An investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) has revealed that a political assistant to New Brunswick’s energy minister asked the province’s electric utility, NB Power, to remove anti-shale signs from its utility poles last summer.

E-mails obtained by the news service through a Canadian freedom of information law show that Jacob Baisley, the executive assistant to Energy Minister Craig Leonard, contacted NB Power officials in early July, just days after Premier David Alward announced he would not implement a ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the province, home to the emerging Frederick Brook Shale (see Shale Daily, June 24, 2011).

The CBC said subsequent e-mails among NB Power officials and Baisley indicate confusion over who should pay for the signs to come down, whether the energy ministry had the authority to order their removal, and where the signs were located. Utility workers were reportedly sent to Sussex to look for signs, but could not find any. They were then ordered to look for signs in Fredericton, the provincial capital.

Although there was reportedly no explanation as to why the ministry wanted the signs removed, the e-mails between Baisley and NB Power coincided with the a summer-long backlash against fracking in New Brunswick, which included a blockade of seismic trucks near Stanley and the occupation of a government building in Fredericton by protesters (see Shale Daily, Aug. 15, 2011). Thefts and vandalism associated with the protests forced Southwestern Resources Canada, a Southwestern Energy Co. subsidiary, to delay further seismic testing in the province (see Shale Daily, Aug. 25, 2011).

NB Power could not be reached for comment Monday.

Environmental groups began pressuring New Brunswick officials to enact a moratorium on fracking after neighboring Quebec said it would conduct a two-year environmental assessment on shale gas (see Shale Daily, March 10, 2011). Despite this, lawmakers in the Legislative Assembly voted along party lines to support shale gas development (see Shale Daily, Dec. 12, 2011).