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. He is an associate editor at the Observer. He previously was a staff writer covering rural Texas. He can be reached on Twitter or at [email protected]

By Christopher Collins:

News, Rural Reporting Project

Workers at Tyson Poultry Plant in East Texas Say the Company Put Them at Risk of COVID-19

Tyson employees interviewed by the Observer say that as the coronavirus spread through the facility in April, the company failed to notify them of the danger in a timely manner so they could protect themselves.

Officials at Tyson’s poultry processing plant in Shelby County may have waited weeks to tell workers that an employee had tested positive for COVID-19, preventing other workers from taking action to prevent the spread of the virus inside the facility, … Read More

industrial chicken farm
Health Care

COVID-19 Cases Now Tied to Meat Plants in Rural Texas Counties Wracked with Coronavirus

The outbreaks, which are being investigated by the state health agency, represent the first reported cases of the virus inside Texas meatpacking plants, and are in rural areas where medical resources are already stretched thin.

A meatpacking plant in Deep East Texas appears to be connected to an outbreak of COVID-19 in a rural part of the state where the number of coronavirus cases has skyrocketed in recent weeks. The state health department is investigating … Read More

Texas Politics

The COVID-19 Disaster Has Made a Mess of Texas’ Open Government Rules

Some government officials in Texas appear to be exploiting the pandemic as a way to hide public business from the public.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and opportunistic public servants, government agencies now have carte blanche to operate in secret for as long as this crisis persists—and perhaps even longer. On March 13, Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster, … Read More

A "vessel of opportunity" skims oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.

COVID-19 is Buying Time for Gulf Coast Towns Fighting Oil and Gas Projects

In Surfside Beach, Port Aransas, and elsewhere, contentious new infrastructure projects may be stalled by the accelerating pandemic.

Surfside Beach, a village of 560 people an hour south of Houston, is known for a few things: It has one of the state’s handful of drive-on beaches, attracting droves of families each summer to soak up the sun and … Read More

News, Political Intelligence, Rural Reporting Project, The Issue

As Texans are Exposed to Dangerous Pesticides, Lawmakers Aren’t Doing Anything

Pesticide drift is exposing rural Texans to dangerous chemicals. But lawmakers are more concerned with how that is eating into Big Ag’s balance sheet.

In the interim between legislative sessions, Texas lawmakers on the House Agriculture Committee will have an opportunity to examine an important but under-the-radar problem that’s making people sick in farming communities across the state. Then again, their attention might drift. … Read More

Mindy Brashears in Washington, D.C.
Texas Politics

The New U.S. Food Safety Czar is a Texas Researcher with Close Ties to the Meat Industry

Mindy Brashears’ confirmation comes at a time when Americans are scouring supermarket aisles for safe food to eat.

On Monday, amid the rapidly intensifying COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Senate quietly approved a controversial scientist from Texas to oversee the safety of the nation’s supply of meat, poultry, and eggs. The confirmation of Mindy Brashears, formerly a food researcher … Read More

Empty school hallway

Tough Decisions Ahead for School Leaders in Rural Texas

With no edict from Governor Abbott, rural school officials must weigh the health of their students against the health of their communities.

Update: Governor Greg Abbott announced Thursday, March 19, that all Texas schools will be closed until April 3.  If he’d arrived four hours sooner, he’d have seen the crestfallen expressions on their faces. But on March 13, Wade Callaway was … Read More

Downtown Big Spring, Texas, on a cloudy day.

In Big Spring, a Rural Community Braces for Another Oil Bust

As oil prices plummet, the petroleum industry’s benefits and drawbacks for small towns are on full display.

Sometimes Big Spring is a boomtown. Sometimes it’s a bust. And usually, the defining factor is one simple number: the price of a barrel of crude.  The community of 28,000, two hours west of Abilene, sits at the edge of … Read More

A Bouchard boat crosses Cape Cod Canal.

Off the Texas Gulf Coast, Tugboat Crews Are Stuck on Their Boats Without Pay

Bouchard Transportation, a massive shipping firm, hasn’t paid docking fees or worker salaries, leading to a rare quandary in U.S. waters.

They haven’t drawn a paycheck in months. Some haven’t set foot on dry land since January. But at least 10 crew members stuck aboard three tugboats near the Texas Gulf Coast aren’t any closer to going home—and their employer and … Read More