Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse, KPLU’s and N3’s Regional Correspondent, roves the Northwest to report on broad themes and telling details. His topics run the gamut from business to the environment and human interest. Home base is in Olympia, a legacy of a previously held state government beat from 1991-2003. Although he grew up in Seattle, Tom's radio career began by chance in Minnesota at Carleton College’s student radio station. Tom's memorable moment in public radio: "I am indebted to many people for tips and tutelage, but certainly some of the bluntest -- at times unprintable -- guidance came from NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg. I interned at NPR in 1989 and was privileged to keep Nina's chair warm at the U-S Supreme Court or at the high-octane Iran-Contra trial of Oliver North, wherever she wasn't at the time. Heady stuff for a tenderfoot reporter."

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Environment
1:41 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Seattle firm seeks to commercialize carbon dioxide conversion to methanol

EPA

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 4:04 pm

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.

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Environment
12:36 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Feds to relocate rare deer threatened by failing dike

US Fish

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 3:58 pm

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.

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Environment
12:30 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Debris dock confirmed from 2011 tsunami; salvage bids requested

Courtesy of 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. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

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Transportation tax
11:22 am
Thu January 10, 2013

Washington, Oregon consider mileage-based road tax

Tom Banse Northwest News Network

Originally published on Thu January 10, 2013 3:06 pm

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.

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College Sports
3:56 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Pac-12 review clears WSU football program of abuse allegations

Wikipedia

Originally published on Tue January 8, 2013 3:38 pm

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."

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Environment
10:58 am
Mon January 7, 2013

Tsunami debris dock decontaminated; removal poses next challenge

Wash. Dept. of Fish

Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 9:01 am

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.

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Other News
2:22 am
Mon December 17, 2012

Five ways to recover faster from 'The Big One'

OLYMPIA, Wash. - For years, emergency managers have urged people to stockpile enough food, water and supplies to last 72 hours after a disaster. In the Northwest, basic assumptions like that are now under scrutiny, especially when it comes to the risk from a big earthquake. Two committees in Oregon and Washington have been working for more than a year to come up with wide-ranging recommendations to improve the region's disaster resilience. Correspondent Tom Banse has this exclusive first look at some of the ideas.

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Environment
11:45 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Mazama pocket gopher slated to join endangered species list

Mazama pocket gopher
Tom Banse

The Northwest may have another species listed as endangered. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on 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. Correspondent Tom Banse reports from Olympia.

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NPR Story
9:06 am
Mon December 3, 2012

Costly Metal Thefts Prompt Push For Statewide Seller Blacklist

Michael Pereckas Flickr

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 3:39 pm

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.

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Sports
9:03 am
Mon December 3, 2012

Four Northwest Football Programs Secure Bowl Invites

Valero Alamo Bowl

Originally published on Mon December 3, 2012 7:03 am

‘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.

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Business
4:05 pm
Tue November 27, 2012

Housing rebound has more Northwest sawmills buzzing

Rahul Nair Flickr

Originally published on Tue November 27, 2012 4:42 pm

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.

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Natural Resources
12:49 pm
Tue October 16, 2012

To keep or to export? The Northwest's natural gas debate

Portland attorney Robert Lorey (left) and Astoria marine biologist Dave Lillis protest natural gas exports outside the Warrenton Community Center.
Tom Banse

Natural gas production in North America has increased so dramatically that no fewer than 17 companies have now applied to export the fuel overseas. Two gas export terminals are proposed in the Northwest -- one near Coos Bay, Oregon and the other at the Port of Astoria.

This week, federal energy regulators are getting an earful of public testimony.

As public meetings go, Monday’s visit by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to the Oregon Coast was more tense and raucous than usual.

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Environment
9:18 am
Wed July 25, 2012

Northwest coastal waters slightly caffeinated, study finds

The Northwest's love of coffee is leading to caffeine spilling into coastal waters.
Diane Gilleland Flickr

The Northwest is known for its love of coffee. Now evidence of that is showing up in the Pacific Ocean. Researchers have found low levels of caffeine at half a dozen locations on the Oregon Coast.

Caffeine has previously been found to be pervasive in Puget Sound and has even turned up in relatively pristine Barkley Sound on the outer coast of Vancouver Island.

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Mountain passes
9:09 am
Sun May 6, 2012

State struggles to open some mountain passes due to snow

A spring snowstorm on Cayuse Pass (SR 123) dumped more than a half-foot of snow on the highway. Crews hoped to open the pass on Friday (May 4), but with snow predicted through the weekend, they've had to push it back.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Fresh snow in the mountains has slightly delayed the reopening of one high mountain pass in the Washington Cascades. Highway crews are on track to reopen two other scenic cross state routes before Memorial Day.

What's slowing them down? The snowpack is deeper than average for this time of year in Washington, north Idaho and the northern Oregon Cascades.

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Privatizing liquor
1:34 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

Liquor store auction nets $31 million for Washington

The highest winning bid was $750,100 for an individual store in south Tacoma.

LACEY, Wash. – An online auction to privatize Washington state liquor stores netted nearly $31 million . It's all gravy for the state budget.

State Liquor Control Board business director Pat McLaughlin said today that nothing was penciled in for anticipated auction proceeds. But McLaughlin says he expected the bidding to be fierce. And it was.

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