LPG dealers oppose Epra order to install cameras, give it full access

Police officer keep guard at Mradi gas explosion site in Embakasi on February 06, 2024. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) dealers have taken legal action to challenge new regulations established by the government following the Embakasi fire explosion that resulted in seven fatalities and hundreds of injuries.

 On February 26, 2024, the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) issued a circular mandating that all companies involved in liquefied petroleum gas must install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.

 EPRA made it a requirement for dealers to have operational licenses and also insisted on having access to the CCTV cameras to ensure compliance. 

However, the gas dealers, represented by the Independent Gas Dealers Association of Kenya, argue that the regulator’s directive lacks a legal or policy foundation and was not subjected to public participation.

 “The directive came as a surprise to the petitioner and its members because it seems to target only specific liquefied petroleum gas dealers without clear criteria for selection,” stated Ahmed Mohamed, the association’s treasurer.

 He expressed concerns that EPRA’s directive would require members to provide all their dealership information and operations to the agency without assurance of how the collected data would be used.

 One of the issues EPRA aimed to address was compliance, citing the Embakasi explosion as a result of non-compliance with regulations.

 In court, the distributors claimed they were not consulted before the directive to install CCTV cameras was issued.

 They argued that there was no public participation and insufficient time provided to ensure compliance. “It is unreasonable for the first respondent to tie the implementation of the directive to the interested parties operational licenses when the respondent is aware or ought to be aware that it is not possible to implement the directive within 21 days considering the logistics of implementation,” the court heard.

 The court heard that over 100 gas dealers were dissatisfied with the requirement to install CCTVs in their premises.

 They also objected to the need to seek approval from the Data Protection Commissioner for data collection and storage.

 “It is unreasonable and irrational for the first respondent to target the interested parties with the directive without giving reasons why the directive only applied to the interested parties,” said Mohamed.

 The dealers contended that EPRA’s directive would harm their businesses and jeopardize thousands of jobs, as well as violate their privacy by monitoring their operations.

 The dealers requested the court to declare the directive to install CCTVs illegal and unconstitutional and sought an order to overturn the directive. 

They urged the court to prevent EPRA from accessing data or information beyond legal limits in gas-filling areas and to compel the regulator to pay damages for breaching rights and failing to involve the public in the decision-making process.