APGA SOAR Program

APGA member systems take great pride in their ability to deliver natural gas safely and efficiently to over 5 million customers in 37 states. APGA is pleased to announce the System Operational Achievement Recognition (SOAR) program to honor those public natural gas systems that have achieved excellence in the operation of their natural gas utility. 

SOAR honors natural gas distribution utilities that demonstrate commitment to excellence in four areas:

  • System integrity
  • System improvement
  • Employee safety
  • Workforce development

Applications will be reviewed by a team of experts from the APGA Operations & Safety Committee and will be awarded a rating based on a total cumulative score of points achieved from the program criteria in each of the four areas. Utilities can receive one of three SOAR recognition levels: Bronze (80-89% of possible points), Silver (90-96% of possible points), and Gold (97-100% of possible points). SOAR continues for three years, at which point the utility may apply again to maintain recognition. A utility may also resubmit at any point for consideration to be recognized at a higher level of SOAR.View all SOAR winners. 

Attaining the APGA SOAR shows board members, community leaders, service providers and customers the utility's commitment to operational excellence.

SOAR Enrollment

The enrollment period for 2018 APGA SOAR status ended March 2, 2017. There is a $250 non-refundable fee to apply, and you will be sent the criteria forms after you complete the online form. 

Click here to watch a video on the SOAR recognition program. 

Winners will be recognized at the APGA Annual Meeting in Portland, OR in July and receive a plaque signifying their commitment to operational excellence.

All applications must submit information and data that is current and representative of the natural gas distribution system over the past three years. All applications will be treated as confidential. Some of the SOAR criteria concern the existence of certain written policies and procedures. Rather than require submission of all these written policies and procedures, the SOAR review process will request that you submit a randomly selected sample of a few documents for review by the review team.

SOAR Criteria Areas

  1. System integrity is defined as the state in which a natural gas distribution system is performing its overall intended function of distributing energy to all customers without being degraded or impaired by its internal or external environment safely and effectively. Systems that exhibit excellence in system management have adopted policies and procedures for records management, emergency preparedness, regulatory compliance and system management. View the System Integrity Survey (PDF).
  2. System improvement is when natural gas distribution systems keep themselves well maintained through both new technology integration and a commitment to system improvement programs. Distribution technology has changed significantly over the past 25 years with rapid advances in SCADA/telemetry, Geographic Information System (GIS)/digital mapping, and Automatic Meter Reading (AMR)/Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) as well as new market opportunities like natural gas vehicles. Systems that exhibit excellence in system improvement involve supporting research and development of new technologies for operations and gas end-use, infrastructure modernization through capital improvement programs and targeted replacement of obsolete portions of the distribution system. View the System Improvement Survey (PDF).
  3. Employee safety along with injury prevention are core components of a safety program that is utility-wide and evident in all aspects of utility operations, including work performed by contractors. Systems that exhibit excellence in employee safety include adopting a safety program that includes policies and procedures for education involvement and accountability for all employees, as well as tracking safety performance. View the Employee Safety Survey (PDF).
  4. Workforce development interludes creative recruitment, training, education and development practices provides a return on investment through increased employee loyalty, motivation, safety and productivity.  Systems that exhibit excellence in workforce development emphasize continuing education, certification and training; encourage participation in outside organizations such as state, regional and national trade and professional associations; and have a well thought out succession planning and recruitment program. View the Workforce Development Survey (PDF).

When the SOAR survey asks if the utility has written policies and/or procedures on a specific subject (e.g., driver/vehicle safety) answer “yes” if there is a written document on that subject that applies to the workers of the gas utility. It doesn’t matter if the written policies or procedures apply to more than just the gas utility. It is acceptable if the procedures cover other operations of the utility such as electric, water, sewer, etc., as long as it also applies to the gas utility and addresses the subject. It is also acceptable if the written policy or procedure applies to a larger entity such as the town, city, county, municipality, etc,. that operates the gas utility. It can also be part of a larger document, such as driving safety covered as one of many topics in a safety manual. If it is in writing, addresses the subject and applies to the gas utility then it satisfies the SOAR criteria.

If, however, the larger entity or another utility operated in conjunction with the gas utility has a written policy but that policy does not apply to the gas utility, this does not satisfy the SOAR criteria. For example, if the city had a driver safety policy but that policy was not applied to the gas utility drivers then it would not satisfy the SOAR criteria.

APGA recognizes that there may be activities that demonstrate a utility’s commitment to each of the four areas that may not be adequately described in answering the questions in the surveys. The last question in each survey is an open-ended question where you can describe any activities that support the four areas.

 

SOAR Winners

SOAR applicants are awarded a rating based on a total cumulative score of points achieved from the program criteria in system integrity, system improvement, employee safety, and workforce development areas. 

Gold

  • Chambersburg Gas Department, Pennsylvania  (2017-2019) *Silver winner in 2016
  • Paris Henry County Public Utility District, Tennessee (2017-2019) *Silver winner in 2016
  • Rocky Mount Public Utilities, North Carolina (2015-2018) *Silver winner in 2014
  • City of Tallahassee Gas Department, Florida  (2014-2019)

Silver

  • Elk River Utility District, Tennessee (2017-2019)
  • Greenville Utilities Commission, North Carolina (2015-2018)
  • Greer Commission of Public Works, S.C. (2016-2019) *Bronze winner in 2015
  • Jackson Energy Authority, Tennessee (2015-2019)
  • Lake Apopka Natural Gas District, Florida (2016-2019) *Bronze winner in 2015
  • City of Lawrenceville, Georgia (2016-2019)
  • City of Lexington, North Carolina (2017-2019)
  • City of Mesa, Arizona (2017-2019)
  • Norwich Public Utilities, Conn. (2017-2019)
  • Owatonna Public Utilities, Minn. (2016-2019)
  • Westfield Gas and Electric, Massachusetts  (2014-2019)

Bronze

  • Austin Utilities, Minnesota  (2014-2019)
  • City of Chanute, Kan. (2016-2019) 
  • Corinth Gas & Water, Mississippi (2015-2018)
  • CPS Energy, Texas (2017-2019) *Silver winner in 2016
  • Huntsville Utilities, Alabama  (2016-2019) 
  • Jefferson Cocke County Utility District, Tenn. (2016-2019) 
  • Long Beach Gas & Oil, California  (2016-2019) 
  • Okaloosa Gas District, Florida  (2017-2019)
  • Powell Clinch Utility District, Tennessee  (2014-2019)
  • Sevier County Utility District, Tennessee (2015-2018)
  • Shelby, N.C. (2016-2019) *Bronze winner in 2015

If you have any questions about SOAR, please contact John Erickson at jerickson@apga.org.

DISCLAIMER:  The SOAR award is recognition by a gas system’s peer companies of its demonstrated commitment to excellence in the areas of system integrity, system improvements, employee safety, and workforce development.  The SOAR award is neither a certification nor an undertaking by APGA regarding a given gas system’s ability to operate safely.  APGA does not warrant that a gas utility that participates in the SOAR program or receives a SOAR award is immune from accidents related to its gas system, and APGA does not accept any liability related to such accidents, should they occur.  APGA does believe that earning a SOAR award is an indication that the affected gas system is striving to operate safely and efficiently.