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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Photo courtesy Hanson Dodge Creative

Some Olympic hopefuls are lucky. They have six-figure endorsement contracts and can concentrate solely on training for peak performance. More commonly, dreams of Olympic glory mean scrounging for dollars. One runner from Eugene even auctioned his left shoulder on eBay recently. Correspondent Tom Banse reports on some creative personal fundraising by elite local athletes.

Photo courtesy Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines and its subsidiary Horizon Air continue to make money despite sharply higher fuel prices. Executives with the Seattle based airline group Thursday reported a twelfth consecutive quarterly profit. CEO elect Brad Tilden says the 28 million dollar net profit in this year's first quarter is "marginally" smaller than the same quarter last year.

Brad Tilden: "Given this quarter's solid results and the current demand environment, we're cautiously optimistic about 2012. The biggest headwind is high fuel prices and their impact both on our cost structure and on the pocketbooks of our customers."

Photo Credit: USGS / Northwest News Network

Geologists have discovered two previously unknown earthquake faults, and possibly a third, near Bellingham, Wash. The scientists working for the U.S. Geological Survey believe the shallow faults are capable of spawning damaging tremors.

A day after Oregon delivered a virtually unchanged monthly jobs report for March, neighboring Washington did the same. Washington's employment department pegged the state's unemployment rate last month at 8.3 percent. That's the same as the revised rate for February.

Photo credit: Tim Melbourne, CWU / Northwest News Network

A prototype, earthquake early warning system, worked as designed when an actual quake gently shook California last Friday. Researchers reported the results Tuesday at the annual meeting of American seismologists.

Last year, a private foundation in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey gave a multimillion dollar grant to create an automated earthquake warning system for the Pacific Coast states. The idea is to provide advance notice to prepare people for severe shaking. It could come via a cell phone alert or a pop-up on your computer or TV screen.

Photo Credit: Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

A new market survey finds many of the region's farmers in an optimistic mood because demand is strong and commodity prices are high. Exceptions to the overall trend include dairy and onion farmers.

Photo Credit: United States Bureau of Reclamation

GRAND COULEE DAM, Wash. -- Federal water and dam managers are draining reservoirs in the Columbia and Snake River basins to get ready for "big water" coursing downriver. In recent weeks, the Army Corps of Engineers has called for bigger drawdowns, or as the agency calls it "drafting", to protect against flooding. Supervisory engineer Peter Brooks says more room is needed to catch runoff from the bountiful snows of March.

Photo credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is praising the rebalanced state budget that the legislature delivered to her in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. But Gregoire also told reporters Thursday that she's concerned by the very slim cushion of reserves lawmakers left in the state treasury. She indicates she will selectively veto some proposed spending to keep more cash in reserve.

Photo Credit: Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

TACOMA, Wash. - Get ready to spot a new kind of "bird" in the sky. Within the next month, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to green light the use of small unmanned aircraft by emergency services. Some sheriffs' departments in the Northwest are showing interest in these aircraft.

A forensic imaging specialist from Woodinville, Washington is lending his analytic skills to the latest search for the pioneer aviator Amelia Earhart. This analyst discovered a possible upturned landing gear in a historic photo of a tropical atoll. A two million dollar expedition to that South Pacific location takes place this summer.

Photo credit: Wolfram Burner/ Flickr / Northwest News Network

PORTLAND – Organizers of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials say they’re on track for a sellout for the eight day event in Eugene. Single day event tickets go on sale Friday morning. University of Oregon associate athletic director Vin Lananna predicts they’ll disappear fast.

Photo courtesy of Conservation Northwest

TWISP, Wash. -- A Twisp, Washington man has changed his plea to guilty in a high-profile federal wolf poaching case. As part of a plea agreement, the 62-year-old man will not go to prison. The lack of jail time greatly disappoints a conservation group. Correspondent Tom Banse has more on the story.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - Thousands of long-term unemployed workers in Washington and Oregon will no longer receive unemployment checks soon. The federal government won't pay for extended benefits anymore because the jobless rates have improved in both states.

An international research panel recommends cutting in half the global harvest of small, schooling fish like sardines, anchovy and herring.

Photo credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington Governor Chris Gregoire says she has put a compromise budget balancing proposal on the table in hopes of breaking the stalemate at the state capital. Speaking to reporters Friday, she indicated bipartisan negotiations are making some progress, but calls the talks "tenuous." Gregoire declined to reveal any details about what is included in her spending blueprint.

There are some 7,000 spoken languages in the world, and linguists project that as many as half may disappear by the end of the century. That works out to one language going extinct about every two weeks. Now, digital technology is coming to the rescue of some of those ancient tongues.

Members of the Native American Siletz tribe in Oregon say their native language, also called "Siletz," "is as old as time itself." But today, you can count the number of fluent speakers on one hand. Siletz Tribal Council Vice Chairman Bud Lane is one of them.

Photo Credit: elaen_anit, Flickr / Northwest News Network

Seventeen and a half thousand. That's how many Oregon and Washington homes could be inundated by rising seas caused by global warming over the next century. The number comes out a study by the research non-profit Climate Central and the University of Arizona.

Photo courtesy of CRITFC / Northwest News Network

The federal government has reauthorized the death penalty for the most troublesome California sea lions which congregate at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Electric car owners in Washington state would pay a $100 fee under a measure headed to the governor's desk. The aim is to offset the gas taxes these drivers are not paying. The bill passed Thursday night in one of the final votes of this year's regular session of the Washington Legislature, as Tom Banse reports.

Photo credit by Tom Banse. / Northwest News Network

It's shaping up to be a banner year for sport and commercial salmon fishing on the coast. The Pacific Fishery Management Council has released its proposals for the length of the ocean fishing season and catch limits for 2012.

Phot by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

HOOD RIVER, Ore. -- Northwest-born Gardenburger and Tofurky are vegetarian alternatives to meat. They sell well, but they don't fool any meat lovers. This year, food companies from here and abroad aim to debut fake meat products that come closer than ever to mimicking the real thing. Dutch researchers claim they can grow hamburger in the laboratory from just a few bovine stem cells. But are people really craving a Petri-patty? Correspondent Tom Banse explores that question.

Photo credit: Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

RICHLAND, Wash. – If the weather holds, the last megaloads stranded at the Port of Lewiston will head out Tuesday toward Canada’s oil sands. These oversized truckloads of oil processing machinery have been very controversial.  Now oil companies have switched to shipping smaller loads out of the Port of Pasco.

Photo Credit: Andres Engels / Wikimedia commons

Competition in the nascent market for person-to-person car rentals is heating up. The latest entrant regionally says it can help any car owner in the Northwest temporarily rent their wheels to a friend or stranger.

Photo by Yumei Wang / DOGAMI

BELLINGHAM -- Sunday marks the one year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The tsunami destruction and the Fukushima nuclear meltdown garner the most attention. There was another cause of suffering in Japan's quake zone. In some places, you couldn't get gasoline for weeks to fuel cars and generators. The Pacific Northwest is prone to the same kind of earthquake. Correspondent Tom Banse reports emergency planners say this region's fuel supply lines are vulnerable.

Photo credit: Wikimedia user Evolstephanieberkeley / Wikimedia Commons

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The state of Washington is opening the door to a new flavor of car rental, as Oregon and California have already done. The Washington Legislature just voted to tweak the auto insurance rules so you can rent your wheels to friends or strangers when you're not using your car yourself.

Courtesy by: Lisa Hayward

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The latest plan to save the imperiled Northern spotted owl allows shooting an invasive rival bird, the barred owl. An important part of the recovery plan is getting accurate owl counts. Researchers have been experimenting with specially trained dogs that can identify spotted owl and barred owl roosts. But as Correspondent Tom Banse reports, it's not clear yet whether the technique will catch on.

Photo by: BP

There's more evidence that a big oil refinery in Northwest Washington will be out of service for a long time. Refinery owner BP says it's arranging for replacement fuel to be shipped to the region from as far away as Singapore.

Photo credit: Andrew Lee / Wikimedia commons

The oil company BP is zeroing in on a cause for last week's explosion at its big Cherry Point refinery near Ferndale, Washington. But the investigation and repairs are moving slowly. That doesn't bode well for gasoline prices in Western Washington and Oregon. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

Photo credit: WDFW / Photo courtesy WDFW

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has increased its Karelian Bear Dog force by fifty percent. This breed of working dog has proven effective against nuisance bears. Correspondent Tom Banse says the idea is to re-instill fear of human neighborhoods.

Photo Credit: K. David Harrison / Northwest News Network

VANCOUVER, Canada - Usually it is good news when the Northwest appears on a top five list. But this one is not. Our region ranks near the top of a list of global hotspots for disappearing languages. The reason is that speakers of Native American languages are dwindling. Correspondent Tom Banse reports on how digital technology is coming to the rescue of some ancient tongues.

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