When Bill West drives his weed sprayer over wheat and hay fields at his ranch northwest of Gillette, Wyoming, he occasionally bumps into debris from the more than a hundred defunct natural gas wells on his 10,000-acre property. The company that owned the wells went out of business four years ago, leaving behind fuse boxes, internet boxes and thousands of feet of underground pipe. “They just walked away and left everything sitting,” said West, 85. “It’s up to the state to take care of it now.” So-called “orphan” oil and gas wells, which have been abandoned by defunct companies that cannot pay to plug them, are a growing problem in many states thanks to a recent slump in energy prices that has forced marginal operators out of business. Adam Peltz, a senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund, said he heard officials from 10 states highlight their work on […]