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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Michael Pereckas / Flickr

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Stricter recordkeeping requirements for scrap metal dealers and sellers have not stopped trafficking in stolen copper wire and metal parts. That's according to Northwest police agencies and crime victims. So in Olympia Friday, Washington state lawmakers promised to look at further steps including a possible blacklist of suspicious sellers.

Link Transit

In the last couple years, you've seen mass-produced, 100 percent electric cars take to the streets in the Northwest. In the same vein, now come the first battery powered buses. And we're not talking about trolley buses that get juice from overhead wires.

FBI

A decade on the lam has ended for a suspect in a string of eco-sabotage attacks across the American West.  Alleged Earth Liberation Front fugitive Rebecca J. Rubin turned herself in at the Canadian border Thursday morning. 

Later in the day, she showed little emotion during a brief appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Outside the federal courthouse, defense attorney Richard Troberman explained why Rubin surrendered.  "She really wants to move her life forward without these impediments. It was just time," said Troberman.

Rahul Nair / Flickr

Sawmills in the Northwest have significantly ramped up production in response to the rebound in construction nationally. That's according to a market survey by an industry consultant based near Seattle.

Wood Resources International president Hakan Ekstrom says the region's sawmills are returning to profitability thanks to a happy coincidence of rising domestic and foreign demand.

Friends of Washoe

The director of a chimpanzee institute at Central Washington University says she feels urgency to bring in new animals. The education and research program in Ellensburg is now down to two aging chimps after the weekend death of another ape known for his sign language abilities.

The chimpanzee named "Dar" was 36 years old when he died unexpectedly on Saturday of unknown causes. Autopsy results are expected later this week.

Randy Hoodenpyl

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Heavy rains and high winds are making it hard to get around parts of western Washington and northwest Oregon this afternoon. Flood watches and warnings are in effect across a wide area of the Northwest. At least half a dozen mudslides have blocked highways and rail lines since this morning .

The freight train of storms pummeling the Northwest has saturated soils. Some places are not getting enough time between downpours for the water to drain off. Oregon's Department of Geology put all of western Oregon on notice for increased potential of landslides.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - In Olympia, a new revenue outlook shows a shortfall in the next state budget cycle. That is putting renewed attention on promises not to raise taxes.

Washington's Democratic governor-elect Jay Inslee made such a pledge during the recent campaign. So did many Republicans elected to the Legislature.

The chief budget writer for House Democrats, Ross Hunter, says he's working on a no-new-taxes spending blueprint for the next two years. But Hunter Wednesday predicted the product will include so many unpalatable cuts, he doubts it could pass.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Eugene-based track star Ashton Eaton already has a world record to his name and a gold medal in decathlon from this year's London Olympics. 

Bobak Ha'Eri / Wikimedia

A Pac-12 spokesman said Monday that the athletic conference does not have a timeline for completing a review of the WSU football program. 

CLE ELUM, Wash. - Heavy air tankers are dropping retardant on a stubborn wildfire still wreaking havoc in Washington’s Kittitas Valley.

While overall it seems like firefighters are getting the upper hand on what’s now called the Taylor Bridge fire, it’s clear that in places, it’s still putting up stiff resistance.

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