For 40 days, flares burned 500,000 pounds of toxic chemicals over BP’s Texas City refinery. Yet residents didn’t know until weeks later that the flare released 17,000 pounds of cancer-causing benzene.

The reason: State law required BP to report the unauthorized release of chemicals only twice – once when the incident began and once two weeks after it ended.

The company acknowledges the release and contends it posed no health threat, but the incident is prompting questions about the adequacy of state laws in informing residents when plants release poisons beyond permitted levels.

The city’s 40,000 residents heard nothing about the release until weeks after the flaring stopped, when  newspapers reported it and lawsuits started being filed.

Plaintiffs who live or work near the plant have signed onto lawsuits claiming the release has harmed their health, or might later.

Last year, 2,801 emissions events were reported to TCEQ. The agency said it did not know their average duration.  What else don’t we know about what goes on in the State of Texas?