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.

Ways to Connect

The fast expansion and spectacular meltdown of the Haggen grocery chain has left thousands of people in the Northwest with fewer places to buy their groceries. Safeway even got a monopoly as the only large supermarket in a whole county of eastern Oregon.

With the start of a new year comes an increase in health care costs for many local employers and workers. The average increase for 2016 health plan premiums reviewed by the state insurance departments of Oregon, Washington and Idaho significantly exceeded the rate of inflation.

The national debate about whether or not to welcome refugees from the war-torn Middle East was hashed out again in Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate. In Twin Falls, Idaho, conservative activists are not just talking about the issue, they're taking action.

Making school buildings strong enough to withstand a major earthquake is one of the highest priorities for emergency planners on the West Coast. Washington state is taking small steps to identify the most vulnerable schools, while Oregon is actually spending to fix things.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and Paul Allen's company Vulcan Inc. are teaming up to stage a $40 million to $50 million winner-take-all competition. The prize will go to the "mid-sized" American city that comes up with the best plan to use technology of any sort to improve mobility and reduce pollution. 

Wouldn't it be nice to get a check from your electric utility instead of a bill? That's exactly what happens for a select few homeowners in the Pacific Northwest whose solar-powered houses generate more electricity than they use over the course of the year.

You may remember the good old days when a domestic airline seat came with free checked bags and a meal. Now just about all coach passengers have to pay for those things. Next year, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines will join competitors in offering a "premium economy" class with more legroom for a fee.

According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, fatal crashes involving drivers under the influence of marijuana have risen sharply since Washington voters legalized recreational pot in 2012.

If you watch sports on TV, you can't miss the barrage of advertising for fantasy sports websites. Washington and Montana are two of only six states that keep out fantasy sports operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

The administration of Washington Governor Jay Inslee is moving ahead with a plan to limit greenhouse gas pollution from the state's largest industrial sources.

Food scientists at Washington State University have an unusual new partner to help them evaluate drinks, medicines and sweeteners. It's called the "electronic tongue.”

A photographer from Wenatchee, Washington, has made a revealing discovery at the scene of a remote and long-abandoned fire lookout: a pile of very old firewood.

A South Puget Sound tribe is planning a grand opening at 4:20 p.m. on Thursday for what it believes is the nation's first marijuana store on a reservation.

Bellingham, Washington-based Haggen mushroomed in size at the beginning of 2015 by acquiring 146 grocery stores across the West from Boise-based Albertsons and Safeway. Those two chains had to unload stores to gain federal approval to merge.

If you want to go to college to learn how to design, build, fly or fix a drone, your time has come. Many institutions of higher learning around the Northwest are recognizing that unmanned aircraft could become a key technology of the future.

"Ride the Ducks" amphibious tours in Seattle will remain suspended until at least January of next year. That was the bottom line from an update about the ongoing investigation of the tour company involved in a deadly crash on Seattle's Aurora Bridge.

Thousands of federal inmates were sent home Friday after their drug sentences were shortened. That includes dozens of convicts from the Northwest.

Supporters of a citizens’ initiative to create a new tax on carbon emissions in Washington state have delivered most of the petition signatures they need to put their issue before the legislature -- and then on the 2016 ballot.

The Boeing Company's unmanned aircraft subsidiary based in the Columbia River Gorge passed a milestone this week in commercializing drone technology.

According to an industry trade group, sales of alternatives to modern wheat are growing at double-digit annual rates.

Commercial imports of elephant ivory have been banned by federal and international law for decades. But now wildlife activists are pressing West Coast states to pass their own laws to deter the poaching of elephants and rhinos.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines has fallen to worst among the U.S. mainline carriers for mishandled bags. Fortunately for Northwest travelers, the unhappy distinction may be short-lived.

Killer whale biologists used a hexacopter drone last month to capture stunning, overhead photos of every single member of the endangered Puget Sound orca population.

Tsunami warning sirens wailed up and down the Washington coast Thursday. Students, businesses and medical workers drilled for an earthquake and tsunami as part of an annual event called "The Great Shakeout."

Tom Banse

Consumer drones look like child's play after you get a gander at the unmanned, water-dropping helicopter that was pitched to the federal government on Wednesday.

It was suitably smoky out when the dual rotor K-MAX powered up for a large audience of federal firefighting managers. A late season wildfire in Boise County supplied the unplanned haze.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin and helicopter maker Kaman supplied the glimpse into unmanned aerial firefighting.

A surgeon at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle said the serious burns to five electricians and dam operators injured in Thursday’s explosion at Priest Rapids Dam in central Washington are consistent with "arc flash."

Ted S. Warren / AP

A Washington State Representative who has been trying to make paid family leave available to all workers says a new federal grant will be a big help. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded $247,000 to Washington state to research how paid family leave might be implemented.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Software giant Microsoft got several chances on Wednesday to impress Chinese leaders with the company's vision of a "free and open" internet. Microsoft's CEO showed the president of China new gadgets at the corporate campus.

Ted S. Warren / AP

The administration of Washington Governor Jay Inslee has officially begun crafting new rules to cap greenhouse gas pollution from large industrial sources. Inslee is flexing his executive powers to bypass the state legislature, which has repeatedly chosen not to put a price on carbon.

Andrea Melendez / AP

Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with titans of Northwest commerce this week on their home turf: Think Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon. Visits from Chinese dignitaries are often accompanied by announcements of deals or sales.

Pages