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:

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

Cattle feeding at Lubbock Feeders.

In Southeast Lubbock Neighborhood, Residents are Fed Up With a Feedlot

Kathy Stewart has complained for years about the fecal dust invading Yellowhouse Canyon. But so far, her concerns have mostly been ignored.

The wind is high in Yellowhouse Canyon, a working class neighborhood on Lubbock’s southeastern outskirts, as Kathy Stewart collects her chihuahua from the front yard of her home. It’s usually windy in Lubbock, but on this September morning the breeze … Read More

Global carbon emissions. Embargoed to 0001 Wednesday December 04 File photo dated 10/01/07 of a coal fired power plant. Global carbon emissions have risen again this year - but more slowly than in the past two years, researchers have said. Issue date: Wednesday December 4, 2019. Emissions from burning fossil fuels are projected to be up 0.6% in 2019, to reach almost 37 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA), University of Exeter and the Global Carbon Project said. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Carbon. Photo credit should read: John Giles/PA Wire URN:48771031 (Press Association via AP Images)

With Coal Plants Offline, the Air in Central and East Texas Has Cleared

After three plants shut down in late 2017, legal air pollution in Texas fell by 150,000 tons.

Residents in rural parts of East and Central Texas can breathe a little easier. State data shows that the closure of three coal-burning power plants in late 2017 kept more than 150,000 tons of dangerous, smog-forming air pollutants from entering … Read More

Mike Mimms herds 200 cattle on his ranch near Hereford; the proposed feedlot would border his property.

It’s Illegal to Take Drone Photos of Cattle Feedlots in Texas. Press Groups Say That Violates the First Amendment.

To get a sense of the Panhandle’s network of cattle feedlots, which can cause health problems for those who live around them, you've got to see it from above.

Close up, a feedlot cow is a sight to behold: It’s a hulking, broad-shouldered eating machine with a three-foot-long tongue and a jaw that never seems to stop chewing. At just 20 months old, one of them can weigh 1,300 … Read More

The Total Port Arthur refinery is shown Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 in Port Arthur, Texas. Over the past several years, Total Petrochemical's sprawling oil refinery in southeast Texas has sprayed tons of sulfuric acid and carbon monoxide into the sky. The French company's 62-year-old facility has also released cancer-causing benzene, regularly surpassed allowable pollution limits, failed to report dozens of emissions and how much. Total is the most heavily fined polluter in Texas in the 2009 fiscal year, according to the year-end report summarizing how companies were punished in the state that produces the most industrial pollution. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Six Texas Oil Refineries Are Among the Nation’s Worst Benzene Polluters, Data Shows

Benzene was detected at the facilities’ fencelines, and nearby communities could be exposed to the cancer-causing pollutant.

The 367-mile Texas Gulf Coast now holds an unenviable honor: It is home to six of the nation’s most prolific polluters of benzene, an invisible, deadly gas that elevates cancer rates. The finding was announced Thursday by the Washington, D.C.-based … Read More

Bar-G Feedyard near Summerfield is part of a vast constellation of feedlots that dot the western Panhandle.

Something in the Air

In the Texas Panhandle, which produces a fifth of the U.S. beef supply, communities are being choked by fecal dust from nearby feedlots. The state’s regulatory agency isn’t doing anything about it—and it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

In the Texas Panhandle, which produces a fifth of the U.S. beef supply, communities are being choked by fecal dust from nearby feedlots. The state’s regulatory agency isn’t doing anything about it—and it’s about to get a whole lot worse. … Read More

A wild adult American bald eagle is seen feeding two juveniles in a nest near Lake Palestine, Texas in this April 25, 2005 file photo. The Interior Department will announce on Thursday, June 28, 2007 that it is removing the majestic bird from the protection of the Endangered Species Act, capping a four-decade struggle for recovery.

Bald Eagle Numbers on Lake Buchanan Hit a Record Low

The midwinter survey of bald eagles at Lake Buchanan found the lowest number ever recorded, and illegal duck hunting could be a factor.

Charles Tischler had no trouble spotting the white-throated caracara and red-tailed hawks wheeling through the sky above Lake Buchanan on Sunday. But those aren’t the birds that Tischler, a 68-year-old retired writer, came to this sprawling manmade lake to see.  … Read More

Donald Trump
Texas Politics

Trump Harvests Support in America’s Farmlands

At a farm convention in Austin, the nation’s agriculture sector warmly welcomed a president who has hurt them in the past.

Donald Trump flew down to Austin on Sunday evening to commune with the sunburned, work-weary farmers and ranchers who comprise one of his most prized voting blocs.  Trump used his speech at the annual American Farm Bureau Federation convention to … Read More