Thursday, May 07, 2015

Oregon may end ban of self-serve gas in rural areas

Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states in the U.S. that do not allow self-serve gas stations, but Oregon may begin to allow them—but only in rural areas where only a few stations are open late, Sheila V Kumar writes for the Associate Press.

Travelers can get stranded in areas of the state where few gas stations are open late, and those unfamiliar with the area could also get stuck because in some cases, gas stations are hundreds of miles apart, said Rep. Cliff Bentz, "sponsor of a bill that would let gas stations offer self-service fuel when there isn't an owner, operator or employee around," Kumar reports. These rural business owners can't afford to pay someone to watch the pumps 24 hours per day, Bentz said.

The measure would only apply in counties with fewer than 40,000 residents, but that includes half of Oregon's counties. Oregonians have opposed previous attempts to remove the self-serve gas ban so strongly that legislators haven't attempted to overturn it since 2003. Oregon's current law banning self-serve cites 17 reasons for its existence. Among them are concerns about elderly people and those with disabilities being unable to pump gas and potential dangers of unattended children.

"In Oregon, the first reason the law gives to ban self-service gas in effect is, 'You will set yourself on fire,'" said Steve Buckstein, co-founder of the Cascade Policy Institute, a libertarian think tank. Today, the reasons for banning self-service usually relate to job creation and convenience for drivers.

"Numerous times, I've been woken in the middle of the night by the sheriff's dispatch because we have folks who follow their phones and aren't very smart and don't fill up till their gas lights are on," said Tom Downs, who owns a gas station in southeastern Oregon. "Out of the goodness of our hearts we get up in the middle of the night and fuel them so they can get on their way." (Read more)

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