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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Economy
11:43 am
Wed February 1, 2012

Tentative labor deal averts Western Wash. refinery strikes

ConocoPhillips oil refinery at Cherry Point, Wash. Photo by Tom Banse

Originally published on Wed February 1, 2012 2:37 pm

The United Steelworkers union has reached a tentative deal with oil companies to avert a possible strike at dozens of refineries, including three important ones in the Northwest.

Negotiations over a new labor contract for refinery workers concluded mere hours before a late night deadline. The United Steelworkers and Shell Oil announced a tentative three-year deal that's intended to set the pattern for local agreements at unionized refineries nationwide.

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Labor contracts
2:43 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Oil refineries in Western Washington face possible strike

Bargaining is going down to the wire on new labor contracts at three of the five big oil refineries in the Northwest. Union members have been told to prepare to strike as early as Wednesday.

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Budget crisis
4:43 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

Two credit rating agencies warn Washington state over budget

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Two credit rating agencies have delivered a warning to the State of Washington to get its financial house in order. The ratings agencies lowered the outlook for Washington state debt, citing the magnitude of the budget shortfall.

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Law
12:41 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

Final suspect in ecosabotage attack at UW pleads guilty

TACOMA, Wash. – The final suspect in a 2001 Earth Liberation Front arson attack in Seattle plead guilty Tuesday. Justin Solondz, 32, reached a plea deal with the government. A federal judge in Tacoma has approved a deal that could give Solondz a 7-year prison term.

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Community
9:35 am
Tue December 13, 2011

Creativity at work to spur holiday fundraising

Donors peruse the wares at the 2011 Alternative Giving Market in Moscow, ID.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

With the year-end approaching, your letter carrier likely delivers at least one or two fundraising letters with each day's mail. You're not alone if you toss some of those pitches straight into the recycle bin. It's a tough fundraising environment right now for charities here on the heels of the great recession.

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Business
9:13 am
Tue December 13, 2011

Person-to-person car rental company expands to northwest

The first of a new breed of car rental companies is expanding into the Northwest. Next month, San Francisco-based Getaround officially launches its web-based rental service in the greater Portland area.

The concept is sometimes called peer-to-peer car rental or personal car sharing. The idea is to let you rent your car to someone else when you're not using it. Several companies have sprung up in California to provide the online marketplaces to link up car owners with pre-screened renters.

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Returning from Iraq
11:10 am
Wed December 7, 2011

Final wave of NW soldiers welcomed home from Iraq

Keicher Singleton Jr. awaits his dad from a six month deployment to Iraq.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

As of this morning, there are fewer than 100 Northwest-based soldiers serving in Iraq. A plane carrying the final large group of returning soldiers touched down at McChord Field near Tacoma at dusk Tuesday. 

The sweetest words for 170 Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers and their families: "Captain, dismissed!"

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Environment
4:53 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Feds target wood stove smoke

This is just the kind of wood-burning equipment the government is worried about.
Northwest News Network

TACOMA, Wash. – The cold nights we've been having are leading people to fire up their wood stoves and fireplaces. This also means we're in the season of the dirtiest air of the year in the Northwest.

Wood stoves are one of the biggest – if not the biggest – contributor to this problem in our area. Clean air agencies are going to greater lengths to pry old, polluting, uncertified wood stoves out of the fingers of homeowners.

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Environment
5:36 pm
Fri November 18, 2011

Electric car drivers eschew public charging stations

OLYMPIA, Wash. - You've probably seen plum parking spots set aside for electric cars, maybe even shaken your fist at an empty space. More than a thousand Northwest drivers have hit the road this year with the first mass market electric cars.

Many of them are letting researchers electronically track their charging and driving behavior. That data shows more than 80% of electric "fill ups" are happening not at those public charging points, but at home.

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Court Martial
9:43 am
Thu November 10, 2011

War crimes case expected to go to jury

The judge in a high profile war crimes court martial is expected to send the case to the jury today. Closing arguments are now complete in the case against Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs. He's accused of orchestrating the deaths of unarmed Afghan civilians.

Army prosecutor Major Robert Snow told the military jury their decision should not be difficult. His precise closing words: "Let your verdict speak the truth that Staff Sgt. Gibbs is a murderer."

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Condit Dam Removal
11:16 am
Thu October 27, 2011

Big bang at dam launches hopes for salmon and kayakers

In this photo provided by PacifiCorp., a hole is breached in the century-old Condit Dam on the White Salmon River near White Salmon, Wash., on Wednesday.

WHITE SALMON, Wash. – Southwest Washington's White Salmon River is running free this morning for the first time in a century.

demolition contractors executed their plan flawlessly yesterday to blast a hole in the base of an aging hydropower dam. Condit Dam is the third large Northwest dam to meet the wrecking ball this year.

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Dam removal
1:22 pm
Tue October 25, 2011

Demolition crew rigs explosives on aging Washington dam

Condit Dam
D. Kvamme PacifiCorp

Update: Watch the explosion and dam breach.

WHITE SALMON, Wash. – Demolition experts are rigging 700 pounds of dynamite today at Condit Dam in southwest Washington. Crews are scheduled to breach the aging hydropower dam on the White Salmon River around noon Wednesday.

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Early Humans
11:01 am
Tue October 25, 2011

Jawbone found near Kennewick Man site, raising specter of controversy

Dr. Doug Owlsley, left, of the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution, arranges the pieces from the model of the Kennewick Man for a presentation for the media at University Towers in Seattle in 2005.
Associated Press

Federal archeologists are investigating a very old jawbone that turned up Monday along the Columbia River in Kennewick, Wash. The human remains were found a short distance from where Kennewick Man was discovered in 1996 and sparked a decade-long legal conflict.

The battles over Kennewick Man have scientists being extra cautious with the new discovery.

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The Fish patrol
12:04 pm
Mon October 24, 2011

Fish fraud police: Are you getting what you pay for?

WDFW Officer Erik Olson inspects a seafood market for mislabeled fish.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

SEATTLE – Some seafood sold in the Northwest isn't what it seems.

Mislabeled fish is more common than you might think according to the few cops trying to make sure you get the species you paid for. Now those who are on patrol are looking for higher penalties to deter fish cheaters.

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Tsunami debris
2:59 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Japanese tsunami debris tracked, drifting very slowly our way

SEATTLE – The Japanese tsunami back in March washed millions of tons of debris out to sea, and winds and currents are pushing it very slowly across the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists tracking the flotsam have new evidence that it does not pose a radiological threat despite the Japanese nuclear disaster that followed the tsunami.

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