By Associated Press • 

Oregon may end self-serve gas ban ... but only in rural areas

SALEM - Oregon is one of only two states where motorists aren't allowed to pump their own gas. The other is New Jersey.

Now, the Legislature appears ready to at least let people driving through rural Oregon serve themselves because of concerns that travelers could get stranded in places where few gas stations are open after hours.

Parts of Oregon are so remote that people unfamiliar with the landscape don't realize hundreds of miles separate gas stations, said Rep. Cliff Bentz, sponsor of a bill that would let gas stations offer self-service fuel when there isn't an owner, operator or employee around.

Rural businesses in the middle of nowhere can't afford to keep someone manning the pumps 24 hours a day, said Bentz, a Republican from Ontario — a city near the Idaho border.

“You go around eastern Oregon counties, you find more and more situations where there isn't any fuel. And it's not unlike the situation electric car owners find themselves in now,” said Bentz, a Republican from Ontario.

Bentz's bill sailed through the House on a bipartisan 60-0 vote. It's now awaiting a committee hearing in the Senate.

The measure is limited to counties where there are fewer than 40,000 residents. That accounts for half of Oregon's counties and almost all of eastern Oregon.

Oregonians have rebuffed every attempt to overturn the prohibition of self-service since it was instituted, including a ballot measure they rejected in 1982 that would have legalized self-service. The opposition has been so strong that legislators haven't introduced a measure to overturn the ban since 2003.

New Jersey has stuck with its ban, too. In 2011, Gov. Chris Christie said he wouldn't support legislation for self-service gasoline because most residents don't want it, despite making a proposal for self-serve gas while campaigning for governor in 2009.

Oregon's law banning self-service lists 17 motives. Among them, self-service “discriminates against customers who are elderly or have disabilities who are unable to serve themselves,” and unattended children could create a “dangerous situation.”

“In Oregon, the first reason that the law gives to ban self-service gas in effect is, ‘You will set yourself on fire,’” said Steve Buckstein, co-founder of the Cascade Policy Institute, a libertarian think tank.

These days, the arguments against self-service are mainly that full-service stations create jobs and make life more convenient for motorists by letting them stay in the comfort of their vehicles.

Bentz said owners and operators of rural gas stations asked him to introduce HB 3011 this year.

If it's a frosty winter's night and the needle on the fuel gauge is nudging empty, drivers in rural Oregon may grow desperate when, after driving hours in search of a filling station, they find it empty and closed.

“Numerous times, I've been woken in the middle of the night by the sheriff's dispatch because we have folks who follow their phones and aren't very smart and don't fill up till their gas lights are on,” said Tom Downs, who owns a gas station in southeastern Oregon.

“Out of the goodness of our hearts we get up in the middle of the night and fuel them so they can get on their way,” he said.

Comments

Mudstump

What a bunch of bull. This bill is just a way to turn the tide on self-serve gas stations in Oregon. Its all about putting the extra bucks in the pockets of those who sell fuel. They couldn't get what they wanted by telling us gas would be cheaper....because we know better. Now...its about safety...yeah right!

TTT

I'm all for self-serve gas in Oregon because I've stopped at the Arco in Dundee many times and it's so poorly staffed I would wait 10 minutes just to have somebody acknowledge my presence.

The last time I was there I actually waited 5 minutes, got out and pumped the gasoline myself, paid with my debit card at the pump and left before any staff even noticed I was waiting.

I don't care if gasoline costs the same amount with our without staff. I just want to get in and leave ASAP.

paleface

I'd rather not see all those minimum wage jobs lost to machines just because of an occasional nitwit ending up parked all night until a service station reopens.

I do agree though with TTT that folks with debit & credit cards should be allowed to pump their own fuel during regular business hours, if they so choose. I also believe that service stations should not be required to leave their pumps on after closing for the day.

Seabiscuit

"I also believe that service stations should not be required to leave their pumps on after closing for the day."
That should work well right up until about the first time someone drives off with the nozzle still in the fill spout...or "hotwires" the pump and fills their own tanker up in the middle of the night.

paleface

"That should work well right on up until about the first time someone drives off with the nozzle still in the fill spout...or 'hotwires' the pump and fills their own tanker up in the middle of the night."

My first job after separating from the military was working as the sole night-time pump attendant for an owner-operated Mobil gas station.

My shift ended at 2:00 am. At which point I'd shut the pumps down, padlock each pump nozzle, turn off the exterior lighting, count the shift proceeds, secure them in the floor safe, then go home. If someone was looking to steal a tanker load of fuel, they wouldn't do it through a station pump gas nozzle, that's just way too slow of a process. A person utilizing a tanker has an on-board pump with an hose capable of more quickly extracting a much larger volume of fuel directly from the storage tank. Which of course were typically kept padlocked as well.

Seabiscuit

I have no problem with this concept at all. In fact, 99% of the time I pump my own diesel.

Paleface, "tanker load of fuel, they wouldn't do it through a station pump gas nozzle, that's just way too slow of a process." my "tanker" was just a little bit of sarcasm...I worked for a couple of gas stations and had the closing shift myself.

It sounds like they want to set up a type of card lock or similar operation that doesn't require someone to be paid to sit in the station all night long. I doubt too many stations out in far reaches of Eastern Oregon that this bill is addressing could afford that. Even here in Western Oregon you can go a long ways at 0300 trying to find gas and not too many of the station owners are going to want to pay someone $10 an hour to sit and watch the pumps for 1 or 2 cars that need gas between 11 at night and 6 in the morning.

I don't have a problem with it myself, but I'm wondering how cost efficient it really would be for the operations they are talking about...unless they left the pump power on and unattended.

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