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Politics & Government

State lawmakers consider lifting ban on self-service gas in Oregon

A gasoline pump fills a vehicle
Michael Clapp
/
OPB

Oregon could ditch its status as one of the last states to prohibit self-service gasoline under a new bill state lawmakers are considering.

House Bill 4151 dives into the seemingly age-old controversy in Oregon of whether it’s time to allow for self-service gas pumps. Oregon remains one of only two states that doesn’t allow drivers to pump their own gas. But this time, the discussion is coming in the midst of a global pandemic and nationwide workforce shortage.

The legislation would allow stations to offer drivers a choice between self-serve or having an attendant pump their own gas. If a gas station owner didn’t have an attendant available, the owner could be fined. And the cost of gasoline would remain the same, whether the driver chose self-service or relied on the help of an attendant.

Haseeb Shojai owns several gas stations in Central Oregon and said he’s been forced to close some of his stations at certain times and has been unable to offer customers a set schedule because he’s been so short staffed.

“It is important for us to stay open to make sure that our customers and our community have access to gasoline,” he said. “Their daily lives and work depend on unobstructed access to gasoline.”

The state allowed people to temporarily fill their own tanks during the summer 2021 heat wave. And in rural parts of the state, Oregonians have been allowed to pump their own gas since 2015.

The bill has bipartisan support and is sponsored by Reps. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, and Shelly Davis Boshart, R-Albany.

Fahey called the bill a “modest change” that tries to strike a balance rather than forcing a “dramatic shift.”

“I’ve heard from a number of Oregonians that they don’t want to lose full-service gas, and there are many reasons to prefer it: accessibility for people with disabilities, or older Oregonians not wanting to get out of their car in the rain, or, yes, just plain liking it better that way,” Fahey said. “The beauty of this bill is that it will not take that option away.”

Sen. Janeen Sollman, D- Hillsboro, during the Joint Committee on Transportation hearing on Tuesday, said she hopes the bill would also reduce the amount of time drivers idle in their cars and release exhaust into the air.

But Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, sounded a bit more skeptical. He noted that in other states where they have tried to make this split, self-service typically ended up the only option.

“I have found especially when I was dealing with elderly relatives, they couldn’t get someone to pump their gas,” he said.

Frederick noted that it could be difficult to identify which stations simply stop helping those with disabilities, the elderly and others who appreciate having the help of an attendant.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.