With Just 10 Signatures, This Gas Station Owner Could Kill a Ban on Pumping Your Own Gas
Despite bipartisan support, a sufficiently compromised bill, and a crisp, professionally crafted public relations campaign to back it up, Oregon lawmakers have once again failed to legalize self-service gas stations statewide.
The state legislature adjourned earlier this week without passing H.B. 4151. That bill would have let full-grown adults fuel up their own cars, provided gas stations also kept a prescribed number of full-service pumps for motorists who weren’t quite ready to handle their own nozzles.
The death blow, reports Portland’s Willamette Week, was an estimate from the state fire marshal that it would cost nearly $550,000 to regulate “consumer pumping.”
“We didn’t see this coming,” Gabriel Zirkle, of the Oregon Fuel Association, told the Willamette Week earlier this month. “Now, we have to come up with a fee to answer the question of how do we pay for the fire marshal.”
The defeat of what appeared to be a promising bill is obviously disappointing for advocates of self-service gas stations. Supporters of the freedom to fuel shouldn’t completely despair, however.
While Oregon’s Legislature-led effort might have spun out, a “gas”-roots movement to legalize self-service is revving up in the small community of Arlington, Massachusetts.
The 40,000-person Boston suburb is one of the few communities in the country to still maintain a prohibition on self-service gas. A few other Massachusetts towns, including Weymouth, bans self-service gas stations as well, as does the whole state of New Jersey.
The requirement that pumps be manned by an attendant has been a major thorn in the side of Elias Elkhaouli, an Arlington resident and gas station owner, who says it’s increasingly difficult to find people willing to work the pumps.
“It’s very hard to find employees to work seven, eight hours in the sun or in the cold,” he tells Reason. “The young generation don’t accept those jobs. They want to drive Uber, drive Amazon.” His customers also often have health concerns about interacting directly with a gas station attendant, he says.
Fortunately for Elkhaouli, Massachusetts’ tradition of small-town near-direct democracy lets him do something about Arlington’s crushing self-service mandate. Most of the smaller towns in the state are governed by town meetings—annual assemblies of eligible voters that set a town’s budget and vote on local bylaws.
Some town meetings are pure direct democracy, where every eligible voter in t
Article from Reason.com