The recent "emissions event" at an EagleRidge site (near the Presbyterian Hospital) released 59 lbs. of benzene into the atmosphere, according to TCEQ estimates. (*Update on 5/5/2013 - the initial TCEQ report was replaced by a FINAL report, which is a self report by the operator! Luckily, a member of DAG, Cathy McMullen, captured the initial report here before it was overwrtten. It is hard to believe it, but the usual practice is to treat the operator's own self-report as the final report.) The prevailing winds around here likely brought that plume right over town, in fact, right over my house.
But also note that gas wells are allowed to emit 10 tons per year of benzene. That works out to an average of 55 lbs. per day. How's this for an outraged response to this event: "Hey, that's four pounds more of benzene than they should be spewing out! They'd better only emit 51 pounds tomorrow to make up the difference!"
So it has been decided that this kind of 'event' is actually pretty acceptable even on a routine, daily basis. You could call this a normal accident - the inevitible break down of complex systems. But in a legal sense as far as air pollution goes, this is hardly an accident at all. It is business as usual. This is technological determinism in cahoots with big money politics. "It has been decided" that this kind of technology with these kinds of emissions is good enough. "It has been decided" that more demanding standards would unduly burden the industry...indeed would make us pay too much for the commodious lives we enjoy on the back-end of this nasty business.