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San Bernardino County Sun
Cost cuts in Medicare raise ire
The Inland Empire is about to become a national testing ground for whether the federal government, and health consumers, can finally do something about rising health costs.
Audio File: David Wilder of Mentone. He is blind, on Medicare and the chairman of California Health Advocates, a statewide group that helps seniors with Medicare issues and also helps root out fraud. Listen to David WilderQuest for low prices in Medicare alarms suppliers
YUCCA VALLEY In the new age of Medicare, Esta Willman would seem like a winner. The small medical supply firm she coowns with her husband just won two prized contracts to provide oxygen and power wheelchairs to Inland Empire seniors.
Audio File: Esta Willman and her husband own MediSource Equipment and Supply Inc. Theyve run it for 16 years in Yucca Valley. She fears the new competition rules will run her out of business.
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Authorities see no sheen near burning Gulf rig
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement says it saw no sheens near the well during flyovers Wednesday morning. The lack of sheen indicates the gas is burning off without releasing oil or other hydrocarbons which are sometimes found in gas wells into the water. Fortyfour workers were evacuated from a drilling rig at the site, and no injuries were reported.Gas being discharged now would not necessarily affect the water system of the Gulf proper, said Donald Boesch, president of the University of Marylands Center for Environmental Science and a member of the federal panel that investigated the BP oil spill. Thats because its likely most of the gas is venting directly into the atmosphere given the fire and shallow depth of the well, he said.Also, by nature natural gas mostly methane is far more soluble than oil, meaning it more easily dissolves, dilutes and disperses than crude oil, Boesch said. And that means concentrations that are far less lethal to the marine environment, he said. The owner of the blown rig, Hercules Offshore Inc., a contractor for well operator Walter Oil Gas Corp., also said a relief well was among options being considered.Two firefighting vessels had to be moved away to a safe distance from the fire, according to the federal news release. A third was being brought to the area.The Coast Guard was keeping nautical traffic out of an area within 500 meters of the site. The Federal Aviation Administration restricted aircraft up to 2,000 feet above the area.Tuesdays blowout occurred at a well where workers were using a portable drilling rig to complete a sidetrack well. An offshore gas platform at the site was unmanned and wasnt currently producing gas.Sidetrack wells are a means of reentering the original well bore. Industry websites say such wells are sometimes drilled to remedy a problem with the existing well bore, or to tap into a different area of the oil or gas reserve. The companies involved declined to say why the sidetrack well was being drilled.Boesch, the environmental science professor, said this type of well can be a problem because its usually a legacy issue of older wells used and tapped out mostly by major oil companies that then move on and sell to smaller companies that have less capacity to deal with safety issues.Boesch and others said its likely that the fire and blowout can be stopped relatively easily, at least when compared to the BP disaster, especially since this is in shallow water.Ted Bourgoyne, the former chair of Louisiana State Universitys petroleum engineering department, agreed that the blowout didnt pose a major environmental risk. He said that the smoke shouldnt be expected to create an air pollution problem for people onshore 55 miles away.A gas wells not going to result in any kind of major pollution perhaps not even significant pollution if its burning, said Bourgoyne, who now runs the consultancy Bourgoyne Enterprises Inc. Whereas oil we saw what happened with Macondo. That was a terrible event and the first time in 30 or 40 years they had one in the Gulf like that..