Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and leader of New Yorkers Against Fracking, set out to translate regulations into understandable language for people so they could respond. She spoke at several community meetings held to generate comments, and put up a website where she dissected one section of the regulations each day of the comment period.
"My little website project alone generated more than 20,000 comments," Steingraber said. "I don't tell people what to write, I just give the facts and say, 'Knock yourself out.'"
A new group called Students Against Fracking, a coalition of campus-based anti-fracking groups, organized an online campaign to get college students home on holiday break to write comments on the regulations.
Younger students were also recruited to comment.
"A number of school classrooms took time to go through the regulations and have students write comments," said John Armstrong of Frack Action.
The industry-funded group Energy in Depth denounced a fourth-grade classroom comment-writing exercise in Middletown as "student indoctrination."
Logan Adsit of South Otselic in Chenango County went to one of six letter-writing events held in the Southern Tier — the counties near the Pennsylvania line where shale development is most likely to begin if it's approved. The meeting was organized by the Chenango Delaware Otsego Gas Drilling Opposition Group. "They had stamped envelopes and sample letters that you could just sign and mail," Adsit said. "But most people wrote their own."
Jill Weiner, a member of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, said her group generated 23,924 comments. "We did a ton of research and put together 13 letters our members could take and expand on, or sign and send in as comments," she said.
Alex Beauchamp, a professional organizer for New York City-based Food and Water Watch, said the generation of 204,000 comments was an impressive achievement.
"Generating petitions for decision-makers is a tactic used in all kinds of campaigns," Beauchamp said. "Often, it's like pulling teeth even to get people to sign a petition. It was good to see people really delve into this."