WASHINGTON (CIRCA) — You could be fined up to $500 in Oregon and New Jersey to pump your own gas. Sounds odd, right?
It all dates to laws that were created more than half a century ago.
The laws in both states were originally enacted to protect the well-being of the customers. Or were they?
In the 1940s, a gas station owner in New Jersey named Irving Reingold offered lower prices to customers willing to pump their own gas, quickly creating a problem for competing gas stations, which began push to outlaw self-service pumps.
That ultimately led to Jersey's 1949 Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act. It effectively made pumping your own gas illegal in New Jersey.
The law says: “Because of the fire hazards directly associated with dispensing fuel, it is in the public interest that gasoline station operators have the control needed over that activity to ensure compliance with appropriate safety procedures, including turning off vehicle engines and refraining from smoking while fuel is dispensed.”
Oregon’s law, passed in 1951, was justified by spelling out the dangers of exposure to gasoline fumes.
A bill in New Jersey was introduced to lift the ban, but the vote was blocked. some state politicians view the law as a sense of state identity.
In 2011, then-Gov. Chris Christie was quoted as saying: “People in New Jersey love the idea that they’ve got somebody to pump their gas,” adding, “I don’t see that changing.”
Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the Oregon law was modified to permit customers in rural counties with fewer than 40,000 people access to self-service pumps between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.; otherwise, an attendant must be present.
While citizens in some counties in Oregon now have the option to pump their own gas, stations don’t expect many drivers to choose the option.