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 fastest land mammal in North America is again running free in north central Washington after a long absence. In late January, the Colville Tribes relocated 52 pronghorn antelope onto their reservation as part of a reintroduction effort.

A few short months from now, federal and state foresters around the West will purposely set controlled burns to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires later. This is a regular practice in Oregon, Idaho and California, but much less common in Washington state.

Federal agencies and university scientists are making progress on the deployment of an earthquake early warning system for the West Coast. That was one of the messages from a half-day earthquake preparedness summit hosted by the White House Tuesday.

In Salem and Olympia, some lawmakers are looking for a middle way on raising the minimum wage. In both capitals, there's hope that a modest wage increase with business and labor support could head off or trump oncoming ballot measures.

One of the Northwest’s selling points is its cheap hydropower. That’s why in recent years data centers have sprouted along the Columbia River in both Washington and Oregon.

But in north central Washington, an emerging power-hungry industry is meeting with some resistance. It involves the making and managing of the virtual currency called bitcoin.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Once upon a time, the Northwest was home to ten massive aluminum smelters. As of today, just one still operates. And the Alcoa company plans to idle that smelter near Ferndale, Washington, indefinitely in June.

Is it the end for a one-time pillar of the Northwest economy or merely a pause?

A panel of the Idaho House of Representatives voted Tuesday to add a state income tax cut to the legislative session agenda.

Police agencies in Washington state would not be allowed to rate officers by how many traffic tickets they hand out under a proposal put forward by a former Spokane police officer.

Students and parents with kids soon heading to a state college or university have reason to pay attention to the Washington and Idaho legislatures this coming month.

 A fashion faux pas could be the worst consequence if you wear the wrong color for the season. But a new scientific paper finds much higher stakes when it comes to mismatched coat colors in the animal world.

Washington's governor is ruling out a direct public subsidy to save the jobs of hundreds of workers at the Northwest's last operational aluminum smelters. But other forms of support such as retraining assistance remain under consideration.

A proposed summertime ban on consumer fireworks is firing people up at the Washington state Capitol. It’s just one of many ideas being floated in Northwest statehouses to avoid a repeat of last summer's bad wildfire season.

The state of Idaho is moving to ban powdered alcohol before it ever appears on store shelves. Oregon and Washington did the same last year.

Some Democrats in the Washington House want the state to take a look at what it could do to cut back on light pollution.

Education funding was front and center Monday as the Idaho and Washington state legislatures convened for their 2016 sessions.

The Department of Homeland Security Friday extended its deadline for non-compliant states to raise ID card standards. That means a regular driver's license issued by Idaho, Oregon or Washington state will be acceptable identification to board an airplane for at least another two years.

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter spoke forcefully about observing the “rule of law” in his first comments on the armed protesters in adjacent eastern Oregon.

Idaho Governor Butch Otter said he has received reassurances from the federal government about the adequacy of vetting of refugees from the war-torn Middle East.

The fast expansion and spectacular meltdown of the Haggen grocery chain has left thousands of people in the Northwest with fewer places to buy their groceries. Safeway even got a monopoly as the only large supermarket in a whole county of eastern Oregon.

With the start of a new year comes an increase in health care costs for many local employers and workers. The average increase for 2016 health plan premiums reviewed by the state insurance departments of Oregon, Washington and Idaho significantly exceeded the rate of inflation.

The national debate about whether or not to welcome refugees from the war-torn Middle East was hashed out again in Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate. In Twin Falls, Idaho, conservative activists are not just talking about the issue, they're taking action.

Making school buildings strong enough to withstand a major earthquake is one of the highest priorities for emergency planners on the West Coast. Washington state is taking small steps to identify the most vulnerable schools, while Oregon is actually spending to fix things.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and Paul Allen's company Vulcan Inc. are teaming up to stage a $40 million to $50 million winner-take-all competition. The prize will go to the "mid-sized" American city that comes up with the best plan to use technology of any sort to improve mobility and reduce pollution. 

Wouldn't it be nice to get a check from your electric utility instead of a bill? That's exactly what happens for a select few homeowners in the Pacific Northwest whose solar-powered houses generate more electricity than they use over the course of the year.

You may remember the good old days when a domestic airline seat came with free checked bags and a meal. Now just about all coach passengers have to pay for those things. Next year, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines will join competitors in offering a "premium economy" class with more legroom for a fee.

According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, fatal crashes involving drivers under the influence of marijuana have risen sharply since Washington voters legalized recreational pot in 2012.

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 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 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.