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State doesn't enforce self-service fuel law on reservations

I recently stopped for gas at that big station near 7 Feathers off Interstate 5 in Canyonville, and an attendant filled me up same as any other gas station in the state, but it got me wondering, if a casino is allowed on an Indian reservation, wouldn't self-service gas be OK, too?

— Matt, Medford

Fossil fuel puns are rare here at Since You Asked HQ, but your query definitely reached peak piqued curiosity.  

To answer your question, we reached out to Richard Hoover with the Oregon State fire marshal, the state agency responsible for enforcing those laws prohibiting self-service fueling first enacted in 1951 by the Oregon Legislature.  The law is comprised of Oregon Revised Statutes 480.310 through 410.385. Some of those laws prohibit self-service pumps at retail locations, others offer regulations and exemptions in the law for non-retail fueling, emergency vehicles, aircraft and motorcycles. 

Whether you feel capable of pumping your own regular unleaded, the typical penalty for violating those self-service fuel laws is steep — $500 per statute violated.  Except, it turns out, when you're on an Indian reservation.

"No, they do not fall under our jurisdiction," Hoover said. "They're their own separate entity."

As you may have deduced, the state and federal government gives indigenous tribes the authority to govern themselves, and the matter of self-service fueling is one that varies between reservations in Oregon.  Although Canyonville stations use fuel attendants, stations near casinos in Grand Ronde and Pendleton are self-service.

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. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.