House Passes Bill to Allow Oregonians to Pump Their Own Gas

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By Julia Shumway

Oregon drivers who for decades have been banned from touching gas pumps could soon have the right to fuel their own cars, under a bill the state House overwhelmingly approved Monday.

Only Oregon and New Jersey ban self-service gas, though Oregon in recent years allowed people to pump their own gas in some rural counties and during heat- and COVID-related emergencies declared by the governor. The state now has a patchwork of regulations that bipartisan supporters of House Bill 2426 say their proposal would simplify.

The measure, which passed the House on a 47-10 vote and now heads to the Senate, would allow gas stations to designate up to half of their pumps for self service. In 16 of Oregon’s more heavily populated counties, at least one attendant would need to be present to pump gas for customers who don’t want the self-service option. Customers in 20 rural counties would be able to pump their own gas at any time regardless of whether an attendant is on site.

Gas stations would have to charge the same amount for self-service and full-service gas. A 2022 effort hit a roadblock when the state fire marshal said it would need more than $500,000 to regulate, but the fire marshal and other agencies now report that it would have a “minimal” impact.

Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, said the measure would give customers a choice, comparing it to self-checkout lanes at grocery stores. She usually opts to use checkout lanes with a cashier, but if she’s in a hurry and there are lines she’ll use a self-checkout lane.

“Our system regulating the dispensing of gasoline is complicated, and Oregonians are getting more and more familiar with pumping their own gas,” Fahey said.

Fahey and other supporters cited a 2021 survey from DHM Research and the Oregon Values and Belief Center that found that almost two-thirds of Oregonians supported changing the law to allow pumping their own gas.

But Rep. Jami Cate, R-Lebanon and one of the 10 lawmakers who voted against the measure, said she asked her constituents and was convinced to oppose it because many told her they feared a move toward self-service could  prevent people from fueling up if they have a disability or don’t feel safe exiting their vehicle at night.

Reps. Janelle Bynum, D-Clackamas; Paul Evans, D-Monmouth; Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene; Rob Nosse, D-Portland; Ricki Ruiz, D-Gresham; Tawna Sanchez, D-Portland; Kim Wallan, R-Medford and Boomer Wright, R-Coos Bay, joined Cate in voting against the measure.

Rep. Anna Scharf, R-Dallas, said it was a personal issue – her mother is so opposed to the idea of pumping her own gas that she threatened to stop giving her Christmas presents if she voted for the bill. But her constituents overwhelmingly want the option, she said.

“Mom, if you’re watching, please forgive me,” Scharf said as she voted for the bill.

This story first appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle.