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Plans to transition Starkist ops from CA to American Samoa hit a snag

StarKist workers enter the canning plant in Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — StarKist Inc., has delayed the transition of its California operations to American Samoa, as the cannery continues to review satisfactory solutions to federal regulatory challenges faced by its business in the territory, as well as the uncertainty of the federal tax credit extension.

Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga’s Nov. 19th summary report, which includes information from an Oct. 30th meeting with Washington D.C. with US Interior Department officials, reveals that "the decision by StarKist to relocate production to American Samoa is dependent on approval” of its federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit application.

According to the report, relocation of California productions to Pago Pago would create 200 to 300 new jobs, and possible expansion of current StarKist Samoa operations, which means the possibility of additional jobs.

However, a StarKist statement issued early yesterday morning from its Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania headquarters reveal that things have changed.

“StarKist continues to evaluate all options to find satisfactory solutions to the current regulatory challenges we face in doing business in American Samoa, as well as uncertainty of whether the [federal] 30(A) tax extension is secured,” said the statement.

“As a result, StarKist will delay the transition from its Mira Loma facility in California to the StarKist Samoa facility in American Samoa at this time,” the statement notes — no further details were included.

Samoa News understands that Congresswoman Aumua Amata’s office and the Governor’s Office have been made aware of StarKist’s latest announcement.

The 30A tax extension is currently pending in the US Congress, and is part of a large federal legislation under the “American Samoa Economic Development Credit” provision.

Asked about the status of the tax extender, the Congresswoman explained, “Congress is focusing on the most immediate priority, which is the effort to avert a partial shutdown.”

“The situation is flexible, but the most likely scenario is that the tax extension portion of the legislation will be taken up in the next Congress. I will be speaking with key members of Congress about it throughout the process into 2019,” she said yesterday morning in a statement to Samoa News.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has publicly stated several times that StarKist is facing substantial operating impediments and challenges predominately caused by federal policies. For example, the federal 30(A) Tax Credit has lapsed; federally mandated minimum wage hikes; and, insensitive enforcement of US Coast Guard rules and regulations in the territory.

According to the governor, compliance with US Environmental Protection Agency environmental rules and regulations has materially raised operating costs for Starkist.