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 legend and theorizing about Northwest skyjacker D.B. Cooper just won’t die. A new documentary about the unsolved 1971 hijacking introduces a new twist to the tale. It suggests we might have been looking for D.B. Cooper and his loot in the wrong place for all these years.

On the evening of March 7, a bright flash, a tremendous boom and a rumble like an earthquake alarmed people in coastal Washington state. Next week, scientists will attempt an underwater recovery of the shattered meteorite that caused all that.

They're life-jacket orange, they're robots and they're capable of sailing the high seas without human intervention.

On Tuesday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a private contractor launched a pair of unmanned “Saildrones” in Pacific Northwest waters for the first time. Their summer-long voyage to collect fish data will stretch from Vancouver Island to California.

Earlier this week in Tacoma, Washington, police tactical squads staged coordinated raids on middle class homes converted into indoor pot farms. What the authorities found follows a recent pattern in West Coast states: all of the marijuana growers arrested were immigrants from China who spoke little or no English.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the Washington state courts to take a new look at the case of a florist from Richland who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. The justices declined to hear the case themselves a few weeks after issuing a narrow ruling in a similar case involving a Colorado bakery.

Beginning next month, driver’s licenses in Washington state will be changing. Regular licenses and ID cards will be marked with the words “federal limits apply.” Oregon is going down this path too, but not until mid-2020.

The starting gun fires bright and early Thursday morning for the fourth annual running of the maritime Race to Alaska. The 750-mile adventure marathon has been compared to the Iditarod but with a chance of drowning, being run down by a freighter, or getting eaten by a grizzly bear.

The Port of Newport on the Oregon coast has revoked a docking permit for a pair of tall ships based out of Aberdeen, Washington. Efforts to reach a compromise between the port and the ships' operator seem to be foundering.

Renewable energy developers are showing interest in converting public grazing lands in sunny central Washington into large solar farms.

The Olympia city prosecutor's office confirmed to public radio Thursday that it will file animal neglect charges in the next day or two against the owner of an Oregon-based sloth sanctuary. This is fallout from a raid two months ago on a satellite center under development in Olympia, Washington.

Coastal erosion is chewing away at one of the Northwest's most popular recreation areas. It's threatening the main campground and other amenities at Cape Disappointment State Park, which has the second most camper visits in the Washington State Park system.

In an earthquake or wildfire or other disaster, you typically can’t bring your animals with you into a shelter. This is a reason why some people choose not to evacuate when they ought to.

Some Northwest localities have volunteer “Animals in Disaster” teams to handle pet rescue, preparedness and emergency sheltering tasks. Cannon Beach is the latest to establish one.

Aptly nicknamed Washaway Beach, in Pacific County, Washington, has long suffered from the most extreme coastal erosion along the whole U.S. West Coast. Now a relatively low cost defense is raising hopes among property owners and nearby cranberry growers.

Seven different companies have notified Washington's Department of Licensing that they plan to test self-driving vehicles on roads in the state. Oregon transportation officials have gotten notifications from two other companies.

A rare cougar attack east of Seattle left one bicyclist dead and another seriously injured over the weekend.

In farm fields from the Willamette Valley to the Kittitas Valley and east to Idaho, energy developers want to plant a new crop: commercial solar arrays. But a surge in utility-scale solar farm applications is generating pushback.

Washington drivers who are thinking about buying an electric car would be wise to get down to a dealership in the next two weeks. That's because a valuable tax break disappears at month's end.

Portland may become the first city in the Pacific Northwest to require all owners of old brick buildings to make earthquake safety upgrades. But being on the leading edge is not a comfortable place.

It’s no secret that the aviation industry is facing a shortage of airline pilots. But that isn’t the only aviation career grappling with a labor shortage. Aircraft mechanics and flight simulator technicians are also in high demand.

Before there was an Oregon, Idaho and Washington state, there was the Oregon Country. Early settlers and pioneers voted to form a provisional territorial government 175 years ago this week.  The vote was close and featured arguments that may sound surprisingly familiar today.

The pivotal decision will be celebrated Saturday as Founders Day at the spot where it happened in Marion County.

Two  projects launched in April aim to help bees in the Pacific Northwest, at a time when pesticides, parasites and loss of habitat make survival harder for both wild bumble bees and domesticated honeybees. 

You could almost start a zoo with all of the exotic creatures seized by animal control officers in Olympia about three weeks ago. Now the owners of an Oregon-based private wildlife center are petitioning to get their animals back. 

One of the diciest points in an airline merger is consolidating computer systems. That moment arrives Tuesday night for Alaska Airlines and its former West Coast rival Virgin America.

Nearly 20 percent of people in Washington and 15 percent in Oregon speak a language other than English at home. Emergency managers from around the West are grappling with how to reach people in foreign languages in the midst of a disaster. A new Washington state law seeks to raise the bar.

Students from Oregon State University, Granite Falls High School in Washington and the University of British Columbia are among 99 teams pushing the boundaries of automotive fuel efficiency. The Northwest students are driving in an international competition in California through this weekend.

Bellingham, Washington, dedicates a new monument this Saturday that speaks to the Pacific Northwest's long and conflicted history with immigration. The "Arch of Healing and Reconciliation" memorializes the past expulsions of immigrant Sikhs, Japanese and Chinese.

More than 30 popular hiking trails on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge remain closed because of hazards left in the wake of last year's Eagle Creek wildfire. That has park rangers wrangling crowds on the unburned Washington side of the Gorge.

In congressional testimony Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said he has heard the strong opposition from the West Coast to the Trump administration's plan for offshore oil and gas drilling. He expressed doubt drilling would ever happen along the Pacific Northwest coast.

A Northwest author is hoping the movie rights to his recent nonfiction bestseller shift away from The Weinstein Company. The Hollywood studio's upcoming bankruptcy court auction may offer an opening.

When the price of one bitcoin soared to almost $20,000 late last year, an influx of entrepreneurs and developers came to the Pacific Northwest in search of cheap hydropower to do bitcoin "mining."

But now cities, counties and utilities at the epicenter in central Washington are hitting the pause button. The cryptocurrency businesses bring tech jobs—but they are also electricity hogs.

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