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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The Pacific Northwest’s beloved orcas will not survive unless humans do more to ensure adequate food and cleaner, quieter waters. That was one of the messages at a crowded signing ceremony in Seattle convened by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

No one can say when exactly the next Cascadia megaquake will strike other than there's a fair chance it'll happen in our lifetimes. A new study of likely earthquake impacts in the Greater Portland region finds the exact timing and season make a big difference when it comes to casualties and damage.

Planned student walkouts Wednesday bring attention to reducing the threat of school shootings. One group of Northwest parents is pushing schools to prepare better for another kind of disaster, a major earthquake. 

On the final day of the Washington legislative session last week, lawmakers passed a bill to make it easier to prosecute police for negligent shootings. It was a compromise agreed to by groups on all sides to keep a potentially divisive initiative off the November ballot.

Now professional initiative sponsor Tim Eyman, who wasn't previously involved on this issue, filed a lawsuit Monday that argues the legislature wrongly denied the voters a say.

After several tries, blood bank couriers and wheelchair taxis with just one person on board have won coveted access to carpool lanes in order to provide better service.

Last year, Horizon Air was forced to cut back the number of flights to many Pacific Northwest cities because it didn’t have enough pilots. The Alaska Air Group subsidiary has stabilized its ranks and is slowly rebuilding service.

The Washington Legislature Thursday approved further study of a super-fast train from Portland to Seattle to Vancouver, BC.

The Big One, Serialized

Mar 6, 2018

Do you have two weeks of food, water and other essentials to survive after a catastrophic earthquake or other disaster? Most Pacific Northwesterners mean well but aren't prepared. In Portland, on the Washington Coast, in British Columbia and now in Bellingham, writers tackled The Big One in serial form to motivate people into action.

If you're thinking about buying an electric car in Washington state, you might want to act fast. That's because the state Legislature is on the verge of letting a hefty sales tax break expire. In Oregon, an electric car rebate faces a challenge in court next week.

Your internet service should be free of slow lanes and corporate favoritism if legislation just signed in Washington state and awaiting the governor's signature in Oregon works as intended. The states' objectives were to block a federal rollback of Obama-era net neutrality rules.

The Winter Olympics ended on Sunday under a shower of fireworks with athletes waving flags and dancing exuberantly to K-Pop music. None of the 13 athletes with Pacific Northwest roots who competed in PyeongChang won a medal. But they seem to be coming home happy anyway.

The four-man bobsled competition at the Winter Olympics this weekend offers the last realistic chance for a Pacific Northwest athlete to bring home a medal. None of the 12 Northwest Olympians in South Korea has stood on the podium so far in these Winter Games.

While you may be able to easily change your coat when the snow melts, it’s not so simple for animals whose fur turns white in winter for camouflage. A new study finds they'll need to rapidly evolve to match a climate with less snow.

If you've been watching the Winter Olympics, you may have noticed athletes native to one country competing for a different country's team. In fact, there are four Northwest-raised and trained Olympians who are competing under foreign flags.

Now that the Winter Olympics have you pumped about snow sports, you might head into the hills for some real, live athletic feats. Conveniently, a ski area in north central Washington state has set up a luge sledding course.

If you're looking for an adrenaline-packed event to watch on TV during this year’s Winter Games, you’ll almost certainly be drawn to ski jumping. It’s a sport where the competitors speed down a ramp at nearly 60 mph before soaring hundreds of feet through the air.

It looks so extreme, you probably wonder how these athletes get their start.

The first Olympic medals of the 2018 Winter Games are up for grabs this weekend. Pacific Northwest athletes in action include short track speedskaters Aaron Tran and J.R. Celski of Federal Way, Washington, in the men's 1500m and cross country skier Erik Bjornsen from Washington's Methow Valley in men's skiathlon.

The head of Cooke Aquaculture says he's furious about "scare tactics" that he says are driving a push to end Atlantic salmon farming in Puget Sound. The Washington Senate voted 35-12 Thursday to phase out aquatic leases for net pens holding non-native fish.

With traffic congestion getting ever worse in the Seattle metro area, two classes of solo drivers are asking for permission to use the carpool lanes.

But it's a hard sell in Olympia.

The Airbus subsidiary behind a self-flying, battery-powered passenger drone says the prototype has made its first flight at Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton.

Athletic talent runs in the family on the U.S. Olympic team headed to South Korea for the 2018 Winter Games. There are three sets of siblings on this year's Olympic cross-country skiing squad—two of which have Northwest roots.

Over the weekend, Washington state tightened the screws—again—on an Atlantic salmon farming operation. The state Department of Natural Resources Saturday terminated the lease for Cooke Aquaculture's Cypress Island fish farm near Anacortes.

Nowadays the vast fields of grain in eastern Washington and northeastern Oregon feed the world. But once upon a time—1825 to be exact—the first crop of wheat in the Northwest was planted at Fort Vancouver.

For the rest of the 19th century, many farmers grew wheat, oats, rye and barley west of Cascades. Now, foodies, farmers and others are collaborating to revitalize the historic grain production on the wet side.

Geology experts with Washington's Department of Natural Resource have quit making predictions for when a slow-moving landslide might break loose. About 20 acres of the hillside are in motion near the community of Union Gap, Washington. 

A regulatory snafu in Washington state has industrial hemp farmers in limbo over planting a crop in 2018. Some of them are looking to shift acreage to Oregon.

The U.S. Olympic Committee officially announced the members of the 2018 Olympic Team Friday morning. Ten athletes from Oregon and Washington made the cut. Additionally, two snowboarders and two skiers raised in the Pacific Northwest will compete at the PyeongChang Games for other countries.

The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea runs from February 8-25.

The U.S. Olympic Committee officially announced the members of the 2018 Olympic Team Friday morning and the Pacific Northwest was well represented.

Ten athletes from Oregon and Washington state will travel with Team USA to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, including downhill skiers, cross country skiers, short track speed skaters, a snowboarder and one bobsledder. Additionally, two snowboarders raised in the Pacific Northwest will compete at the PyeongChang Games for other countries -- Australia and Russia.

Federal investigators have interviewed the engineer who was at the controls of Amtrak Cascades Train 501 that derailed last month south of Tacoma. The interview summary points more strongly to human error as the cause of the deadly wreck.

Washington state officials have proposed a new tack to save the Pacific Northwest's critically endangered orca population. Their idea is to boost salmon hatchery production by 10 to 20 million more fish per year to provide more food for the iconic killer whales.

In Olympia, state lawmakers are considering stronger protections for the critically endangered population of resident killer whales.