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:

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


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

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


One Casualty of the Government Shutdown: Low-Income Texans Who Need Housing Assistance

Texas is a super-user of federal housing programs, but the shutdown has brought loans, tax credits and rental assistance to a screeching halt, hurting poor Texans the most.

The heating and cooling units inside Sandstone Foothills Apartments, which houses low-income seniors in Mineral Wells, need to be replaced and the aging elevator servicing the three-story building is overdue for refurbishment. The sidewalks, handrails and entrances at the 40-unit … Read More


These Rural Panhandle Towns Should be Shrinking. But Thanks to Immigrants, They’re Booming.

In the farming town of Dalhart, where voters resoundingly put Trump in office, immigrants have staved off population loss and boosted the local economy.

These Rural Panhandle Towns Should be Shrinking. But Thanks to Immigrants, They’re Booming. In the farming town of Dalhart, where voters resoundingly put Trump in office, immigrants have staved off population loss and boosted the local economy. – by Gus … Read More


TCEQ is Finally Doing Something About an East Texas Polluter

After years of inaction, the state environmental agency is poised to force German Pellets to install pollution controls at its Woodville processing plant.

One day in late November, a cloud of white smoke swept through Woodville, a small East Texas town of 2,500 about 55 miles north of Beaumont. It was a moment that many in town had been dreading: a literal smoke … Read More

rural reporting, tumbleweed, tractor

Six Stories About Rural Texas You Should Read Before 2018 Ends

From the shuttering of Dairy Queens, driver's license offices and rural hospitals across the state to an only-in-Texas alligator tale, you may have missed this great reporting.

I understand if the wild and weird news cycle of 2018 has got your head spinning. This rollercoaster ride of state and national politics has some reporters nearly dizzy enough to upchuck in newsroom trash cans. It’s only speeding up, … Read More

conaway, cornyn, cruz, farm bill

Texas Republicans Fail to Kick a Million People off Food Stamps After Trying for a Year

As rural Americans struggled in 2018, Midland Congressman Mike Conaway was laser-focused on making it harder for the working poor to eat.

The $867 billion Farm Bill passed by Congress this week did not include stricter work requirements that would have pummeled food stamp recipients, but it wasn’t for lack of trying by Texas’ Republican delegation. The effort, spearheaded by Midland Congressman … Read More

Health Care

‘How Can You Do This to People?’: After Rural Hospitals Close in Milam County, Residents Scramble to Find Care

Little River Healthcare shuttered two Milam County hospitals after falling on hard financial times. Now residents are struggling to find care.

Shan Wilson’s surgery will have to wait. The 64-year-old retired Marine was scheduled to have his prostate removed in early January at the only hospital in Rockdale, a town of 5,600 between Round Rock and College Station. Wilson had it … Read More