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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OPT Inc.

GLENEDEN BEACH, Ore. - It goes without saying that the Pacific Ocean is vast. So it may come as a surprise to hear the sea described as "crowded." Perhaps even too crowded to make room for the nascent industry of wave and tidal energy.  Taxpayers and investors have pumped tens of millions of dollars into finding ways to turn the ocean's power into electricity.  In recent weeks, high stakes negotiations to identify wave energy sites on the Oregon Coast are finally getting somewhere.

Tom Banse. File photo of a Mazama pocket gopher

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Northwest may have another species listed as endangered. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Monday proposed listing the Mazama pocket gopher as threatened in the South Puget Sound region of western Washington. This is the third time this fall the government has moved to protect a critter that depends on dwindling Northwest prairies or coastal grasslands.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

LONG BEACH, Wash. – It’s been more than four months since the last confirmed piece of Japanese tsunami debris washed ashore on the Pacific Northwest coast. Even sightings of suspected disaster debris have tapered way off in recent months. Does that mean we’re just in a lull or past the worst of it?

Valero Alamo Bowl

‘Tis the season for college football fanatics to consult their travel agents. That’s because four Northwest teams received bowl game invites Sunday night.

The Oregon Ducks (11-1) are headed to the Fiesta Bowl outside Phoenix. They’ll play the Kansas State Wildcats (11-1) on January 3rd in a showdown of football teams that were until recently both in contention for the national championship.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The privatization of liquor sales in Washington this year is having an unintended side effect: increasing theft of booze. In Olympia Friday, lawmakers quizzed top managers of the state Liquor Control Board. The agency's deputy director, Rick Garza, says there are now five times as many liquor outlets in the state than before privatization.

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.


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.