NEMA suspends officers over ill-fated Embakasi gas plant license

Razed trucks at the Embakasi gas refilling plant. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has suspended four officers over the licensing of the Embakasi gas refilling plant that killed at least three following an explosion on Friday night.

The move to discipline the officers comes after President William Ruto on Saturday ordered the Director of Criminal Investigation(DCI) to hunt down the owner of the ill-fated Embakasi gas plant.

Ruto also directed that officers who issued licenses to the plant owner to establish a refilling gas plant in a residential area be punished.

The incident at Mradi, in Embakasi East, injured over 200 who were admitted to various city hospitals with various burns.

NEMA board chairman Emilio Mugo asked four officers to step aside to allow investigations.

He listed the director of environmental compliance, acting deputy director of compliance, senior environmental officer-EIA section and head of environmental impact assessment - EIA Section.

Mugo said that preliminary investigations have revealed that four NEMA officers unprocedurally processed the license and are therefore culpable.

"The Board therefore directs that the implicated officers step aside immediately pending further investigation by the relevant government agencies,”  Mugo said.

The statement said that after a thorough assessment of the licensing procedures and the process, the Board of Management noted gaps in the issuance of the license to the LPG plant in question.

NEMA explained that it received an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the proposed installation and operation of a 10MT LPG storage and filling plant on LR.NO 9042/146 Nairobi  Embakasi, off North Airport Road in Nairobi County by Maxxis Nairobi Energy.

The report, it said, was submitted to NEMA on July 29 as a project report by the project proponent Derdols Petroleum Ltd under the business name of Maxxis Nairobi Energy and was assigned Ref. No. NEMA/PR/5/2//23790(PSR 16708).

“The project is classified as a medium risk as per regulations of the Environment Assessment Impact and Audit Amendment regulations, 2019, legal notice 32 of 2019, category (9) Hydrocarbons Project, including (b) LPG filling plant,” said Mugo.

The EIA project report, Mugo said, was dispatched in April 2022 to lead agencies including the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority(EPRA),  Director of Physical Planning –Nairobi County and Water Resource Authority(WRA).

Director of Occupational Safety and Health,  Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company(NCWSC) and Director of Urban Planning and Development for sectoral review and comments to guide NEMA on the licensing process.

On July 28, 2022, NEMA said a review of the project was done and several issues were raised for the project proponent to address.

These included clarity of land ownership and provision of evidence of undertaking consultation with immediate neighbours of Nyayo Estate Residents Association.

On August 22, 2022, Mugo said the project proponent through the project lead environmental assessment expert responded to the issues raised.

Mugo said on February 1, 2023, the project proponent submitted a comprehensive EIA report with potential impacts identified and mitigation measures proposed in the Environmental Management Plan.

“On February 2, 2023, a record of decision was made to issue the proposed project with an EIA license No. NEMA/ EIA/PSL/23819. The license was issued with mandatory EIA license conditions for the project proponent to comply prior to the commencement of the construction works of the LPG plant or facility,” said Mugo.

It’s after the incident, Mugo said, that the board reviewed the licensing process and noted serious concerns about licensing gaps.