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:

Politics

In 2019, Another Chance to Fix the Texas Public Information Act

With a GOP committee chair gone and new bills in the pipeline, state lawmakers and government transparency advocates seek to close loopholes in Texas open records law.

It’s been three years since Enrique Iglesias walked away from the Rio Grande Valley holding a proverbial sack full of taxpayer cash. He got the money in 2015 for crooning in the city of McAllen’s annual holiday concert and parade, … Read More

beto, elections
Politics

Ted Cruz Won Because of Rural Texas, but Beto Made Small Gains for Democrats

O’Rourke’s strategy of hitting all 254 counties didn’t win him the race, but it likely gained Democratic ground in small-town Texas, Republicans’ most reliable stronghold.

At first glance, it would appear as if Democrats were dealt a series of miserable defeats in rural Texas Tuesday. Beto O’Rourke, who spent beaucoup time and money to campaign in all of Texas’ 254 counties, won only 32 of … Read More

Environment

In East Texas, Chicken Plants are Polluting Rivers and Lakes with Oxygen-Sucking Contaminants

A report released by the Environmental Integrity Project identified Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson as major dischargers of wastewater containing high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.

The Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone” — a Connecticut-sized stretch of saltwater where chemical runoff from farms in the Mississippi River watershed feeds oxygen-stifling algal blooms — gets a lot of press. The low oxygen levels spur massive fish kills … Read More

sid miller
Politics

Sid Miller’s Ag Department Knew About Dangerous Pesticide Violations in 2015, Did Nothing for Two Years

A state inspector found that USDA's fever tick teams broke state and federal rules by indiscriminately spraying poison and dumping toxic pesticides on ranchland.

On August 17, 2015, Harlingen rancher Danny Davis called in a complaint to the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). Like many others who raise cattle and horses near the U.S.-Mexico border, Davis was caught in the state-federal fever tick dragnet … Read More

A wind farm near Amarillo
Environment

Inside the Coordinated Attack on a North Texas Wind Farm

Conservative lawmakers, an oil investor and other activists did all they could to stop a wind project in rural Texas, even as the state has increasingly embraced renewable energy.

Earlier this year, a Canadian energy producer was poised to build two large wind farms in Clay County, a mostly featureless stretch of plains at the Texas-Oklahoma line. The 300-megawatt project would have bolstered Texas’ growing portfolio of renewable energy, … Read More

heartland
Books

Heartland is an Honest, Poetic Meditation on Class in America

Journalist Sarah Smarsh’s book encapsulates what it’s like to grow up in the forgotten farm fields of America, artfully mixing anecdote with political context and societal commentary.

Having fun during a Kansas winter, as Sarah Smarsh writes in her new memoir, Heartland, requires creativity: “Lots of snow, no hills.” In one memorable scene, she recalls the time her grandfather Arnie hitched a beat-up canoe to an old … Read More

Politics

Documents Show Financial Entanglements Between Trump’s USDA Pick and Agribusiness

Mindy Brashears, a Texas Tech animal scientist nominated by Trump to lead the food safety arm of the USDA, is deeply embedded in the agribusiness industry.

Trump’s nominee to head the food safety division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is deeply entangled with agribusiness. According to ethics documents obtained by the Observer, Texas Tech University animal scientist Mindy Brashears has earned at least $320,000 from … Read More

sunset commission
Politics

Lawmakers Killed a Plan to Shut Down 87 Driver’s Licenses Offices. That’s Good News for Voters.

The DPS proposed to close “inefficient” driver’s licenses office in mainly rural areas, even though it would have created an extra hurdle for voters to get state-required photo ID.

In a victory for Texas voters on Wednesday, a panel of state lawmakers unanimously killed a proposal to shutter up to 87 “inefficient” Department of Public Safety driver’s license offices in mostly rural areas. DPS issued the proposal after the … Read More

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