Reducing utility rates quickly; one of ASPA's five mandates
The feasibility of moving the Satala power plant to Tafuna area and reducing both electric and water rates within a certain time frame are two of the five mandates that Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has delivered to the new interim board of the American Samoa Power Authority.
The five member board, chaired by former ASPA official Perelini Perelini convened their first meeting last Friday and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, accompanied by the governor’s executive assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira and legal counsel Douglas Fiaui, met with the new board at that time.
There were reports last Wednesday received by Samoa News that certain members of the previous board had planned to show up at this meeting to claim that they are still the valid ASPA board.
The Governor’s Office said Friday afternoon that a letter dated Thursday last week was sent to the previous board terminating their service, and the interim board takes over the role as the governor moves to reconstitute the board.
Details of the letter to the previous board were not available at press time from the Governor’s Office.
They did not show up at the meeting, according to an ASPA official who does not wish to be named; but, says the old board had planned to hold a meeting in the ASPA conference room after the interim board’s meeting, but could not confirm if it actually took place. What time the letter terminating their services was delivered is unknown.
The only member of the previous board appointed by Lolo to the new interim board is Va’a Sokelati Fala, who attended last Friday’s meeting, where Lemanu thanked the board members for “accepting” the invitation to help the Lolo administration carry out the mandate the governor wants for ASPA.
Samoa News understands that a termination letter was also delivered to the CEO of ASPA Andra Samoa around 3 p.m. Thursday, from the interim board, which asked her to vacate her office by 4 p.m. that afternoon. Samoa was said to have called the chairman of the ASPA board to request for at least 2- 3 more hours to vacate her office — her request was granted.
Iulogologo said Lemanu delivered the five mandates by the governor for the board to address and at the top of the list is a reduction in rates for power and water within 100-days, or sooner.
During his special remarks at the swearing in ceremony last Friday for officials of the Department of Local Government (or Office of Samoan Affairs), the governor told the gathering that he has given a mandate to the interim board to come up with a solution to reduce electric and water rates within the next six months.
And if this board is unable to do this task in six months, they will be removed and replaced with another board that can do it, said Lolo, to laughter from some members of the audience.
The second mandate is to “develop a transition plan” to get ASPA out of the fuel distribution business as soon as possible. ASPA has been a fuel supplier for more than three years, taking over from Exxon Mobil Oil, who pulled out of the territory.
ASPA officials testified several times in the past before the Fono that being a fuel supplier would ensure competition in the territory as well as bring down utility rates. The House last September passed a resolution calling on ASPA to re-evaluate its existing rate structure, refrain from scheduled rate hikes (for water, solid waste, waste water and underground fees - which went into effect Oct. 1st of last year) and pass achieved cost savings on to customers.
The resolution states in part that ASPA continues to justify increases by stating to the public that its business plan and alternative energy programs will result in savings, which will be passed on to its customers but “ASPA has failed to deliver on these promises.”
For example in 2009, ASPA “guaranteed” that its move to become a fuel supplier would result in savings which would benefit its customers — but to date, “the only result seen is a $30 million increase in ASPA’s budget, with zero benefit for customers,” according to the resolution.
WASTE WATER/ SOLID WASTE
A third mandate for the board is to develop a transition plan to divest waste water and solid waste (trash collection) functions currently handled by ASPA, transferring them to ASG agencies which the board will determine as the best agencies to handle them.
There have been calls by lawmakers in past years for the government to transfer these two services out of ASPA, saying that ASPA should concentrate on utility services. There were even bills introduced in the Fono to transfer these two functions out of ASPA, but the measures never made it out of committee and therefore were automatically defeated.
The fourth mandate for the board is to develop infrastructure to allow immediate access by businesses and individuals to alternative energy available — such as solar power; and develop capacity to reduce dependency on fossil fuel and rely on alternative energy.
ASPA has been working on alternative energy projects and has implemented at least one of them, when, ASPA last year brought on-line its federally funded photo-voltaic project, providing solar generated energy to the electric grid, which is estimated to reduce ASPA’s diesel fuel consumption by 197,391 gallons and achieve an annual cost savings of about $790,000.
SATALA POWER PLANT
The final mandate, which the governor has given the board, is for it to determine the feasibility of moving the Satala power plant to the Tafuna area, freeing up the land in Satala to be “dedicated to fishery development.”
Specific details of “fishery development” are expected to come out of the governor’s office in the near future.
Samoa News should point out that land previously occupied by StarKist Samoa’s cold storage freezer facility — ASPA terminated the land lease — is slated for ASPA to build a permanent new power plant, worth millions of dollars, with the majority of that project to be funded by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The current temporary Satala power plant is located on the site that was wiped out by the 2009 tsunami disaster.
ASPA officials had testified before the Fono following the 2009 tsunami about the need to maintain the power plant location either in Satala or around the Bay Area. They said that this would ensure sufficient capacity to power the Bay Area and the rest of the Eastern District but also act as a back up, in the event that the Tafuna power plant is down.
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