Pro/Con: Should flaring be common practice?

Flares 30 to 300 feet tall emit flames above the Texas prairie, much like candles on a birthday cake - only instead of burning wax and string, flares burn highly toxic chemicals.

If operated properly, flares burn up to 98 percent of the gases vented to them and prevent harmful emissions, said Joe Hubbard, Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 spokesman.

Flares will be an important part of how industry deals with waste gases from process vents and to control emissions from upsets and emergencies for years to come, Hubbard said.

If operated properly, flares are an efficient way of preventing air pollution, he said.

But some question whether flares are being operated and monitored correctly, making what should be a safety device evidence that Texas' air pollution regulation and enforcement is inadequate.

Should flaring be common practice?

Pro: Flaring is safe way to prevent harmful air pollution

Con: Flaring is not properly monitored and releases harmful pollutants into the air