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Senate rejects government’s lease with solar power company

Rendering of the proposed new fono building.

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The government’s plans to allow a company to use government land near the Veterans Memorial Stadium to build a solar farm faced a setback after the Senate turned down a 17-year extension to an existing lease with the company, Malosi LLC.

Senators voted unanimously this week to reject the lease.

The company’s existing lease with ASG is one day short of ten years, but it was exercising the option to extend the lease term for 17 years plus one day. The acreage covered in the lease is over 20 acres.

Acting Attorney General Mitzie Jessop Taase and Director of Commerce Fuiavailili Keniseli Lafaele testified on the lease at a hearing of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee earlier this week.

The acreage includes land that is the subject of a long-standing legal battle between the government and the Lemeana’i family of Iliili.

According to a summary by the Acting AG, in 1960 the government condemned 553 acres of land to build the airport and roads for the territory. Copies of a document showing that the government paid just over $18,000 to the family, was distributed to senators.

Sen. Tuaolo M. Fruean wanted to know whether the $18,000 for 553 acres is fair for the family. Fuiavailili said that based on the land’s market value at the time the lease was signed, he thinks the price was fair.

It came out in statements by senators this morning that since the government is using the land for other purposes, for example leasing the property to private companies, the family wants their lands returned.

Tuala-uta Senator Magalei Logovii who chaired the hearing said family members have approached him for help in stopping ASG from taking their land. They want the unused portion of their land returned.

Senators advised that the government should work with the Lemeana’i family to try and come to an agreement and until then any lease should be put on hold. The Acting AG told Senators that the government is still in negotiation with the family regarding the land.

Malosi LLC is a Canadian company with local partners however the names of the local principals were not disclosed at the hearing though the DOC Director said he would provide the names to the committee later today.

During a hearing of the House on the same lease yesterday, Acting CEO of ASPA Wallon Young explained the company’s plans.

Fuiavailili told senators ASPA cannot build such a huge project on its own, and this is why it opted for the power purchase agreement with the company.

The lease rate is 15 cents per sq. ft. for an annual total of $134,477 to be paid in quarterly installments of $33,619.