Oregon Considers Expanding Self-Service Fueling

Bill would lift current hour restrictions in low-population counties

SALEM, Ore. -- Oregon may expand self-service fueling, thanks to a recent proposal before lawmakers.

Oregon is one of only two states that restricts or prohibits self-service fueling. It passed legislation that would allow the practice on a limited basis, beginning in January 2016. Only fuel retailers in counties with populations of 40,000 or fewer can offer self-service fueling, and only between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. The aim was to give rural residents overnight access to fuel without forcing gas stations to provide 24-hour staffing, which could be pricey and difficult in sparsely populated areas. 

But now lawmakers are weighing a proposal that would allow these retailers to offer self-service in the daytime as well, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. 

Specifically, HB 2482 would remove the time restrictions for self-service fueling. Only fueling sites in low-population counties, which make up about half of the counties in the state and are mostly situated in the east, would be able to offer it. 

Paul Romain, executive director for The Romain Group and a lobbyist for the Oregon Fuels Association, testified in support of the bill before the House Transportation Committee.

“There are significant differences between small population areas and large population areas, especially when it comes to an issue of fuel availability,” said Romain.

A few legislators at the hearing shared concerns about expanding self-service fueling when many Oregon drivers may still be unfamiliar with how to use a gas pump. One of them, Rep. Susan McClain (D), shared her own first, unfortunate experience.

“All of a sudden, some wind came up and took the hose right out of my hand,” McClain said. “And so there was gas flipping all over the place.”

Supporters of the bill, however, said consumers in the other 48 states that allow self-service fueling have had seemingly little problems with it.

“Every couple of years I ride back to the Sturgis motorcycle rally [in South Dakota] where you have between a half-million and 650,000 motorcycle riders in various stages of sobriety and sanity, all filling up their tanks several times a day,” said Rep. Carl Wilson (R). “And there is never a problem. No blown-up gas stations.”

New Jersey is the only other state to prohibit self-service fueling. Despite the occasional bills to lift the ban, none have gotten traction in the state legislature, and public support for self-service remains divided. 


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