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Oregon Lifts Ban on Self-Service Gas

After 72 years of prohibition, the law takes effect immediately.

SALEM, Ore. — It's the end of an era: after 72 years, Oregon drivers can pump their own gas. On Aug. 4, Governor Tina Kotek signed a bill authorizing self-service in addition to having attendants pump fuel at gas stations.

The law takes effect immediately, reported the Associated Press. This leaves New Jersey as the only state that prohibits drivers from pumping their own gas.

Oregon outlawed self-service in 1951, citing safety concerns such as drivers slipping on wet surfaces at gas stations during the state's famously rainy periods.

In 2016, Oregon allowed counties with populations of 40,000 or lower to offer self-service from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., easing the burden on rural gas station operators, who often found it difficult to hire enough attendants, and helping drivers to avoid the possibility of being stranded. This exception was later extended to all hours in low-population areas of eastern Oregon.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing labor shortage contributed to renewed support for full self-service across the state.

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The newly signed law, which was approved 16-9 in the Oregon Senate and 47-10 in the House of Representatives, requires that gas stations not offer more self-service pumps than full-service pumps. Prices must be the same at both types of gas pumps.

UFCW Local 555, a union representing workers at grocery store gas stations in Oregon, predicted future job losses and called the law a "blatant cash grab for large corporations," according to the news outlet. Other opponents expressed concern for older adults and people with disabilities, who typically have fewer options for employment.

"I have some real concerns that we are progressively getting closer and closer to eliminating Oregon’s fuel service law entirely," Sen. Lew Frederick (D-District 22), who voted against the bill.

Service station manager Brandon Venable testified against the bill, stating that many customers are careless, and attendants keep people safe.

"I deal with many dangerous situations daily created by people smoking, leaving their engines running, getting in and out of their vehicles creating static electricity, trying to fill up random bottles and jugs, and driving off with the pump still in the vehicle," Venable said.

However, state lawmakers largely dismissed safety concerns.

"I have yet to light myself on fire. I have yet to cause any problems whatsoever as it relates to self-serve gas," said Sen. Tim Knopp (R-District 27). "So, colleagues, let's make New Jersey the only state in the country that has a law against self-serve gas."

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