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Fears raised over illegal gas filling plant

Regulations require one to obtain a construction permit when setting up a liquefied petroleum gas plant. File photo | nmg
Regulations require one to obtain a construction permit when setting up a liquefied petroleum gas plant. File photo | nmg 

Residents have raised the alarm over an illegal gas filling plant in Karatina as government agencies engage in a blame-game regarding its licensing.

While the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) says it has not licensed any such facility in Nyeri County, surprisingly the plant has clearance from the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema).

ERC regulations require one to obtain a construction permit when setting up a liquefied petroleum gas plant — be it a storage or refilling facility. The permit is also a prerequisite to getting clearance from the Nema.

The director of the petroleum department at ERC, Mr Edward Kinyua, said the plant was operating illegally.

“We have not given out any LPG licence in Karatina,” said Mr Kinyua. “Only two plants are licensed in Mt Kenya region and none is in Nyeri.”

The illegal plant is located along the Nairobi-Nanyuki railway line, camouflaged by old warehouses, some of which have been abandoned.

LPG tankers were parked inside the compound with a high perimeter concrete wall and a closed high gate.

The surrounding area has many residential houses, hence the safety fears by residents.

LPG is highly flammable. In case of even a small leak, and should the gas come into contact with a spark, it could lead to a catastrophic explosion.

The site is supposed to have cautionary signage and labelling, but it does not.

Nema director Stephen Njoka admitted that the plant was given a genuine licence by the agency. He, however, did not explain how the licence was acquired without clearance from the ERC. 

Investigations by Business Daily point to underhand dealings and complacency by the authorities, who have admitted to being aware of its existence but have not taken action.

Mr Njoka said Nema inspected the plant two weeks ago over safety concerns by the public. The inspectors were accompanied by security officers, among them Deputy County Commissioner Peter Thiong’o and divisional police boss Mathews Gwiyo.

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