Christopher Collins

Christopher Collins is an investigative journalist based in Abilene. The Wichita Falls native graduated from Midwestern State University in 2012 with a degree in Mass Communication. He previously has worked as a reporter at the Abilene Reporter-News and the Wichita Falls Times Record News, along with running a freelance reporting business. At the Observer, he writes about rural Texas. He can be reached on Twitter or at [email protected]

By Christopher Collins:

The ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown. Officials in the Virgin Islands are currently looking into whether the oil giant misled its shareholders, but Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a court brief hoping to stop the investigation.

The EPA Told Texas to Crack Down on Dangerous Air Emissions in 2015. The State Never Did, and Now It Won’t Have to.

Trump’s EPA rescinded a rule that would have forced Texas to close a loophole exploited by industrial polluters in 97 percent of illegal emission events.

May, 22, 2015, was a red-letter day for Hilton Kelley. The 58-year-old environmental justice activist was on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., 1,300 miles from his Texas Gulf Coast home of Port Arthur. Kelley stood in a room with other … Read More


Port of Corpus Christi Pushes Ahead with Oil Terminal Project, Environment Be Damned

As the agency courts tankers that can carry 2.2 million barrels of crude each, activists worry that the plan could spoil the habitats of the aquatic species that thrive here.

In the middle of the Texas Gulf Coast, among a constellation of barrier islands where thousands of Texans come to fish, boat and play each year, lies one of the state’s most pristine and ecologically diverse aquatic habitats. Freshwater outflows … Read More


Could Hemp be an Economic Lifeline for Rural Texas Towns?

As the Legislature considers greenlighting hemp production, a litany of farmers, rural economic development advocates and even conservative Republicans are singing its praises.

Haskell, a town of 3,200 an hour north of Abilene, is in high cotton. It has not one, but two grocery stores. Most of the storefronts in the downtown square are occupied by local businesses. U.S. 277, a major highway, … Read More

chickens, upshur county

New Chicken Farms are Ruining Roads and Fowling the Air in Upshur County

As industrial chicken farming expands to East Texas, local residents say they’ve been bombarded with the waste of hundreds of thousands of birds, an “overpowering” stench and heavy truck traffic.

It took a decade for Ronnie Blundell to find the perfect plot of land where he could build his dream home in rural Upshur County, a community of 40,000 about 140 miles east of Dallas. The now-71-year-old and his wife … Read More

mindy brashears

Under Mindy Brashears’ Leadership, USDA Will Let Swine Slaughter Facilities Go Hog Wild

An inspector at a special deregulated hog plant told the Observer that the USDA’s new pork slaughter proposal that eliminates maximum line speeds is a “recipe for disaster.”

On March 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s top food safety official delivered good news to the pork industry. The official was Mindy Brashears, a former food scientist at Texas Tech University who was appointed by Trump as second-in-command at … Read More


Government Transparency Suffers a Major Setback Thanks to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

The all-Republican court has removed criminal penalties for violating a portion of the state Open Meetings Act.

The windows of Texas government have been tinted even darker thanks to a landmark ruling Wednesday by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The nine-member panel, which is the state’s highest authority on criminal matters and is composed entirely of … Read More

homelessness, amarillo, tent city
Human Rights

Instead of Fighting ‘Tent City,’ Amarillo Decides to House Its Homeless

The city sued a landowner in 2018 for allowing about 30 homeless folks to set up tents. After a change of heart, city staff asked a camp advocate to help guide a "housing first" pilot program.

When Amarillo temperatures dip into the teens, like they did in early January, 36-year-old Dominic Baldivia simply turns up the heat in his two-bedroom duplex near downtown. But a few months ago, staying warm in the Panhandle nights was considerably … Read More


Texas State Park Could Close as Vistra Energy Seeks to Sell Land Near Shuttered Power Plant

For decades, the energy company has leased to the state the property on which Fairfield Lake State Park sits. But there’s no guarantee the new buyer will do the same.

For decades, Fairfield Lake State Park has been a fixture of family life for Brenda Pate. She’s spent countless hours at the park, an expanse of timber, trails and water 6 miles northeast of Fairfield, a town of 3,000 south … Read More

A golden cheeked warbler

Could Kinder Morgan’s ‘Permian Highway’ Scar the Hill Country?

On its 430-mile path to the Gulf, the natural gas pipeline would gash the iconic Hill Country, a region relatively free from oil and gas development.

The golden-cheeked warbler — a compact, yellow-headed songbird that migrates from Mexico to Central Texas each March — is in trouble. The endangered species, which nests nowhere else but the cedar breaks of the Texas Hill Country and surrounding areas, … Read More