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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Bertha has reached her goal.

The cutterhead on Seattle's troubled tunnel machine broke through the 20-foot-thick wall of a rescue pit at about noon on Thursday. Video from a television helicopter showed a big plume of dust coming from inside the pit as the machine emerges.

Alliance Defending Freedom



A judge in Benton County, Washington has ruled that a flower shop in the Tri-Cities broke the law when it refused to serve a gay couple planning a wedding two years ago.

The judge said Barronelle Stutzman broke state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. In 2013, she told Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed she couldn't do the flower arrangements for their wedding because of her religious convictions against same-sex marriage.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo


Legislative moves to limit school immunization exemptions are drawing vocal opposition from some parents. Opponents of mandatory vaccination crowded a public hearing at the state capitol in Olympia Tuesday, and the scene could repeat itself in Salem Wednesday.

A bill in the Washington legislature would no longer allow schoolchildren to skip vaccinations on personal or philosophical grounds. Religious and medical exemptions would remain.

Walter Siegmund / Wikimedia Commons


The worsening labor dispute at West Coast container ports is causing shippers to search for alternate pathways to and from Asia.

An obvious place to look is the thriving port in Vancouver, B.C., but officials there say they can't absorb much diverted traffic.

Titleist46 / Flickr


Eleven packs of wolves have recolonized northeastern Washington. Now besieged politicians from that area are seriously proposing to relocate some of those protected wolves to western and southwestern Washington where there are none.

Tom Banse


Have electric cars been on the market long enough to stand on their own without public subsidies?

That's a question state lawmakers in Olympia and Salem are wrestling with this winter.

Kristen Wyatt / AP Photo


The Washington state Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to make hemp farming legal. The measure now goes to the state House for further consideration.

State Sen. Brian Hatfield said the plant cousin of marijuana has "tremendous potential" as a crop.

Paul Eggert / Wikimedia Commons


Some Washington and Oregon legislators want to end the yearly practice of springing forward and falling back.

A state senator from Oregon and a state representative from Washington both say they were moved into action by complaints from annoyed constituents. Republican Rep. Elizabeth Scott presented a long list to a house committee in Olympia on Tuesday.

Stephan Röhl

Sometimes it's a vengeful ex-lover; sometimes a thief or a hacker is behind it. Either way, explicit, private photos of people keep getting out on the Internet.

A woman from Seattle said she was mortified just over a year ago to discover naked pictures of herself posted to a "revenge porn" website. Kim asked that her last name not be used during testimony to a Washington state Senate committee Monday.

Tom Banse


It's been a tough winter so far for many Cascade Mountains ski resorts. Five in Oregon and Washington have suspended operations until they get more snow.

Workers at the Summit at Snoqualmie are even gathering snow from parking lots and building edges and moving it uphill to keep a few runs open.

Oregon could leapfrog Washington to have the highest state minimum wage in the country if the Democratically-controlled legislature approves a proposed increase.

The steep drop in oil prices is helping to pad the bottom line of Seattle-based Alaska Airlines. But don't expect lower fares on the horizon.

The Washington and Oregon employment departments have closed the book on 2014 with the release of their December jobs numbers.

Sales of small, camera-equipped drones are soaring. Aside from air safety issues, these remotely-piloted aircraft can raise privacy concerns if they fly uninvited over your backyard or past your bedroom windows.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo


In the years before Washington and Oregon legalized recreational pot for adults, thousands of people were convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Now Washington state lawmakers are considering whether to make it simple to expunge that crime, which is no longer a crime, from a person's record. The same issue could also come up in Oregon as the legislature examines implementation of its voter-approved legalization measure.

Tom Banse

Up and down the West Coast, there are beach towns where it would be challenging to escape a tsunami.

That's because high ground is out of reach assuming the roads are buckled or jammed after a great earthquake. Now one low-lying Washington coastal town in that predicament is doing something about it.

Kristen Wyatt / AP Photo

Hemp advocates have launched a renewed bid to make hemp farming lawful in Washington state.

The non-drug variety of the cannabis plant has already been legalized in Oregon and California, but it is not commercially grown there yet.

Alex Brandon / AP Photo


A municipal court judge in suburban Seattle has dismissed domestic violence charges against home-grown soccer superstar Hope Solo.

That lifts a cloud over the U.S. national team's goalkeeper as she prepares for the upcoming Women's World Cup.

Greg Watson / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


Dredging of the Lower Snake River started Monday after a delay of several weeks due to a court challenge.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lined up two dredges to make up for lost time. The dredges are removing accumulated silt and shoals in the Snake River navigation channel and port berths near the Idaho-Washington border.

Courtesy of Shawn Forry and Justin Lichter


A pair of experienced long distance hikers are more than halfway through a full traverse of the Pacific Crest Trail in the dead of winter.

If Californians Shawn Forry and Justin Lichter reach the Mexican border this spring, they'll be the first on record to hike the length of the trail when it's mostly covered in snow.

senseFly Ltd.

Idaho-based startup Advanced Aviation Solutions has become the first company to win federal approval to use drones in farm settings.

The goal is to use small drones to help Northwest farmers grow crops more efficiently.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo


Grays Harbor County commissioners approved an emergency declaration for their coastal county Tuesday in the wake of flooding and landslides.

Damage assessment and cleanup is underway in half a dozen river basins around western Washington.

Tom Banse


Tow boat captains, wheat exporters and the directors of the farthest inland ports in the Northwest are breathing easier today.

U.S. District Court Judge James Robart Monday rejected an environmental and tribal challenge to dredging of the lower Snake River.

Thompson & Morgan


A western Oregon mail order company has begun selling what might become the top conversation starter of Northwest garden parties this summer.

It's a grafted vegetable plant that produces potatoes and tomatoes at the same time.

Sharon Drummond - dolmansaxlil / Flickr


A trip across the border to Canada could have an added appeal right now with an exchange rate that has turned quite favorable for Americans.

But this cuts two ways. It might also lead to more Canadians staying home, which could hurt retailers in U.S. border counties.

Tom Banse


A coalition in Oregon and the Democratic governor of Washington want to juice sales of electric cars by providing more state incentives.

But some critics say more taxpayer giveaways for those drivers are unnecessary.

Tom Banse


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is making a high-stakes bet that it will prevail in a pending lawsuit over Snake River dredging.

Two million taxpayer dollars could go to waste if environmental challengers succeed in blocking dredging of the West Coast's farthest inland ports.


The new federal budget sent to the president's desk over the weekend includes $5 million for earthquake early warning along the West Coast.

The proposed early warning system can't predict earthquakes; it's designed to give a heads up about strong shaking coming from a distance. It works because electronic signals can travel faster than rumbling over the surface.

Tom Banse

The labor-intensive work of rearing threatened plants and animals for restoration to the wild takes time and patience. In Oregon and Washington, a growing population doing that work is inmates.

Umptanum / Wikimedia


The Yakama Nation and neighboring tribes are strongly objecting to a Congressional move to offer public access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain, a place tribal members consider sacred.

The mountain lies in the Hanford Reach National Monument near Richland, Washington.