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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If you watch sports on TV, you can't miss the barrage of advertising for fantasy sports websites. Washington and Montana are two of only six states that keep out fantasy sports operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

The preliminary investigation of a deadly wildfire in August gives a detailed account of how three Forest Service firefighters met their deaths near Twisp, Washington.

The administration of Washington Governor Jay Inslee is moving ahead with a plan to limit greenhouse gas pollution from the state's largest industrial sources.

Food scientists at Washington State University have an unusual new partner to help them evaluate drinks, medicines and sweeteners. It's called the "electronic tongue.”

A South Puget Sound tribe is planning a grand opening at 4:20 p.m. on Thursday for what it believes is the nation's first marijuana store on a reservation.

A photographer from Wenatchee, Washington, has made a revealing discovery at the scene of a remote and long-abandoned fire lookout: a pile of very old firewood.

Bellingham, Washington-based Haggen mushroomed in size at the beginning of 2015 by acquiring 146 grocery stores across the West from Boise-based Albertsons and Safeway. Those two chains had to unload stores to gain federal approval to merge.

If you want to go to college to learn how to design, build, fly or fix a drone, your time has come. Many institutions of higher learning around the Northwest are recognizing that unmanned aircraft could become a key technology of the future.

Phyllis Fletcher / Northwest News Network

By a wide margin, Washington voters have banned under state law the trade in elephant ivory, rhino horns and certain other endangered wildlife parts. Initiative 1401 is passing with more than 70 percent of the vote in favor statewide.

Billionaire Paul Allen bankrolled the measure to expand and toughen state penalties for animal trafficking on top of the federal laws and international treaties that already ban imports of endangered wildlife. The president of Allen's company Vulcan Inc. is Barb Bennett. She thanked Washington voters on his behalf at a victory party Tuesday night.

"Ride the Ducks" amphibious tours in Seattle will remain suspended until at least January of next year. That was the bottom line from an update about the ongoing investigation of the tour company involved in a deadly crash on Seattle's Aurora Bridge.

Thousands of federal inmates were sent home Friday after their drug sentences were shortened. That includes dozens of convicts from the Northwest.

Supporters of a citizens’ initiative to create a new tax on carbon emissions in Washington state have delivered most of the petition signatures they need to put their issue before the legislature -- and then on the 2016 ballot.

The Boeing Company's unmanned aircraft subsidiary based in the Columbia River Gorge passed a milestone this week in commercializing drone technology.

According to an industry trade group, sales of alternatives to modern wheat are growing at double-digit annual rates.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines has fallen to worst among the U.S. mainline carriers for mishandled bags. Fortunately for Northwest travelers, the unhappy distinction may be short-lived.

Killer whale biologists used a hexacopter drone last month to capture stunning, overhead photos of every single member of the endangered Puget Sound orca population.

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.


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