Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor of New York, called for a ban on drilling in the Marcellus Shale last week.

A geologic formation containing an estimated 168 trillion to 516 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — about ten percent of which might eventually be recoverable — the Marcellus Shale has turned large parts of northern and western Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York into what some have dubbed the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.”

Hydraulic fracturing is a process that requires injecting a fracturing fluid, mostly water but also containing hundreds of chemicals, into the shale at a very high pressure to fracture or “open up” the rock. Oil and gas industry spokesmen contend that the benefits outweigh the risks and that the natural gas, chemicals and contaminated water flow up to the wellhead where they are captured for production or remain trapped in the shale rock thousands of feet below the surface, while environmental critics argue that the gas and fluids can flow into the groundwater supply or the air, polluting both, while potentially creating dry beds out of streams, ponds and rivers.

Likening heavily-favored Democrat Andrew Cuomo to Goliath and his Republican opponent to David, the lifelong third-party activist — a veteran of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s 1972 presidential campaign — jokes that he’s the pesky “mosquito they are both swatting at.” In announcing his candidacy a few months ago, Hawkins told the Syracuse Post-Herald that he hopes to raise approximately $100,000 for his uphill campaign.

The Green Party needs 50,000 votes for governor to gain permanent ballot status in New York.

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