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."


climate change
1:50 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

Field Test Renews Attention on Viability of Carbon Storage

PNNL scientist Pete McGrail describes CO2 injection underway behind him on the grounds of the Boise Inc. paper mill in Wallula, Wash. Tom Banse

This week, technicians in southeast Washington are moving forward with a field test to show how carbon dioxide could be injected and trapped deep underground.

Led by the Pacific Northwest National Lab, the experiment involves the injection of 50 tanker-truck loads of carbon dioxide, and will take about four weeks. Then comes about a year and a half of monitoring to see if the global warming gas stays locked away forever beneath ancient lava flows. 

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520 floating bridge investors
3:53 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

Foreign Investors Learn 'Bridge to Nowhere' Leads to Visas after All

Viewed from above Medina, Washington, the new SR 520 floating bridge takes shape next to the current bridge.

For a while, it looked like a major highway project across Lake Washington could end up as a "bridge to nowhere" for nearly a hundred immigrant investors.

But now, after a long wait, the federal government has given the green light to process the green card applications of these wealthy businesspeople in exchange for their help financing the new 520 floating bridge.

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state job gains
11:30 am
Wed July 17, 2013

State Unemployment Rate Holds Steady in June

The unemployment rate held steady in Washington state in June, standing at 6.8 percent, according to the monthly update released in Olympia Wednesday.

For state labor economist Paul Turek, the biggest headline is found is deeper in the numbers. He sees signs of stronger hiring in the private sector. That has the side effect of motivating new job seekers to join—or rejoin—the labor force.

"We're seeing, four years after the recession was declared over, more decent signs of recovery taking place," Turek said.

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BPA shakeup
11:29 am
Tue July 16, 2013

BPA Shakeup in Wake of Alleged Hiring Misdeeds

There has been a management shakeup at the Bonneville Power Administration. The U.S. Department of Energy replaced BPA's agency head and chief operating officer without explanation.

The move came just before the release Tuesday morning of a damaging inspector general report.

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ban on exploding targets
1:32 pm
Fri July 12, 2013

Forest Service/BLM Ban Exploding Targets In Northwest

Federal land managers have banned the use of exploding targets on public lands in the Northwest out of concerns over wildfires. And a manufacturer of the popular target- shooting accessory is quite unhappy.

Fire investigators suspect exploding targets sparked at least a half dozen wildfires in Washington and Idaho over the past year. The chemical explosives give target shooters instant feedback that they've hit their mark from long range.

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development and military bases
2:46 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

Federal agencies pool money to keep buffer around military base

FILE - The Fourth Stryker Brigade Combat Team is seen training at JBLM.
Spc. Reese Von Rogatsz U.S. Army, 2012

Urban development around military bases in the Northwest and across the nation is creating a headache for the U.S. Department of Defense.

As a result, several federal agencies on Wednesday announced they will pool money to preserve buffer lands, starting with Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma.

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Northwest orcas
8:55 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

Famous rescued orca Springer now a mother, seen with first calf

A73, also known as Springer, is seen off central coast of Vancouver Island, B.C. on July 4 with her calf.
Graeme Ellis Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

The fairy-tale ending for a young orphan killer whale keeps getting better.

Canadian marine biologists spotted Springer the whale with her first calf off the coast of central British Columbia last week. This comes 11 years after Springer was rescued from the ferry lanes near Seattle and successfully reunited with her whale family at the north end of Vancouver Island. 

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U.S.-Canada hydropower
7:01 am
Thu July 4, 2013

Canada defends hydropower 'entitlement' from U.S. Northwest

A portion of the electricity generated on the mid-Columbia, like at Wanapum Dam shown here, is shipped to Canada under the terms of the Columbia River Treaty.
Tom Banse

Here's a little-known fact that may affect your power bill.

Every year, public utilities in the Northwest give British Columbia several hundred million dollars worth of electricity. That's to compensate Canada for managing the upper Columbia River to minimize flooding and maximize hydropower downstream.

Americans are pushing for a better deal. But the B.C. government is preparing to defend what is now considered an entitlement.

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Cascadia fault zone
6:01 am
Sat June 29, 2013

Research cruise investigates 'lock zone' of dangerous offshore fault

Crew members of the R/V Atlantis recover the submersible "Jason," after it connected a chain to an undersea seismometer off the coast of Oregon.
Matt Cooper University of Oregon

This week, a research ship is retrieving dozens of seismometers that have spent the last year on the ocean floor off the Northwest coast.

Earthquake scientists hope the data they're about to get will shed more light on the structure of the offshore Cascadia fault zone. That plate boundary will be the source of the Big One whenever it rips.

Ship-to-shore video shows how researchers are using a remotely guided submarine to pluck armored seismometers off the Pacific Ocean floor.

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Crude Oil Shipping Terminal
3:57 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Proposed rail-to-ship crude oil terminal biggest yet in region

The proposed Tesoro/Savage crude oil terminal would be built on this rail loop at the Port of Vancouver, Washington on the Columbia River.
Port of Vancouver USA

Oil refiner Tesoro and a terminal operating company named Savage detailed plans Thursday for the biggest crude oil shipping terminal to be proposed in the Northwest.  

The proposed terminal, which would be located on the Columbia River at the Port of Vancouver in Washington, would receive crude by rail from oil fields in North Dakota and the like. The oil would then be transferred onto oceangoing tankers for delivery to West Coast refineries.

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chimp sanctuary
2:19 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

No room in NW for hundreds of retiring research chimps

FILE - Two chimps tussle for food at Chimp Haven in Keithville, La., Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.
Gerard Herbert Associated Press

Audio Pending...

The National Institutes of Health on Wednesday announced it will retire most chimpanzees used in federally-supported medical research.

The institute director says the use of our closest animal relative for invasive studies can no longer be justified in most cases. That means more than 300 chimps are headed into retirement.

But neither of the two chimpanzee sanctuaries here in the Northwest is prepared to take new chimps.

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border crossing
4:09 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

U.S. Senate narrows area for Border Patrol checkpoints

A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent keeps watch at a checkpoint station, Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, in Falfurrias, Texas.
Eric Gay Associated Press

The U.S. Senate wants to put a stop to Border Patrol checkpoints and warrantless searches taking place far from the border with Canada. The policy change was included in an amendment to the larger immigration overhaul being debated this week. It pleases civil liberties and immigrant advocates, but concerns frontline Border Patrol agents.

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currency rate
7:54 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Border expert: Falling Canadian dollar bears watching

The Canadian dollar is dropping in value. At the close of currency trading Monday, the Canadian dollar hit its lowest point in nearly two years in comparison to the U.S. dollar. And if the trend continues, it'll be cause for concern in border states.

The Canadian dollar is affectionately known as the "loonie." Less than two months ago, it was at parity with the greenback. Now it's worth around 95 cents U.S.

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7:56 pm
Fri June 21, 2013

Possible leak at Hanford nuclear site, no immediate threat seen

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee answers questions about a potential leak in a tank at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, on Friday, June 21, 2013, in Olympia, Wash.
Rachel La Corte Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee says it will likely take a few days to confirm whether radioactive waste has leaked through the outer shell of a double-hulled underground tank at Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Earlier Friday, the U.S. Department of Energy disclosed it detected heightened radioactivity levels beneath a tank that holds some of the nation's worst nuclear waste. Inslee said he spoke directly to the new secretary of energy to say how unhappy he is with agency's pace of stabilizing half a dozen different leaking tanks.

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unemployment rate
12:37 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

State jobless rate continues to fall, down to 6.8 percent in May

Mary Altaffer Associated Press

Washington state's labor market continues to improve slowly, according to the latest unemployment rate released Wednesday. The state's Employment Security Department said the jobless rate for May ticked down two-tenths of a percent from April to land on 6.8 percent.

State labor economist Paul Turek says it's the first time since late 2008 that the unemployment rate stood below 7 percent.

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