Tom Banse | KUOW News and Information

Tom Banse

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.

Now that the Winter Olympics have you pumped about snow sports, you might head into the hills for some real, live athletic feats. Conveniently, a ski area in north central Washington state has set up a luge sledding course.

If you're looking for an adrenaline-packed event to watch on TV during this year’s Winter Games, you’ll almost certainly be drawn to ski jumping. It’s a sport where the competitors speed down a ramp at nearly 60 mph before soaring hundreds of feet through the air.

It looks so extreme, you probably wonder how these athletes get their start.

The first Olympic medals of the 2018 Winter Games are up for grabs this weekend. Pacific Northwest athletes in action include short track speedskaters Aaron Tran and J.R. Celski of Federal Way, Washington, in the men's 1500m and cross country skier Erik Bjornsen from Washington's Methow Valley in men's skiathlon.

The head of Cooke Aquaculture says he's furious about "scare tactics" that he says are driving a push to end Atlantic salmon farming in Puget Sound. The Washington Senate voted 35-12 Thursday to phase out aquatic leases for net pens holding non-native fish.

With traffic congestion getting ever worse in the Seattle metro area, two classes of solo drivers are asking for permission to use the carpool lanes.

But it's a hard sell in Olympia.

The Airbus subsidiary behind a self-flying, battery-powered passenger drone says the prototype has made its first flight at Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton.

Over the weekend, Washington state tightened the screws—again—on an Atlantic salmon farming operation. The state Department of Natural Resources Saturday terminated the lease for Cooke Aquaculture's Cypress Island fish farm near Anacortes.

Athletic talent runs in the family on the U.S. Olympic team headed to South Korea for the 2018 Winter Games. There are three sets of siblings on this year's Olympic cross-country skiing squad—two of which have Northwest roots.

Nowadays the vast fields of grain in eastern Washington and northeastern Oregon feed the world. But once upon a time—1825 to be exact—the first crop of wheat in the Northwest was planted at Fort Vancouver.

For the rest of the 19th century, many farmers grew wheat, oats, rye and barley west of Cascades. Now, foodies, farmers and others are collaborating to revitalize the historic grain production on the wet side.

Geology experts with Washington's Department of Natural Resource have quit making predictions for when a slow-moving landslide might break loose. About 20 acres of the hillside are in motion near the community of Union Gap, Washington. 

A regulatory snafu in Washington state has industrial hemp farmers in limbo over planting a crop in 2018. Some of them are looking to shift acreage to Oregon.

The U.S. Olympic Committee officially announced the members of the 2018 Olympic Team Friday morning. Ten athletes from Oregon and Washington made the cut. Additionally, two snowboarders raised in the Pacific Northwest will compete at the PyeongChang Games for other countries.

The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea runs from February 8-25.

The U.S. Olympic Committee officially announced the members of the 2018 Olympic Team Friday morning and the Pacific Northwest was well represented.

Ten athletes from Oregon and Washington state will travel with Team USA to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, including downhill skiers, cross country skiers, short track speed skaters, a snowboarder and one bobsledder. Additionally, two snowboarders raised in the Pacific Northwest will compete at the PyeongChang Games for other countries -- Australia and Russia.

Federal investigators have interviewed the engineer who was at the controls of Amtrak Cascades Train 501 that derailed last month south of Tacoma. The interview summary points more strongly to human error as the cause of the deadly wreck.

Washington state officials have proposed a new tack to save the Pacific Northwest's critically endangered orca population. Their idea is to boost salmon hatchery production by 10 to 20 million more fish per year to provide more food for the iconic killer whales.

In Olympia, state lawmakers are considering stronger protections for the critically endangered population of resident killer whales.

When Team USA marches into a South Korean stadium for the Winter Olympics opening and closing ceremonies next month, they'll be swathed in Northwest wool. Team sponsor Ralph Lauren used wool from an Oregon ranch for the patriotic sweaters, mittens and hats.

Uncertainty reigns about which federal public lands will be open and which closed if the congressional budget standoff leads to a partial government shutdown Friday night.

Oregon and Washington officials have identified hundreds of bridges that still need to be replaced or retrofitted to withstand a magnitude 9 earthquake from the offshore Cascadia fault zone.

But the pace of highway reinforcements is picking up.

A quartet of young companies from the Seattle area have raised tens of millions of dollars by tapping into a hot tech trend. They've invented new virtual currencies and sold digital coins to the public.

These token sales are largely unregulated and are sparking increasingly frequent government warnings.

Two more Pacific Northwest athletes are heading to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

If you’re considering buying an electric car in Oregon or Washington, you might want to pay attention to possible changes in tax policy. There’s uncertainty about the tax incentives meant to spur electric car sales.

The U.S. Olympic bobsled team will be named on Monday—and there is a good chance there will be a Pacific Northwest athlete on the team. That’s unusual because the only World Cup-class bobsled track in the Western U.S. is in Utah.

Amtrak's CEO has given Oregon and Washington state officials a timeline for when the company will activate automatic safety braking systems in the Pacific Northwest. This is the technology many experts believe could have prevented last month's deadly train derailment south of Tacoma.

Cecilia Goetz was driving to work on the Monday before Christmas when a speeding Amtrak passenger train came flying off the rails above her. As part of that train crashed onto the rear of her vehicle, she thought she might die. Now she’s one of a growing number of crash survivors who have filed lawsuits against Amtrak.

Alaska Airlines is following the lead of American Airlines, Southwest and dozens of other large companies in awarding $1,000 bonuses to its workers tied to the recently passed corporate tax cut.

Fractured bones, busted knees and concussions are just a few of the job hazards for professional ski racers. Olympians Tommy Ford and Laurenne Ross of Bend, Oregon, have had their share of spectacular crashes.

They've each bounced back from potentially career-ending injuries to compete this winter for spots on the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team.

A preliminary federal crash report says an automatic safety braking system could have prevented last month's deadly Amtrak derailment near Tacoma, Washington.

Three people died and more than 60 were seriously injured when an Amtrak train going from Seattle to Portland on its inaugural passenger run along a new, faster route took a curve way too fast and hurtled from an overpass onto Interstate 5 below. 


A conductor who was at the front of the Amtrak train that derailed north of Olympia is alleging in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that the crew received inadequate training.  
An injured passenger made similar claims in a separate lawsuit filed hours later.

The December derailment killed three people, seriously injured scores more and closed southbound Interstate 5 for two-and-a-half days. 

Washington state voters will likely get to weigh in on police use of deadly force. A ballot measure on that subject turned in around 360,000 voter signatures Thursday afternoon. That should be more than enough to qualify for consideration by the Washington Legislature and then probably go to the statewide ballot in 2018.

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