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.

This winter, the Idaho Legislature has considered a range of what are sometimes called "message bills," introduced to convey dissatisfaction with how federal agencies are managing public lands. But the latest proposal from one conservative lawmaker went too far even for the Republican majority in the statehouse. 

Idaho counties could declare federal forestland within their borders to be a "catastrophic public nuisance" under a measure approved by an Idaho legislative committee Tuesday.

Three anti-government protesters from Idaho will stay behind bars for the time being. A fourth will have his status reviewed Thursday in Coeur d’Alene. This all stems from the armed confrontation near the Bundy Ranch in Nevada in 2014.

March 11 marks the fifth anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Visitors to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon, can now feast their eyes on a living legacy of that quake and tsunami.

Have you ever wondered about life in the deepest depths of the ocean? Oregon-based oceanographers did, so they dropped a microphone seven miles down. What they heard came as a surprise.

Republican Congressmen from several Western states are running with a theme that emerged during the recent armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. 

Oregon and Washington state lawmakers are making another try at introducing a new crop to the Northwest: Industrial hemp, the non-drug cousin of marijuana.

A vote by Idaho lawmakers Monday showed Northwest states are moving toward full compliance with driver's license security upgrades demanded by Congress more than a decade ago.

The scrambled state of the presidential nominating contest makes it more likely that Northwest states will be relevant when our time comes to vote. That starts in less than four weeks with the Idaho Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, March 8.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.”

The preliminary investigation of a deadly wildfire in August gives a detailed account of how three Forest Service firefighters met their deaths near Twisp, Washington.

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