Tom Banse | KUOW News and Information

Tom Banse

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.

Construction begins soon in eastern Oregon for the first commercial-scale "torrefaction" facility in the country. If you don't know what that word means, you're in good company. 

But the process itself isn't all that exotic. 

You're forgiven if you missed the fact that Congress failed to renew the federal Farm Bill before the September 30 deadline. But people in farm country around the Pacific Northwest noticed.

A Western Washington chapter of the Boy Scouts is preparing to welcome girls to scouting with a "boot camp" just for teenage girls this coming weekend.

The idea behind the two-night campout is to familiarize girls with scouting skills and prepare them for leadership. As of next year, the Boy Scouts will establish separate all-female and all-male troops.

The eye-catching scenes of mountain goats flying through the air under helicopters, riding in refrigerated trucks and taking ferries to new homes are done for the year. Roundups and relocations of non-native Olympic National Park goats will resume next year.

Retaliatory tariffs levied by China on U.S. goods are taking a toll on Pacific Northwest farm exports. Details about cancelled orders came out Wednesday at a state Senate committee hearing in Seattle.

Deer have already begun using an unfinished wildlife bridge over Interstate 90 east of Snoqualmie Pass. The Washington State Department of Transportation on Monday celebrated the opening of a section of widened freeway there. The new overcrossing is expected to reduce frightening animal-vehicle collisions.

Hackers are using various forms of digital skullduggery to steal frequent flyer miles from customers of Delta, Alaska and other airlines. The thieves then resell the miles on the dark web.

In the last few years, rock-bottom electricity rates have attracted bitcoin miners and other virtual currency entrepreneurs to central Washington state. But in Chelan and Grant counties, that lure may be on the wane because of looming power price hikes.


The Chinese government announced on Tuesday that it would impose tariffs on $60 billion more of U.S. exports. This widens the range of Pacific Northwest companies caught in the trade crossfire.

Wildlife biologists have relocated the first two dozen of hundreds of non-native mountain goats slated for removal from Olympic National Park. The logistically-challenging capture and transfer of the woolly wild animals to the northern Cascade Range has been periodically slowed by weather this week.

One way to predict the risk of earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest is to look at how often they occurred in the past – and, for several groups of geologists, delving into the fault lines themselves.

Washington state government marksmen now have clearance to go out this weekend to shoot a wolf from a pack that has been preying on cattle in the Colville National Forest. A judge on Friday declined to extend a temporary stay on the killing won by several environmental groups last week.

Ocean researchers have found nearly 1,000 methane seep sites along the continental shelf of the Pacific Northwest. The bubble streams could be a sign of offshore energy potential, represent a greenhouse gas threat — or be neither of those things at all.

Horror tales from recent earthquakes overseas are moving people in Seattle, Portland and along the Pacific Northwest coast to give a crap about where to crap after a major earthquake.

It's not something we typically discuss in polite company, but disaster planners say that when water and sewage service fails, finding a place to poop is a big deal.

Construction is underway on the Oregon coast for a new earthquake-hardened marine science building. It will have Oregon's first tsunami vertical evacuation refuge on the roof.

The cities of Portland and Salem made eyebrow-raising discoveries earlier this month when they compared the number of formally licensed short-term rentals with actual listings scraped off of the Airbnb platform. Around 80 percent of the listings appeared to be unregistered.

Now, cities are finding a new way to monitor unregistered listings: third-party vendors with names like Host Compliance and STR Helper.

Hot housing markets in major cities like Seattle and Portland have pushed the cities to regulate short-term rentals like Airbnb. But small Pacific Northwest towns popular with visitors are also struggling to balance the growth of Airbnb-type rentals with a tight housing supply. 

Newport, Oregon, is the latest to put those types of rentals in the crosshairs.

Less than 200 years ago, the easiest way to get around a lot of the Pacific Northwest was by canoe. The first American steamship to provide regular service among Puget Sound ports arrived in 1853.

This small steamship, propelled by paddlewheels attached to its sides, was called the Fairy. But its success was short-lived. It soon blew up and sank.

An emaciated, 4-year-old Pacific Northwest orca is drawing alarm.

NOAA Fisheries spokesman Michael Milstein said feeding live Chinook salmon to the female orca, possibly laced with medication, is being considered.

In a clash of protected species, Pacific Northwest members of Congress are coming down in favor of salmon. The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday morning to make it easier to kill sea lions who feast on Columbia and Willamette River salmon and steelhead.

The craft brewing industry in the Pacific Northwest is starting to feel pain from the Trump administration's steel and aluminum tariffs. Those metals are made into beer cans, kegs and fermentation tanks.

The two biggest blood networks in the Pacific Northwest say the region's blood supply is suffering a critical shortage.

The U.S. and Canadian governments have scheduled a second and third round of negotiations to modernize the Columbia River Treaty. The 54-year-old treaty provides flood protection to Portland and smoothes out Northwest hydropower production.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has finalized shorter hours for several border crossings in northeastern Washington state, effective this fall. The reduction in operating hours in one case was modified based on protests from the local community.

The push for a bullet train between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, BC, is getting additional backing. The state of Oregon and Microsoft Corporation are putting money into an in-depth "business case analysis" previously launched by Washington and British Columbia.

Policymakers, academics and regional industry leaders from the U.S. and western Canada are getting together in Spokane Monday to get an update on ongoing talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. So far, top U.S., Canadian and Mexican officials have missed numerous self-imposed deadlines to reach a deal.

During every berry picking season in the Pacific Northwest, blueberry and raspberry growers fight to prevent birds from gobbling up the crop before they can harvest it. This year, some farmers are trying something new and high tech to scare away the thieving birds.

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.

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