Out-of-staters, rejoice! Amid a flurry of end-of-session activity ahead of the constitutionally mandated sine die, or adjournment date, of June 25, the Oregon House and Senate passed a new bill allowing Oregonians to pump their own gas across the state — ending a 72-year ban on the practice.
The bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support, 16 to 9, on June 22. It had previously cleared the House easily, 47 to 10, back in March. It now awaits the signature of Governor Tina Kotek to become law, effective immediately.
House Bill 2426 doesn’t eliminate full-service attendants. Rather, it gives motorists a long-awaited choice as to how they would like to fuel their vehicles.
Under the new law, gas stations must still dedicate at least half of their pumps to full service for those who are elderly, disabled or simply prefer it, and they’re required to offer self-service and attendant service at the same price.
“This bill strikes a balance between consumer preferences, business needs and employment considerations,” said Senator Janeen Sollman, Democrat from Hillsboro and one of the measure’s chief sponsors. “It provides Oregonians choice at the pump, while still protecting access for the elderly and disabled community members.”
In a rancorous legislative session that included the longest walkout in Senate history, the bill was a rare example of true bipartisanship.
“Because I belong to a commercial fueling cooperative, I have pumped my own fuel for years. I have yet to light myself on fire,” said Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp, of Bend. “I have yet to cause any problems whatsoever as it relates to self-serve gas. I know Oregonians are ready.”
Though there have been intermediate years and exceptions, notably in rural counties in 2017, and during the pandemic and other disasters of 2020 and 2021, this change marks the first time since 1951 that Oregon has permanently allowed the option of self-service gas across the state.
It also makes New Jersey the only state in the Union to still prohibit drivers from fueling their own vehicles. In most parts of the country, full-service gas stations have long been a relic of the past, from a time when pumping gas was a more complicated, inconvenient and even potentially dangerous operation.
But advances in technology and convenience brought about the proliferation of self-service gas stations throughout the 1970s, and the practice soon became the new normal in the ’80s with the rise of credit cards.
According to reporting from The Oregonian, the state’s fuel companies have long pushed for the change due to staffing shortages.
The Northwest Grocery Association, an advocate for retail and food suppliers, claims that jobs won’t be lost because half of gas pumps are already closed due to understaffing. The provision in the bill to staff half of pumps reflects this statistic, effectively reopening gas stations that are understaffed.
The bill also streamlines the existing patchwork rules regarding self-service gas for all Oregonians, including a 2015 law that allowed self-serve gas during nighttime hours in rural and coastal counties to help fuel retailers and drivers, and a 2017 measure extended this allowance to all hours in rural counties.
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