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

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.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

PORTLAND - Washington and Oregon are getting serious about finding a replacement for the gas tax. Steadily improving fuel efficiency in cars is eroding the primary source of road funding in the Northwest. A new report to the 2013 Washington Legislature finds it "feasible" to have drivers pay by the mile instead. In Oregon, lawmakers have actually drafted legislation to do just that.

Suburban Portland SUV owner Mary Olson has possibly glimpsed the future of how we'll pay for roads, although it's tricky to spot.

Wikipedia

An investigation by the Pac-12 athletic conference released Tuesday finds no evidence that Washington State University football coaches physically or mentally abused players. WSU's president requested the outside probe. He did so after an athlete who quit and the parent of another former player alleged the coaching staff was "out of control."

Wash. Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

State and federal biologists say they are confident they have minimized the invasive species threat posed by a derelict dock that washed ashore last month in Olympic National Park. The concrete and steel dock appears to have drifted across the Pacific Ocean after last year's tsunami in Japan. But the story is not over yet.

National Park Service

Federal and state biologists are trekking back to a remote beach in Olympic National Park where a large dock washed ashore. The concrete and steel dock appears to have drifted across the Pacific Ocean after last year's tsunami in Japan.

Washington Marine Debris Task Force spokeswoman Virginia Painter says the primary goal of Thursday's expedition is to scrape potential invasive species off the hulk.

"All the agencies agreed that the invasive species removal has to be the first priority, so that is what this is about."

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