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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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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earthquakes
5:30 pm
Wed April 18, 2012

Geologists identify new earthquake faults near Bellingham

The newly discovered fault lines, like the one pictured above, are shallow and could cause significant damange.
Chris Gladis Flickr

Geologists have discovered two previously unknown earthquake faults – and possibly a third – near Bellingham. The scientists working for the U.S. Geological Survey believe the shallow faults are capable of spawning damaging tremors.

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Police Work
8:18 am
Thu April 12, 2012

Civilian drones prepare for takeoff in NW with sheriffs

Prioria business development executive David Wright demonstrates the Maveric UAS.
Tom Banse KPLU

TACOMA, Wash. - Get ready to spot a new kind of "bird" in the sky. Within the next month, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to green light the use of small unmanned aircraft by emergency services. Some sheriffs' departments in the Northwest are showing interest in these aircraft.

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Wolf reintroduction
12:02 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

Wash. hunter pleads guilty to wolf poaching conspiracy

A Twisp, Washington man has changed his plea to guilty in a high-profile federal wolf poaching case. As part of a plea agreement, the 62-year-old man will not go to prison.

The lack of jail time greatly disappoints a conservation group.

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NPR tech news
3:46 pm
Mon March 19, 2012

Digital Technologies Give Dying Languages New Life

In an undated photo, members of the Siletz tribe gather for the Siletz Feather Dance in Newport, Ore. The tribe is using digital tools to help preserve its native language.
Courtesy of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians

Originally published on Mon March 19, 2012 5:45 pm

There are some 7,000 spoken languages in the world, and linguists project that as many as half may disappear by the end of the century. That works out to one language going extinct about every two weeks. Now, digital technology is coming to the rescue of some of those ancient tongues.

Members of the Native American Siletz tribe in Oregon say their native language, also called "Siletz," "is as old as time itself." But today, you can count the number of fluent speakers on one hand. Siletz Tribal Council Vice Chairman Bud Lane is one of them.

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Global Warming
12:23 pm
Fri March 16, 2012

Study: 17,500 NW homes may sink under rising seas

Hey, where'd the beach go? "King tide" in Victoria, BC dramatizes a possible future.

Thousands of homes in Washington and Oregon could be inundated by rising seas caused by global warming over the next century, according to research by the non-profit Climate Central and the University of Arizona.

By calculating how many Americans live less than 1 meter above the high tide line, the researchers found 10,500 homes in Washington and 7000 in Oregon that would be flooded by rising seas.

The biggest concentrations of vulnerable homes are in Seattle, and Warrenton and Seaside, Ore.

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K9 Patrols
9:58 am
Mon February 27, 2012

Wildlife police acquire special dogs to handle bear complaints

Officer Dustin Prater and his new partner Spencer. Yes, Spencer has a stuffed bear in his mouth
WDFW

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has increased its Karelian Bear Dog force by fifty percent. This breed of working dog has proven effective against nuisance bears. The idea is to re-instill fear of human neighborhoods.

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Science
11:05 am
Tue February 21, 2012

Ocean's future: 'Goodbye big fish, hello small fish'

Screenshot of an ocean visualization put out by the Nereus Program
Nereus Program

In Greek mythology, the original god of the sea was named Nereus. Among other powers, he could prophesy the future. That’s why researchers at the University of British Columbia thought to name a project to predict future ocean conditions after Nereus. Now, the initial computer simulations are out.

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Whale Hunting
9:37 am
Fri February 17, 2012

Judge allows 'Whale Wars' to continue

A Sea Shepherd crew tangles with a Japanese whaling ship in Antarctic waters in 2011
Sea Sheperd Conservation Society

A federal judge in Seattle Thursday refused a request for protection made by Japanese whalers. The whalers were hoping to put a stop to almost daily harassment by an aggressive anti-whaling group based in western Washington.

U.S. federal district court judge Richard Jones did not give a reason for denying the request for a preliminary injunction. It would have prevented the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society from interfering with the Japanese whaling fleet.

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Killer Whales
7:18 am
Tue February 14, 2012

Mystery surrounds bruised and bloody killer whale carcass

Necropsy team including personnel from Portland State University, Seaside Aquarium, Cascadia Research, Seattle Seal Sitters and WDFW.
Dyanna Lambourn WDFW

The bruised and bloody carcass of an endangered killer whale washed ashore at Long Beach, Wash., this weekend. An initial necropsy did not pinpoint a cause of death.

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Environment
12:02 am
Mon February 13, 2012

Researchers on hunt for killer whales' winter hideout

A porpoising juvenile transient orca. Photo by Richard Dudley/Flickr

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 5:45 pm

This week , federal biologists will cast off on a research cruise from NOAA's new homeport in Newport, Oregon. They hope to crack an enduring mystery about some of the most studied killer whales on earth. Namely, where do the Northwest's resident orca whales go in the winter?

Every winter, the three pods of orca whales that call Northwest waters home just disappear into the wild blue yonder. Research biologist Dawn Noren and colleagues from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center are about to embark on a three-week mission to find them.

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Native names
9:41 am
Tue February 7, 2012

Is it time to rename Mount Rainier to its former native name?

Mount Rainier would become Tahoma, Tacobeh, Pooskaus or Tacoma.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

ROY, Wash. – Mount Rainier was once known by its many native names. Now, an alliance of tribal members is moving forward with a proposal to restore an original name to this Northwest landmark. But a long bureaucratic process lies ahead.

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