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Meetings with top US DOI officials discuss key issues for Am. Samoa

Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga
New Fono building, Hawaiki Cable System and StarKist EPA permit are among issues

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga is leading an ASG delegation, which met this week in Washington D.C. with top US Department of Interior officials before heading to Oakland, California to meet with US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region IV officials.

“We are preparing our report to the Governor on the outcomes of the meeting with DOI,” said the Governor’s executive assistant, Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, who is part of the ASG delegation, responding to Samoa News email inquiries.

The delegation, which also includes Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale, met Tuesday, Oct. 30th, with Interior Assistant Secretary, Douglas Domenech; Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs director Nikolao Pula; and DOI Staff.

Issues addressed during the meeting included, the new Fono building; StarKist’s federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit application and the permit is issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency for StarKist Samoa plant; federally mandated minimum wage; federal incentives; ocean monuments; the Large Vessel Prohibited Area (LVPA) in territorial waters reserve for the local alia fleet; and Hawaiki Cable System.

Prior to the delegation’s departure from the territory, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga had sent a letter to US Interior Secretary Fofoga-o-Samoa Ryan Zinke detailing issues for which DOI’s assistance was being requested. Efforts to get a copy of the letter from the Governor’s Office were not successful at press time early yesterday evening.

Lolo had first mentioned the ASG delegation visit to D.C. to discuss several issues pertinent to American Samoa, when Zinke was on island early last month, during the governor’s remarks following the welcoming ava ceremony at Su’igaula o le Atuvasa in Utulei.

Asked if the delegation plans to meeting with FEMA regarding the new Fono building, Iulogologo said Tuesday that after the DOI meeting, the delegation travels to FEMA regional office in Oakland for a meeting. No specific date was given for the FEMA meeting.


In his Aug. 20 letter, FEMA Region IX Administrator, Robert J. Fenton raised with the governor concerns over the new Fono building, which he says does not comply with federal regulations. Failure to comply with federal regulations, Fenton wrote, means a loss of federal funding in the millions of dollars from FEMA, if another disaster happens in American Samoa.

The governor responded in a Sept. 28 letter, saying that his government takes the issues raised  “very seriously and have suspended construction.” He also mentioned his delegation to be dispatched sometime in October-November 2018 timeframe to present “our plans for resolving” concerns Fenton raised. (See Samoa News edition Oct. 9, 2018 for details).

However, the governor had a different tone during an Oct. 12th cabinet meeting, saying that American Samoa Government only takes directions from DOI and no other federal agency, such as FEMA.

And that he only responded to Fenton “out of respect” for the relationship between FEMA and ASG. The governor made clear that there is no plan to halt this project from moving forward as the Administration awaits a response from DOI, which gives the “compass” (‘tapasa’) that American Samoa follows.  See Samoa News edition Oct. 15th for details.

For the NPDES permit, the governor appointed in mid August this year, an eleven-member task force, chaired by Talauega, to come up with recommendations to form a government proposal to USEPA to assist StarKist Samoa’s federal permit request.

The move followed a visit in early August by StarKist president and chief executive officer Andrew Choe sought support on the permit application to the USEPA, “particularly on the operational refuse discharge which was dumped in the ocean but has been discontinued.”