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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The Federal Communications Commission is trying to consolidate broadcast TV spectrum in order to free up more bandwidth for wireless data transmission. The initial bids to buy back the airwaves used by some Northwest TV stations reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

Tsunami warning sirens wailed up and down the Washington coast Thursday. Students, businesses and medical workers drilled for an earthquake and tsunami as part of an annual event called "The Great Shakeout."

More than 1.5 million Northwesterners signed up to take part in this year's "Great ShakeOut" on Thursday morning. While "drop, cover and hold" is part of the annual earthquake safety drill everywhere, some coastal schools and offices followed up with tsunami evacuation practice.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Consumer drones look like child's play after you get a gander at the unmanned, water-dropping helicopter that was pitched to the federal government Wednesday. The K-MAX chopper is the largest of several remotely-piloted firefighting aircraft to get a tryout this year.

Tom Banse / / Northwest News Network

Talk about a big drone… Federal wildfire fighting agencies got a close-up look Wednesday at a remotely piloted helicopter that can fly through smoke or darkness to drop water or ferry supplies. 

A surgeon at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle said the serious burns to five electricians and dam operators injured in Thursday’s explosion at Priest Rapids Dam in central Washington are consistent with "arc flash."

Commercial imports of elephant ivory have been banned by federal and international law for decades. But now wildlife activists are pressing West Coast states to pass their own laws to deter the poaching of elephants and rhinos.

Plant breeders, Northwest chefs and farmers are co-developing innovative new vegetables and grains. The bounty was sampled a tasting party in Portland Monday night.

A Washington state lawmaker who has been trying to make paid family leave available to all workers said a new federal grant will be a big help. 

The state employment departments in Oregon and Washington are organizing 'rapid response' teams to help nearly 1,000 grocery workers facing mass layoff.

Software giant Microsoft had several chances Wednesday to impress Chinese leaders with the company's vision of a "free and open" Internet.

Solar company REC Silicon Tuesday warned of big layoffs at a factory in central Washington if a trade dispute between the U.S. and China drags on much longer.

WALTER SIEGMUND / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The administration of Washington Governor Jay Inslee has officially begun a rulemaking to cap greenhouse gas pollution from large industrial sources. Inslee is flexing his executive powers to bypass the state legislature, which has repeatedly chosen not to put a price on carbon.

Damian Dovarganes / Associated Pres

Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with titans of Northwest commerce this week on their home turf: Think Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon. Visits from Chinese dignitaries are often accompanied by announcements of deals or sales. Northwest companies also have nagging irritations to air out with our Chinese visitors

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Over the weekend, vampires were afoot in a small town on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Fans of a bestselling teen vampire romance series flooded into the town of Forks from all over the country. They marked the 10th anniversary of the publication of the first book in the Twilight Saga. 

Three police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a rock-throwing man in Pasco, Washington, last February will not face criminal charges.

Multiple times this summer, the sighting of a wayward hobbyist drone has grounded aerial firefighting aircraft at Western wildfires. But unmanned aircraft have the potential to be useful at wildfires too.

At high schools and universities across the Inland Northwest, student athletes have been forced to practice indoors due to dense wildfire smoke.

The incident command for Washington’s biggest wildfire requested a mental health team to help people in Okanogan County. A national nonprofit called Green Cross has responded to the call.

Unhealthy smoke continued to blanket large parts of central and eastern Washington state and north Idaho Wednesday. Some workers in north central Washington were sent home because the dense smoke was rated downright “hazardous.”

More firefighters continue to arrive on the front lines of the nation’s highest priority wildfire. It’s the 400 square mile complex of lightning-sparked fires near the Canadian border in north central Washington dubbed the Okanogan Complex.

The fight against the huge wildfires in north central Washington has turned a corner. Fire bosses have even started using words like “optimistic” and “great progress.”

President Obama Friday declared an emergency in Washington state because of wildfires, freeing up more federal aid.

The "steady upward climb" in job creation around the Northwest continues this summer.

Everyone is accounted for and no one was injured by a flash flood and debris flow in Mount Rainier National Park. It happened Thursday when the terminus of the South Tahoma Glacier broke off and released trapped meltwater.

A historically strong El Niño is taking shape according to climatologists watching the Pacific Ocean. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said during a briefing Thursday that the current El Niño has the potential to develop into one of the most potent on record by late fall or early winter.

Depictions of possible poaching caused Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Police to investigate and then clear the History Channel reality TV show "The Woodsmen."

Idaho fish and game regulators want there to be no doubt that hunters cannot use drones. In Oregon as well, lawmakers have tried to head off a fair chase issue before it rears its head.

Two-time Olympian Nick Symmonds has been dropped from the U.S. team for the upcoming world track and field championships in Beijing. U.S. team managers announced their roster Monday.

In southwestern Idaho, biologists are purposefully making a racket this summer to study the value of natural quiet. A Boise State University research team is testing how wildlife and humans respond to noise pollution.

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