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:

Economy

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
Economy

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
Politics

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

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

Environment

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
Environment

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

midland
Economy

The Poor in Texas Have Been Vastly Undercounted, New Report Finds

The federal poverty level fails to take into account 2.6 million struggling Texas households.

It ain’t cheap living in the oil boomtown of Midland, where the fracking frenzy sweeping through West Texas has led to an eyeball-popping spike in rent. In 2018, a two-bedroom apartment cost on average $1,460, a 28-percent increase from 2017. … Read More

coal ash, groundwater contamination
Environment

Report: Power Plants are Leaking Cancer-Causing Toxins into Groundwater Across Texas

An environmental group found that all of Texas’ coal-fired power plants have polluted groundwater with multiple chemicals, including arsenic, which was detected at 13 of the 15 sites.

In 1975, Alonzo Peeler Jr. figured that selling a small section of his ranchland to a power company was a sage financial move. Now 78, the lifelong rancher says he never would have guessed that San Miguel Electric Co-op, which … Read More

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