Are the Days of Oregon’s Self-Service Fueling Ban Numbered?

Legislation would permit motorists to pump their own gas in rural counties

Cliff Bentz Oregon self-service (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores / Gas Stations)

Cliff Bentz

SALEM, Ore. – A bill sponsored by State Representative Cliff Bentz (R) to allow self-service fuel dispensing in rural locations in Oregon is moving through the state legislature. It would permit self-service fuel pumps in low-population counties where there may be hours when a gas station may not be open.

This would be allowed in counties with a population of less than 40,000.

A summary of House Bill 3011, “Relating to the operation of devices for dispensing Class 1 flammable liquids,” reads: “[This bill] allows dispensary for Class 1 flammable liquids located in low-population county to permit self-dispensing of liquids when no owner, operator or employee of dispensary is present. … [provided] that county population increase does not terminate self-dispensing.”

“Almost all counties in eastern Oregon are less than 40,000,” Bentz, a member of the House Transportation & Economic Development Committee, recently told The Argus Observer. There are some counties on the coast that have populations less than 40,000, he said, but, “it is an eastern Oregon-centric bill.”

Should it pass, and a county’s population rises above the 40,000 mark on or after the effective date of the act, self-serve fuel pumps would still be allowed, the report said.

Owners and operators of rural gas stations who cannot afford to staff their businesses 24-hours per day asked Bentz to introduce the legislation. They said people get stranded in remote communities because they are not prepared for the long distances between stations.

The Legislative Revenue Office said it “has reviewed the proposed legislation and determined that it [will have] no impact on state or local revenues. … [and] no expenditure impact on state or local government.”

Oregon and New Jersey are the last two states that still do not allow motorists to pump their own gas.

Oregon’s prohibition dates back to 1951. Reasons for the ban include “the need for training for safe dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids; hazards faced by untrained persons dispensing such liquids; difficulties of some persons, such as senior citizens, in self-dispensing fuel and the lack of ability to ensure full-service fuel dispensing; health and environmental factors; the tendency for significantly higher cost of full-service fuel dispensing in states that allow self-service dispensing; the correlation between self-service dispensing and reduced availability of automotive repair at fueling stations; and employment considerations.”