Earlier this year, Oregon enacted legislation that allows most residents to pump their own gas. That only a few weeks ago Oregonians had to sit idle while someone else topped off their tanks may come as a shock to residents of all but one other state: New Jersey.
The Garden State is the only state to outlaw the practice, and it’s not doing away with the self-serve pump ban anytime soon.
The state has a long history when it comes to banning pumping your own gasoline that began in 1949. While some argue the original ban was a method of price protection, it was ostensibly a response to safety concerns. When a pair of gas station owners challenged the law in 1951, the New Jersey Supreme Court got involved, and upheld the ban because gasoline was “dangerous in use.”
“The only thing you could argue is that New Jerseyans are more flammable than people in the other 49 states,” said state assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, Jr. “Because we eat so much oily pizza, funnel cake and fries, maybe you could make that argument.”
O’Scanlon is opposed to the ban, and says he even intends to introduce legislation repeal the prohibition much like Oregon has, but he doesn’t expect it to pass. Polls routinely reveal an overwhelming majority of New Jersey residents are in favor of keeping the ban, with numbers skewing even more sharply among women and the elderly.
“It’s kind of one of the third rails of state politics,” said Ashley Koning, who directs the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “Jersey is very proud and one of the things it’s proud of is not having to pump its own gas.”