Tom Banse | KNKX

Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from 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 found online and heard on-air 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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An environmental nonprofit is gauging interest in the creation of an orca enclosure in Washington's San Juan Islands. The organization is hosting public outreach meetings over the coming week in six Western Washington locations.

In the span of just a few years, the Washington State Patrol has built up a fleet of more than 100 drones. At last check, the Oregon State Police had three. The Washington patrol says its small quadcopters are used for crash investigations, not for surveillance.

How's this for emergency preparedness? An elementary school located in the tsunami inundation zone in Cannon Beach, Oregon, has equipped every student with a personal disaster survival kit.

Cormorants by the thousands have taken up residence under the landmark Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia River. Their poop can corrode the bridge and that is unacceptable to the Oregon and Washington transportation departments. But what actions to take against the protected birds and whose responsibility that is are up in the air.

Boeing is running out of space to park grounded 737 Max jets in the Puget Sound region and is now sending some of its Renton, Washington, factory output to Moses Lake's spacious airport.

When you think of made-in-the-Northwest products, diamonds are probably not on your list. But soon, they could be. A contract signed Thursday for Columbia River hydropower clears the way for a foundry to make lab-created diamonds in Wenatchee, Washington.

People visiting or living along the Pacific Northwest coast may be completely cut off after "The Big One" — the feared magnitude 9.0 Cascadia earthquake and tsunami. For that reason, the U.S. Navy has been scouting landing sites along the coast for disaster relief delivery by sea. The quake preparations ticked up a notch on Monday, with a practice delivery of supplies using two hulking Navy hovercraft.

Activists are asking city or county governments of at least seven Pacific Northwest communities to defy the federal government. They want to stop the deployment of next-generation 5G cellular service.

The starting horn echoed bright and early Monday morning across Port Townsend Bay to launch the fifth annual running of a madcap maritime marathon. The 750-mile Race to Alaska has been compared by its organizers to the Iditarod sled dog race, but with a chance of drowning or getting eaten by a bear.

Get ready to hear a lot of World War II memories over the next two weeks: The milestone 75th anniversary of D-Day is coming up on June 6. Pilots from the Pacific Northwest aboard a historic plane have arrived in the United Kingdom to take part in a reenactment of the invasion of Normandy.

After wowing veterans and heads of state on the ground below in France, the plane and its Northwest crew will fly onward to Germany to participate in Berlin Airlift commemorations. The double-dose of 20th century history has meaning for crew members, most of whom weren't born yet when it happened.

Olympic National Park said a decomposing gray whale washed ashore Friday morning north of Kalaloch Campground. That makes the 24th dead whale stranding in Oregon and Washington this year during the northbound migration.

Crew training deficiencies played a crucial role in the deadly 2017 Amtrak train derailment near DuPont, Washington, according to a final report from federal investigators accepted Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

NTSB board members also had sharp criticism for a quartet of entities involved in the Amtrak Cascades service: train operator Amtrak, track owner Sound Transit, rail service funder Washington State Department of Transportion and the regulatory agency Federal Rail Administration.

Washington is getting its first new full-service state park in many years. The planned park build-out is on land the state owns along the Nisqually River near Eatonville, Washington.

Sooner or later the offshore Cascadia fault zone is going to unleash a monster earthquake and tsunami. When that day comes, you hope that coastal schools, fire stations and hospitals are located high enough so that they don't get washed away just when you really need them.

In Oregon, it's state law that new schools and public safety buildings be built outside the tsunami zone. But that rule has a bullseye on it.

With the stroke of the governor's pen Wednesday, Washington officially became the first West Coast state to ditch the twice-yearly time switch.

But the end of "spring forward-fall back" won't happen until Congress gives the green light to all of the states moving toward year-round daylight saving time.

A legend about a great flood has been passed down through the centuries among the Klallam people on the north side of Washington's Olympic Peninsula. As re-told by Klallam elder Ed Sampson on a recording preserved by a University of North Texas linguist, the people noticed the fresh water turning salty -- a detail from which we infer a tsunami. 

A big rebound in the sea lion population along the West Coast in recent years has created a constant battle to wrangle the protected animals. They're smart and fun to watch from a safe distance, but also noisy, smelly and proving to be a headache for some coastal marinas.

Wheeled autonomous robots to bring online orders to your door have the green light to enter commercial service in Washington state. Gov. Jay Inslee signed rules of the road into law Tuesday after a robotic delivery vehicle rolled into his office to deliver the bill.

In their last minute dash to adjournment Sunday, Washington state legislators revived a lapsed sales tax break for buyers of electric cars. The resurrected incentive will be similar in value to a publicly-funded rebate for battery-powered cars that Oregon now offers.

An unusually large number of gray whales are washing up dead on their northbound migration past the Oregon and Washington coasts this year.

Executives from Seattle-based Alaska Airlines say they foresee minimal impact from the ongoing grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX model.  The airline has 32 Boeing 737 MAX 9 jets on order.

Pacific Northwesterners are undeniably fond of their endangered resident killer whales. Many locals are also fans of salmon fishing, a hobby that sustains charter fishing fleets in coastal harbors from Neah Bay, Washington, to Brookings, Oregon.

But now there is a chance future fishing trips on the ocean could be curtailed to leave more food for the killer whales. Regulators are preparing to reassess the Pacific salmon harvest and an environmental lawsuit seeks more action to save orcas.

Last September, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake followed by a tsunami devastated a region of Indonesia, killing more than 4,300 people. Two Oregon State and University of Washington professors who surveyed the aftermath say the far-away disaster should elevate attention to quake-induced landslide risks here at home in the Pacific Northwest.

Fifteen years ago, the California and British Columbia governments sketched bold plans for a "hydrogen highway" for clean cars stretching from Whistler, B.C., to the Mexican border. California's then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger drove a Hummer converted to run on hydrogen. Vancouver city officials pictured travelers to the 2010 Winter Olympics leaving only water vapor exhaust in their wake.

But Oregon and Washington state didn't warm to the idea. There are still no public fueling stations for hydrogen cars in either state. (Schwarzenegger replaced his hydrogen-fueled Hummer with an electric Mercedes-Benz SUV in 2017.)

Politicians and wildlife managers are engaged in a fresh debate about whether to intervene in nature to save an imperiled species. The question is whether humans can get seals and sea lions to lay off Chinook salmon so there's more for killer whales to eat.

An electric utility in north central Washington wants to branch out into hydrogen fuel production. It would be the first of a group of power companies in the Pacific Northwest to use their dams to make "renewable hydrogen."

A former Navy landing ship commissioned during World War II could come to the rescue when a big Cascadia earthquake hits someday. A group based in Astoria, Oregon, envisions a new role in disaster relief for the storied vessel Salvage Chief.

Some psychiatric patients are spending not just hours in the emergency room, but days or a week. They're living there in the ER because there is nowhere else to send them. Pacific Northwest policymakers are now making it a priority to create more treatment capacity for people in mental health and addiction crises.

Two people who allegedly placed online ads to sell elephant ivory carvings are the first to be charged under wildlife trafficking laws passed by Pacific Northwest voters a few years ago.

Highly attractive businesswomen are considered to be less trustworthy, less truthful and more deserving to be fired, according to a researcher at Washington State University. Her provocative findings were just published online in the peer-reviewed gender studies journal Sex Roles.

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