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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Effective this October, a standard Oregon or Washington driver's license won't pass muster with the Transportation Security Administration to board a domestic flight. Both Oregon and Washington drivers licensing managers are expecting long wait times this summer as a surge of deadline-driven travelers apply for upgraded IDs that are federally acceptable.

Remember back when it didn't cost anything to visit a state park for the day? A senior Republican in the Washington Legislature says the state's budget surplus should make it possible for park access to be free again.

The Boeing Company is close to maxing out the storage space it has leased at the Moses Lake, Washington, airport for its grounded 737 Max airliners. The plane maker plans to deploy a fresh wave of mechanics across the mountains to maintain the large fleet until those planes can fly again.

The decades-long quest of Chinook tribal members to regain federal recognition gets another airing in court on Monday. A U.S. District Court judge is scheduled to hear oral arguments on cross-claims for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by the tribe against the Department of the Interior.

The panel that sets highway and bridge tolls in Washington is recommending the state follow Oregon's lead and phase in a pay-by-the-mile road tax to make up for expected declines in gas tax revenue. The nonbinding recommendation to the Washington Legislature from the state Transportation Commission drew flak from skeptical taxpayers and faces a bumpy road ahead in the 2020 election year.

In this season of holiday shopping, now is about the time when many of us get stuck and don't know what to get for someone on our gift list. There are at least three Pacific Northwest companies who may come to your rescue with ideas for unconventional presents. A hint: they involve used dolls, a precious, exotic spice and a different kind of gift card.

Unsettling Toy Removal and Rehoming

Airbus has wrapped up flight testing of a pilotless air taxi in eastern Oregon skies and is moving on. The global aerospace company, along with its rival Boeing and many others, is striving to make flying cars an option for your urban commute someday.

A fully electric seaplane has made its first flight over the mouth of the Fraser River near Vancouver.  The maiden flight represents a milestone in the long process of reducing the aviation industry's emissions, noise and costs by electrifying short-to-medium distance commercial flying.

Several hundred people crowded the riverbank on Tuesday morning to witness what they hoped would be a historic moment. They were not disappointed.

Thursday was supposed to be the day that a Washington state ballot measure to lower car registration fees took effect. But the state Supreme Court has let an injunction stand against what is known as the $30 car tabs initiative. That means hundreds of thousands of drivers will get full price bills in the coming months that they thought they had voted to reduce.

New earthquake research to be presented by Oregon-based geologists next week sounds like a B movie plot -- a great earthquake along the Pacific Northwest's offshore Cascadia fault triggers another great earthquake on the northern San Andreas Fault. In what may be a case where life imitates art -- or more precisely, where science catches up to the fertile imaginations of Hollywood script writers -- attendees at a major earth science meeting in San Francisco will hear evidence that this cascade of disaster happened many times over the past couple of millennia.

State officials are worried about a possible mess at Pacific Northwest airports and driver licensing offices. Next October, the Transportation Security Administration will stop accepting regular Washington and Oregon driver licenses to pass through airport screening checkpoints.

It's been more than 15 years since a British Airways Concorde made its final landing in Seattle. The needle-nosed supersonic jet was added to the collection of the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field.

Now, new companies are poised to bring back supersonic commercial flying. A recently-formed industry group wants to designate airspace over the inland Northwest for the flight testing.

Another passenger badly injured in the Amtrak train derailment south of Tacoma nearly two years ago will collect big-time damages. But suing Amtrak like this suburban Seattle woman did will no longer be an option after future crashes.

Tuesday's vote in Washington state to roll back car registration fees has scrambled transportation budgets. But Pacific Northwest rail advocates are undeterred in pursuing their vision of a bullet train connection between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, Canada.

If you ask American consumers whether fresh seafood or previously frozen tastes better, you are bound to get "fresh" as the answer. But blind taste tests conducted by Oregon State University found that fish caught and quickly frozen at sea rated as good or better than supposedly "fresh" fish bought at the supermarket.

It's time to fall back again this weekend. You'll get to change your clocks from daylight time to standard time for maybe the last time. More likely though, it won't be the last time as West Coast states and provinces strive to sync their adoption of permanent daylight saving time.

The hunt is on for a second major airport to serve the Puget Sound region after Seattle-Tacoma International Airport reaches capacity. A newly-created public commission on Wednesday kicked off a planned two-year search for a new airport location.

As scenic train rides go, it would be a plum ticket. Pacific Northwest passenger rail buffs are gathering in La Grande, Oregon, this Saturday to drum up support to bring back part of a long ago canceled Amtrak route, the Pioneer.

The state of Oregon is pushing the community hospitals along the Oregon Coast to improve their earthquake resilience. This comes after a state report predicted none of them would be able to sustain operations after the feared Big One -- a magnitude 9 offshore Cascadia earthquake and tsunami.

Hospitals in Washington state were called out too, in a separate report by that state's government. The challenge is inspiring some creative thinking about how these hospitals might secure extended emergency power and water.

An iconic Boeing jet model nicknamed the Queen of the Skies swooped back into Moses Lake, Washington, Tuesday where it once was a regular presence. This queen will be accessorized to carry bling under its wing while it's there.

Public funding for big-time sports tends to generate static. So, Oregon Governor Kate Brown is building her case now for additional taxpayer support for the IAAF World Track and Field Championships, which are coming to Eugene in two years.

A drone air taxi designed by Airbus has successfully completed 114 test flights in Pacific Northwest skies.

It was a dark and slippery early morning on the Oregon coast when researchers scrambled down the rocky shore in the small town of Yachats. 

They kept one eye on the crashing waves while scanning for two species of Pacific Northwest sea life that are now being checked for microplastics — fibers and fragments less than 5 millimeters long.

Multiple teams of earthquake researchers are looking in what may seem like an unlikely place to figure out how strongly the Pacific Northwest shook during great quakes in the past.

They're poking around the bottom of lakes in Western Washington and Oregon. It turns out lakes preserve a nifty earthquake record that can shed light on the next "Really Big One."

In this Aug. 7, 2018, photo, Southern Resident killer whale J50 and her mother, J16, swim off the west coast of Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew, B.C. J50 has since been declared dead, one of several deaths in recent years.
Brian Gisborne / Fisheries and Oceans Canada via Associated Press

The federal agency in charge of endangered orca recovery is proposing to add more than 10 million acres of Pacific coastal waters to the area it considers "critical habitat." The government does not expect the expanded habitat designation to affect coastal economies.

The movement to “ditch the switch” — the twice-yearly ritual of changing our clocks between daylight and standard time — just got a push from British Columbia, where residents signaled they are keen to join Washington state and Oregon on permanent daylight saving time.

But in California, where the idea is popular too, a new snag cropped up.

It’s a story that seemingly has it all: a classified mission, dashing young men in uniform, leaps out of flying airplanes, stray bombs, plus some wildfires and a side of racial prejudice. The little-known slice of Pacific Northwest history featuring an all-black Army battalion is less likely to be overlooked now that the state of Oregon and people in Pendleton have put up a historical marker.

The first of what could be many trials stemming from the deadly 2017 derailment of a Portland-bound Amtrak Cascades train began with the railway accepting liability for the crash.

An archaeological dig along the Salmon River in western Idaho has yielded evidence of one of the oldest human settlements in the Americas yet found.

Newly published findings from the excavation give impetus to a scientific rethinking of when and how the first people arrived in North America.

Did you feel the ground move today, or yesterday or over the weekend? Not likely, even though a wave of small tremors was spreading under people's feet in the coastal Pacific Northwest.

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