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:

Education

Texas Legislature Improves Suicide Prevention in Schools, but Makes Little Progress for Adults

Suicide is quiet crisis in Texas, especially in rural communities. As the dust settles on the 86th Legislature, advocates say most initiatives to curb suicide deaths failed.

This year, the Texas Legislature had a chance to address suicide, an urgent public health problem that claimed the lives of 3,800 Texans in 2017. The crisis is especially pronounced in rural areas due to poverty, a dearth of health … Read More

Health Care

Warning Signs

Rural East Texas has some of the highest suicide rates in the state. But the safety net for people who need help is being stretched thin, and some Texans are falling through.

Rural East Texas has some of the highest suicide rates in the state. But the safety net for people who need help is being stretched thin, and some Texans are falling through.  by Christopher Collins May 29, 2019 I. … Read More

Politics

Ready, Set, File: Transparency Bills Passed by Legislature Could Open the Door to Once-Public Records

The measures would sew up the so-called Boeing loopholes, which the government has used thousands of times to keep taxpayer-funded deals private.

UPDATE: The effort to close the “dead suspect” loophole, which Texas law enforcement agencies have used to keep secret the circumstances surrounding in-custody deaths, has been killed. The attempt to shine light on such deaths was attached as an amendment … Read More

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.
Environment

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Trump’s EPA rescinded a rule that would have forced Texas to close a loophole exploited by industrial polluters in 97 percent of illegal emission events.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

Environment

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

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

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