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Since You Asked: Oregon has its reasons for self-service ban

Why can't we pump our own fuel at gas stations? Is it really illegal in Oregon? Is it a safety issue or a political one? Are we seniors too feeble?

— Confused Old Geezer,via post card

There's probably something on Facebook listing Oregon and New Jersey (the other state that forbids self-service fueling) next to items such as how it's illegal for Kentuckians to have ice cream in their back pockets, but for some at Since You Asked headquarters, handing the attendant our debit card and sitting back every fill-up is a point of Beaver State pride.

That said, we've also needed to gas up in a hurry enough times to wonder just what stops us from jumping out and manning one of those pumps.

So to better answer our queries, Mr. or Ms. Geezer, we reached out to Richard Hoover with the Oregon State Fire Marshal, who pointed us to Oregon Revised Statutes 480.310 through 410.385.

Some of those statutes declare dispensing of gasoline as hazardous, others prohibit self-service gasoline pumps at retail locations, while others outline exemptions and regulations in the law for non-retail fueling, emergency vehicles, aircraft and motorcycles.

"The state Legislature passed it many, many years ago," Hoover said. "We're the ones charged with managing it and ensuring it's enforced."

As for penalties, Hoover pointed us to ORS 430.385, which states the Oregon State Fire Marshal may impose penalties of up to $500 per statute violated.

If you're wondering why the Oregon Legislature would have passed such a law in 1951, Hoover points us to ORS 430.315, which lists 17 reasons. We'll put on our paraphrasing hat here, but those reasons include better enforcement of safety procedures, reduced liability insurance costs, to benefit seniors and people with disabilities — who in other areas must pay more for "full service," more employment opportunities, and to reduce health hazards for sensitive individuals.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.