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Fono confirms Ali'itama Sotoa as new TEO director

The Fono has officially confirmed the governor’s nomination of Ali’itama Sotoa as the new director for the Territorial Energy Office. Last Friday, the House endorsed the nominee in a unanimous vote of 19- 0 and the Senate voted yesterday to confirm the nominee in a 13-1 vote.


Sotoa retired last December from the San Diego Gas & Electric Company where he worked as a Senior Engineering & Design Advisor, and Project Manager. He graduated from the University of California in San Diego in 1972 with a degree in Mathematics, Political Science Urban & Rural Studies, according to his resume submitted to the Fono.


Earlier yesterday morning Sotoa appeared before the Senate Power, Water and Energy Committee for his confirmation hearing, which lasted for less than 30 minutes, and told senators that his ancestor, Sotoa Rapi, had told him that wherever he lived and worked on the mainland, those are the blessings from God.


And with these blessings, he said, he was also told he must return home to serve his government, village, church and people. And he has abided by the wishes of his ancestor and has returned home to serve the people and government, the director-nominee said.


Sen. Mauga T. Asuega, the first to speak during the hearing called on the nominee to work closely with the American Samoa Power Authority and its executive director Utu Abe Malae to find ways to reduce electric bills through renewable energy.


On the same issue of renewable energy, Sen. Alo Fa’auuga wanted to know if the ocean can be used as another source, to which Sotoa replied this is one of the renewable energy issues that TEO, along with ASPA and the American Samoa Renewal Energy Commission (ASREC) is exploring. (TEO and ASPA are both members of ASREC).


The rest of the senators who spoke during the hearing all offered their blessings to the nominee, and urged him to remember the people who need help in reducing their utility bills, through renewable energy.


During his official State of the Territory Address, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga told lawmakers the ASREC has completed its Territorial Renewal Energy Plan, which has since been sent to the U.S. Department of Interior for inclusion in its Renewal Energy Initiative prepared for the Insular Areas.


He said the territory’s plan was evidenced by its inclusion in the DOI Renewable Energy document, adding the “central focus” of the said plan “is the exploration of Geothermal Energy as a base load replacement fuel to drive our electricity producing generators”.


Accordingly, ASREC also prepared and received approval on its application to the U.S Energy Office for funds to facilitate implementation of its exploratory testing program to determine the size of the Geothermal Energy pool potentially available to American Samoa.