Oregonians Allowed to Pump Their Own Gas . . . for Two Days

A brutal heat wave led to a temporary suspension on the state’s law prohibiting customers from filling up their own tanks.

midsection of man refueling car at gas station
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  • The Pacific Northwest is being hit by an unprecedented heat wave, with temperatures in Portland rising above 110 degrees for two straight days.
  • The Oregon State Fire Marshal temporarily suspended the state’s ban on self-service gas stations, which will help protect gas-station clerks from the heat.
  • Oregon’s law that prevents customers from pumping their own gas, introduced in 1951, will resume on Tuesday evening.

    The Pacific Northwest is in the midst of a merciless heat wave. Temperatures in Portland, Oregon, reached 112 degrees on Sunday, a record high since documentation began in 1940, before setting a new peak on Monday at 115 degrees. (The state's average for this time of year is in the 70s.) This unexpected and overwhelming heat has now led Oregon to announce a temporary change to the state's regulations that prohibit customers from pumping their own gas. On Sunday, the Oregon State Fire Marshal announced that Oregonians are now permitted to fill up their own cars—but only until the evening of Tuesday, June 29. Governor Kate Brown approved the temporary suspension.

    Oregon is one of two states that don't allow customers to pump their own gas. (The other is New Jersey.) The law was first introduced in 1951, when many states had similar statutes and gas-station pumps had fewer safety measures. Self-service became widespread in the 1970s, accelerated by gas shortages that made the shorter wait times and cheaper prices of self-service more attractive, but Oregon's law has persisted. The state has instituted exceptions for certain areas, such as remote, rural regions and tribal lands.

    During the brief period when the ban is lifted, many Oregonians will have to figure out how to get gas on their own, possibly for the first time in their lives. Although this means that gas station customers will have to exit the air-conditioned cocoon of their vehicles to top off the tank, this change is more likely geared at protecting the gas station attendants from potentially standing on black asphalt in sweltering temperatures for hours.

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