Tom Banse

Regional Reporter

Tom Banse covers business, environment, public policy, human interest and national news 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 heard 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. During the early 1990s, he worked in the Seattle bureau of United Press International. 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. In 1996, he spent two months reporting from Bonn and Berlin, Germany on an Arthur F. Burns Fellowship. In 1999, he traversed the globe to cover the Pacific Rim (Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan) on a Jefferson Fellowship.

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.

California, Oregon and Washington state have lofty goals for increasing the number of non-polluting vehicles on the road. To achieve those goals, you and your neighbors will need to buy electric cars at a higher rate that we're seeing now.

Hundreds of electric car enthusiasts and policymakers gathered this week in Portland to weigh how to accelerate consumer demand.

At the crowded start of the men's 5000-meter race at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials last weekend, the elite runners at the line mostly wore the brightly-colored uniforms of their shoe company sponsors.

But there was also a pair of slender guys in beige, black and camouflage with the word "Army" in big block letters across their chests.

Art meets real life on so many levels at the Northwest premiere Tuesday of a new movie. "Tracktown" is set in Eugene, Oregon, the city now emblazoned with Tracktown USA banners. The movie tells the story of a young Olympic hopeful -- convincingly played by an actual Olympic hopeful.

The Federal Aviation Administration emailed all 500,000 drone owners in its registry this week to remind them to stay away from wildfires. Close calls between hobby drones and firefighting aircraft persist across the West despite repeated warnings.

A bunch of world-class golfers and some men's U.S. basketball team nominees have announced they'll skip the Rio Olympics. Concerns about contracting the Zika virus are the most common excuse. By contrast, American track and field athletes seem eager to make the U.S. team for Brazil.

In a surprise move, sportswear giant Nike has withdrawn a contract enforcement lawsuit against U.S. track and field star Boris Berian.

It was so memorable they had to do it again. The 750-mile Race to Alaska is back for a second year as 43 teams of sailors, rowers and paddlers prepare to set off from Port Townsend, Washington at 6 a.m. on Thursday.

Professional runners from the Northwest say the expulsion of the Russian track and field team from this summer’s Olympic Games sends a strong message about fair play.

Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee will further review Russia’s participation. Late last week, track and field’s world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, barred Russia from the 2016 Olympics based on allegations of systematic doping.

Traffic accident fatalities are rising at a faster rate in Northwest states than anywhere else in the country according to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Drug-impaired drivers and distracted drivers appear to be factors involved in the increase.

You may have heard about "rails-to-trails" conversions. Thanks to some entrepreneurial bicycle enthusiasts, you don't need to wait for the rails to come out in two Oregon counties. Friday, a company begins offering scenic tours along Tillamook Bay using pedal-powered contraptions that ride on the rails.

An inventory by public radio of Northwest geography found more than 200 places with names some people might consider ethnically or racially offensive. For instance, there's Negro Ben Mountain in southwest Oregon, Chinamans Hat in western Idaho, Jew Valley in southern Oregon and Redman Creek in north central Washington.

One of just a handful of American distance runners picked as likely to medal this summer at the Olympic Games is transplanted Northwesterner Evan Jager. His success in the steeplechase could draw new converts to this entertaining but slightly obscure track and field event.

In fact, Beaverton, Oregon, has already quietly become a hub of world-class steeplechasers.

Boats have to stay 200 yards away from the Northwest’s endangered resident killer whales. But what if one of those boaters launches an aerial drone to take better pictures from closer up?

It's not a theoretical question. And the answer is not as clear as law enforcement would like.

The Warrenton-Hammond School Board on the northwest Oregon Coast voted unanimously Tuesday night to remove Native American symbolism from its school mascots. The Warrenton Grade School Braves will get a name change and the high school’s "Warriors" logo will be redesigned.

A new environmental nonprofit is scouting the Pacific Northwest coast for a suitable cove or bay to establish a refuge for retired captive orca and beluga whales.

The board and staff of the new outfit, called The Whale Sanctuary Project, includes a number of people who helped return Keiko, the star of the Free Willy movie, to Icelandic waters from Newport, Oregon.

A frenzy of last minute bidding on eBay Thursday produced a nice payday for two-time Olympian Nick Symmonds of Seattle.

An ancient skeleton known as Kennewick Man moved a major step forward toward reburial Wednesday. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it has accepted DNA analysis that ties the remains found in the Tri-Cities to modern Native Americans.

The early heat wave across most of the Northwest is forecast to start winding down Wednesday. It might have felt nice while it lasted, but the unusual warmth --record-setting, in some cases-- compounded the rapid melting of the Northwest's precious mountain snowpack.

When winter officially ended last month, snow measurements showed near normal to above normal snowpack across the Northwest. In four short weeks though, the snowpack in Oregon, Washington and Idaho has significantly eroded.

An apparent surge in leakage from a huge tank of radioactive waste set off alarms at the Hanford nuclear site in south-central Washington. This involves an aging, double-shelled tank that contractors were slowly pumping out.

People who are interested in solar energy but don't own the perfect roof on which to install solar panels may have the option to buy into a bigger, centrally-located project. These are called shared solar or community solar. There's a boomlet of such projects in Washington state right now, while there are hardly any in sunnier Oregon and Idaho.

But Washington's generous solar incentives are coming under scrutiny.