the aluminum industry and its well-paid, blue collar jobs make a comeback in the Pacific Northwest.

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