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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Will Allow Self-Service Gas In Limited Circumstances

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
Signs like this are a rarity in Oregon. This station is operated by the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde.

A quirky fact about Oregon is that it's one of only two states in the nation that don't allow most drivers to pump their own fuel. But that's going to change in 2016 -- in a limited way.

Until now, there have been a few expectations to Oregon's law banning self-service gasoline. Among the exceptions are a handful of tribally operated stations such as one in Grande Ronde, Oregon, where Douglas Stake recently filled his tank.

"Everybody should know how to pump their own gas. You gotta be self-sufficient,” he said. 

But sitting in the car, Stake's wife, Marcia said she's glad to leave the job to someone else.

"I'm just kind of afraid of it,” she said. “I don't want it spilling over. I don't want to breathe the fumes."

In 2016, gas stations in Oregon counties with populations less than 40,000 people will be allowed to offer self-serve pumps -- but only between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. Lawmakers approved the measure after hearing from gas station owners in rural areas who said they couldn't find enough employees to staff their stations overnight.

They said that because there are so few gas stations in some part of rural Oregon, drivers desperate to fill up might have to wait hours until a station opens or else risk running out of gas before the next town.

The threshold to be included in the new law is set at a level that includes half of all Oregon counties, including most of the counties east of the Cascades. No counties along Interstate 5 are small enough to qualify.

Oregon's self-serve law is enforced by the State Fire Marshal. A spokesman said that agency is not specifically tracking the number of stations that plan to allow self-service fueling. The agency penalized three gas stations for violating the self-service ban in the past three years.

New Jersey is the only other state with a ban of self-service gasoline.