Pushback Grows Against Illinois Proposed Self-Service Ban

Fuel retailers mobilize to fight restrictions as bill’s sponsor promises revisions
Photograph: Shutterstock

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A bill that, as currently written, would ban self-service fueling in Illinois is getting strong pushback from fuel retailers in the state, who argue it would ultimately increase fuel prices. But the legislation’s sponsor says a full ban is not what she had intended and is promising revisions to the bill.

As introduced Feb. 5 to the Illinois General Assembly, The Gas Station Attendant Act (H.B. 4571) stipulates that “no gas may be pumped at a gas station in this state unless it is pumped by a gas station attendant employed at the gas station.” This is how the legislation was originally worded by its sponsor, Rep. Camille Y. Lilly (D-Oak Park).

The lllinois Petroleum Marketers Association/Illinois Association of C-Stores (IPMA/IACS), which represents about 4,000 fueling locations in the state, has launched a lobbying campaign against the bill. Members have been encouraged to call Lilly’s office to complain about the bill and to call their local state representatives to share their concerns.

In an interview with WGEM, IPMA CEO Josh Sharp described the bill as “a typical Springfield solution to creating jobs," referring to the Illinois capital.

"What we need in Illinois are less mandates from Springfield telling business owners, 'Hey, here's how you should run your business. We know better than you,' " Sharp told WGEM. "What we need is more legislation in the state that takes more of a burden off business owners and makes it more attractive to come here and create jobs."

Many gas stations offer buttons to push or phone numbers for customers to use if they need assistance, Sharp pointed out. The association argues that forcing retailers to hire fueling attendants would ultimately increase fuel prices.

"Full-service was always more, and the reason for that is factoring in the labor costs. So unquestionably, the price would go up. This isn't job creation. This is just mandating that businesses do something," Sharp said.

A Rushed Process

Lilly said she was surprised by the amount of the pushback.

“[I said], ‘What did I do?’” she told the Peoria Journal Star. “And some people can be really aggressive.”

Lilly said she wrote the text of the bill in a hurry to meet a filing deadline and did not intend to propose a full ban of self-service fueling. Instead, she plans to amend the bill to require gas stations to employ a certain number of fuel attendants, although she is not yet sure whether to base that “ratio” on the number of fuel pumps, the site’s square footage, the retailer’s income or other factors.

“It’s not soup yet,” she told the newspaper.

Lilly was originally inspired to propose the full-service requirement by nostalgia for how fueling used to happen and the social connections people made with gas station attendants.

“We knew the gas attendant. We knew the owner of the gas station,” she said. “It created a sense of community.” Also, full-service fueling provides jobs, she said, and can help reduce safety incidents at gas stations.

“Some people don’t know how to pump,” she says. “Some are driving off with the pumps in their car.”

Sharp pushed back against the drive-off concerns, telling the Journal Star that such incidents are rare. When they do occur, fuel dispensers have features such as shut-off valves that minimize spill dangers.

The association said it is willing to work with Lilly on ways to improve the fueling experience for the disabled or elderly, but it remains opposed to the bill as currently written.

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