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:


Trump Has Kneecapped Another Environmental Safeguard. Could That Spur Expanded Uranium Mining in South Texas?

The president seeks to weaken a 50-year-old federal law requiring regulators to weigh environmental risks before approving major projects.

Donald Trump fulfilled his vow to slash “intrusive” environmental regulations in favor of monied energy conglomerates. Shortly after taking office, he announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. In 2018, he moved to formally replace Barack Obama’s … Read More

Even before Ozona’s hospital closed in 1996, it had shuttered its maternity ward in the 1980s due to budget constraints.
Health Care

This West Texas Town is a Reproductive Health Void

Family planning clinics and abortion clinics across Texas have been closing at an alarming rate. Rural hospitals are shuttering their maternity wards. For many Texans, this means traveling hundreds of miles just to access basic reproductive health care services.

Critical Condition: Part 3 Labor Away Family planning clinics and abortion clinics across Texas have been closing at an alarming rate. Rural hospitals are shuttering their maternity wards. For many Texans, this means traveling hundreds of miles just to access … Read More

Texas Politics

5 Stories About Rural Texas You May Have Missed in 2019

A view into the weird, sad, and sometimes funny world of rural Texas.

Once again, we’ve completed another excruciatingly slow journey from one December to the next, exhausted and unrewarded for our trouble. Let’s take stock of what’s different: The average temperature has risen from Too Damn Hot to Even Damn Hotter. We … Read More


The EPA Faces Lawsuit Over Slaughterhouse Pollution in Waterways

The Environmental Integrity Project and other advocates are suing the EPA for failing to update wastewater pollution standards for meat processing facilities for 15 years straight.

The Trump administration has taken another hard jab at protections for the nation’s rivers and lakes—and a broad coalition of advocates is swinging right back. Last week, Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and other groups took Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) … Read More

pollution, smog, refinery, environment

Report: As TCEQ Sits Idle, Polluters Double Illegal Air Pollution in 2018

Unauthorized emission incidents resulted in 135 million pounds of illegal air pollution, according to a new report by Environment Texas.

The oil and gas industry in Texas is largely responsible for doubling the amount of illegal air pollution in the state last year, according to a report released Wednesday. The Texas Petroleum Chemicals (TPC) plant in Port Neches—the same facility … Read More

bald eagle

Bald Eagle Numbers at Lake Buchanan Are Declining. No One’s Exactly Sure Why.

From 2015 to 2019, an average of four birds per year came to Lake Buchanan—less than half of the 10.4 average for the five years before that. Could the noise from hunters be to blame?

Tim Mohan is intimately familiar with Lake Buchanan, the northernmost of the six Highland Lakes that squiggle through the Hill Country toward Austin. The outdoorsman can point out all the most interesting spots: Barringer Hill, on Buchanan’s western side, where … Read More

Smoke rises from an explosion at the TPC Group Port Neches Operations plant on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Port Neches, Texas. (Marie D. De Jesus/Houston Chronicle via AP)

As Port Neches Plant Smolders, Trump Rolls Back Safety Rules for Chemical Plants

After a deadly explosion in the town of West in 2013, Obama implemented stricter safety rules for chemical plants. Trump’s EPA has just undone them.

Early Wednesday morning, inside a chemical manufacturing complex just southeast of Beaumont, a building erupted in a ball of flames, injuring eight people and sending acrid smoke wafting over southeast Texas. The explosion and subsequent fires at the Texas Petroleum … Read More

Carole Ward, a former nurse practitioner, ran the Memphis health clinic until she retired in 2017.
Health Care

The Last Nurse in Memphis, Texas

Carole Ward, a former nurse practitioner, ran the only health clinic in a small town in the Panhandle until she retired in 2017.

This story is part of “Critical Condition,” a series investigating Texas’ rural health care crisis. Read Part 1 here. Carole Ward, a 66-year-old nurse practitioner who lives in Hedley, ran the Memphis health clinic from 2005 until she retired and the clinic … Read More

A pistol grip mussel.

East Texas Rivers Could Become a Boiling Pot for Mussels

The humble bivalves may not look like much, but they act as crucial natural filters across the state's waterways—and they're severely threatened by climate change.

Where the Sabine River becomes shin-deep about 20 minutes north of Tyler, three biologists dismount midstream from a narrow metal boat. Lance Williams, a professor at the University of Texas at Tyler, has located the perfect spot for today’s hunt. … Read More