From TIME’s energy and environment writer Bryan Walsh:
Around 10:30 AM Eastern this morning, just as the five executives of the major global oil companies were settling in for what was set to be a brutal hearing from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a fire broke out on BP’s Enterprise drilling ship, which is processing thousands of barrels a day of oil diverted from the Gulf of Mexico leak. The fire, which seems to have been caused by a lightning strike, has at least temporarily halted the oil containment process, according to BP—meaning that even as the heads of Big Oil were trying to explain how the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history had been allowed to happen, oil was again flowing unchecked into the Gulf, at a rate of up to 40,000 barrels a day, if not more, though the company says that it expects production to restart soon.
In Washington, though, the oil executives—the heads of Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, Shell and McKay from BP—tried to argue that the spill was a terrible but unlikely accident, one that wouldn’t happen again. Unusually, Big Oil broke ranks—in their prepared remarks and in response to House members’ questions, the other oil executives implicitly criticized BP, making the case that the Deepwater Horizon explosion had occurred because of failures on the part of BP.