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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Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

DONNELLY, Idaho - The real estate crash triggered some big bankruptcies in the Northwest, but few are as spectacular and convoluted as the foreclosure of the unfinished Tamarack Resort in western Idaho. What was supposed to be the Northwest's newest destination resort remains in extended legal limbo, but plucky homeowners are keeping it alive until a new buyer arrives.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

ABERDEEN, Wash. – The Northwest is on the verge of becoming a gateway for crude oil. Three different developers have plans to use docks on Grays Harbor, Washington to transfer crude oil from trains to ships. Other projects are getting off the ground in Tacoma, Vancouver, B.C. and on the lower Columbia River.

There was a huge turnout Wednesday night at an introductory public workshop in Aberdeen, Washington. The response indicates crude-by-rail may be the region’s next big environmental controversy.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

TURNER, Ore. - When a dog finds its first truffle -- the fungus, not the chocolate candy -- the sound you hear will most likely be the voice of a very excited dog handler.

And you might be as excited as Mia MacCollin of Bend if your pet showed an aptitude to find buried treasure. And treasure it is. The native Oregon white truffle can fetch several hundred dollars per pound at retail.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - The Pentagon's decision to allow women in combat roles has some female soldiers rethinking their career trajectories.

Army Spc. Heidi Olson received a Purple Heart last year for shrapnel injuries she got during a foot patrol in Afghanistan. She feels she's earned the right to call herself a combat medic.

"Originally as a female, I wasn't allowed to be titled as a combat medic," Olson says. "It was a 'health care specialist.'"

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. - When you order that special filet at a restaurant or store, you're often going on trust that the fish actually is what the menu or label says it is. In Washington, two state agencies are asking for tougher penalties to deter seafood fraud.

Investigators for Consumer Reports recently found more than one-fifth of the fish they submitted for DNA identification was mislabeled at the point of sale.

Washington Fish and Wildlife police deputy chief Mike Cenci says the penalties for false labeling need to be stronger.

Just about all the cities in the Northwest have endured a stretch of abnormally cold weather. Now an updated three-month climate outlook suggests the past could be prologue.

The latest computer model run by the National Climate Prediction Center increases the likelihood for below normal temperatures during the next three months in most of our region. This applies to all of Washington, nearly all of Oregon and the northern half of Idaho.

Washington State Climatologist Nick Bond says to get used to "chilly."

EPA

A small engineering firm in Seattle says it has developed a system to capture carbon dioxide going up power plant smokestacks and convert it to methanol. The solvent is also known as wood alcohol and as an Indy race car fuel.

Brett Scott is chief counsel for Emission Resource Group. He says having a viable method to refine CO2 into methanol could make it worthwhile for fossil fuel burners to capture the greenhouse gas.

US Fish & Wildlife Service

A federal agency plans a major effort to preemptively rescue about 65 deer upriver from Astoria. The animals live on a floodplain beside the lower Columbia River.

These aren't just any deer. They're an endangered species: the Columbian white-tailed deer. One of this animal's strongholds is a national wildlife refuge near Cathlamet, Washington. But now the Columbia River is on the verge of bursting through a failing dike at the edge of the refuge.

National Park Service

A dock that washed ashore on a remote Washington beach last month is now confirmed as debris from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan. This news comes just as the federal government requests bids from salvage companies to get rid of the huge hulk.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Unemployment has dropped to a four-year low in Washington. The state Employment Department Wednesday released the latest jobless stats. During December, Washington's unemployment rate fell to 7.6 percent -- one-tenth of a percentage point lower than the revised rate for November.

The state's chief labor economist, Joe Elling, tempers his enthusiasm though. He says the decline is mostly caused by a shrinking labor force.

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