Lawmaker petitions ASPA to delay October 1 rate increase
Now that the minimum wage increase is delayed until 2015, Rep. Larry Sanitoa has petitioned the American Samoa Power Authority to also delay this year’s rate hike, while carrying out another comprehensive rate study of ASPA services.
Last Friday, Sanitoa wrote to ASPA board chairman Asaua Fuimaono for “your kind consideration” to “implore” once again the board postpone the next rate hike set to take effect Oct. 1 this year.
“I humbly seek the board’s favor to grant a temporary stay on the utility’s rate increase for at least another two years, on behalf of my constituents in Tualauta District and all the residents of our Territory who are currently struggling with financial hardships due to low income status and/or no means of income for their livelihood,” he wrote.
The rate hikes affect monthly customer service charges, base water rate, ground water contamination abatement charges, plus solid waste collection fees.
“This will be the third rate increase ASPA has imposed on our residents and businesses, despite the economic downturn that we have yet to recover from; and as the downward spiral continues our problems are compounded with several federal aid programs coming to an end this year,” he said.
He pointed out that Congressman Faleomavaega Eni has successfully gained congressional support of the bill to delay the minimum wage increase for American Samoa until 2015. Passage of the bill “is embraced” by many local business and wage earners alike as it will enable businesses to maintain the employment level as is and not be forced to consider layoffs, he added.
“This does not relieve the dilemma our people are currently coping with as cost of living is on the rise, as well as hospital fees and another ASPA rate increase looming. There is just very little disposable income for most families,” he wrote.
“...once again, I implore the ASPA board to reconsider the scheduled rate increase. It would definitely be a welcome act of compassion by ASPA to delay its rate increase in alignment with the delay in minimum wage increase that is supported by Congress,” said Sanitoa.
According to the Tualauta lawmaker, ASPA’s favorable consideration to delay the next rate increase would allow for another comprehensive rate study.
“Most importantly, the next study should factor in the current economic status, and the cost saving measures that ASPA has implemented with its new alternative energy projects such as the new six-acre land of photovoltaic solar panels that is expected to contribute 7% of ASPA's total generating capacity of 25 megawatts,” he said.
He also noted that at the dedication of ASPA’s photovoltaic solar panels project, Gov. Togiola challenged ASPA to convert the renewable energy project into savings for the public so that by December 2012 consumers will see a significant drop in their utility bills.
“...I have the utmost confidence that ASPA is capable of meeting this challenge and will make it a reality with its alternative energy projects and by delaying the next rate increase for another two years, if not until 2015,” he added.
The letter is copied to all ASPA board members, ASPA chief executive officer, the governor, Tualauta lawmakers, the Fono leaders and chairmen of the ASPA committees in the House and Senate.
Effective Oct. 1, 2012, the monthly water customer service charge for residential and business accounts will increase from $14.20 to $14.62 per month, according to the rates posted on the ASPA website.
There is also a base water rate for both residential and business water customers. This base rate is based on usage or water consumption. For example - for residential - it is $2.73 for every 1,000 gallons for usage up to 10,000 gallons; however, that will go up to $2.81 for every 1,000 gallons for usage up to 10,000 gallons effective Oct. 1.
For businesses, the base water rate will hike from $2.94 per thousand gallons to $3.03 effective Oct. 1.
The groundwater contamination charge will hike from $16.25 per month to $16.75 for both residential and business service. Businesses also pay a ground water protection volume charge.
Regarding solid waste, the rate will increase from $7.20 a month to $8.64 for residential customers. However, for residential customers in multi-tenants units and/or with multiple meters, such as apartments — the rate is $4.37 per month.
Business rates differ according to size. For example, small general customers currently go from $58.08 to $63.89 a month. For large general service and industrial customers, its currently $338.80 per month and will go up to $372.68.
ASPA officials have said in the past that the authority needs additional revenue to address many infrastructure improvements that need to be carried out. One of the major projects for ASPA is the new Satala power plant, which will require ASPA to come up with matching funds for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funded project.
As in past Fono hearings, officials of the semi autonomous agency urged lawmakers to revisit local laws regarding the annual government subsidy for ASPA which has not been provided since 2002 and is now more than $12 million.
It should be noted that ASPA had once delayed the hikes following a plea from House members more than a year ago. ASPA officials have testified several times in the Fono as well as said in public statements that instead of a lump-sum rate hike, the authority opted to increase rates over a period of time.
Samoa News recommends that local residents and businesses take time to read the ASPA rates for these services on the ASPA website (www.aspower.com) for further understanding of the cost of service, especially the new increases.
This issue is also expected to dominate debate in the Fono when lawmakers return later this month following a two week recess.