New Jersey is the only state in the union where it is illegal to pump your own gas. Lawmakers are aiming to change that.
Under the proposed “Motorist Fueling Choice and Convenience Act,” the state would essentially scrap a law that’s been on the books since the 1940s that prohibits self-service gas in the Garden State. Certain larger gas stations — those with at least four dispensers — would have to offer self-service gas between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. if they’re open during those hours.
It’s backed by several Republican and Democrat lawmakers, and the trade group the New Jersey Gasoline and Convenience Store Association.
The bill would allow smaller gas stations to offer self-service or full-service gas — or a combination of the two — and lets gas stations offer discounts to drivers who pump their own gas. Gas stations would need to have a call-button so that patrons with a disability can receive assistance, and those particular customers would be guaranteed access to the cheaper self-service prices.
County and municipal governments would be barred from enacting their own restrictions on self-service gas. The law would go into effect 90 days after its signature, should it be approved.
“By providing a hybrid model, we can give consumers the option to do what they prefer when it comes to filling their gas tanks, while also giving them the opportunity to save money,” reads a statement from one of the sponsors, Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, D-7th District, in South Jersey.
Similar bills have been proposed over the years, but fell flat over concerns of their potential effect on the unemployment rate among gas station workers.
“It is shameful that so many gas stations have had to close even during daytime hours, because they do not have enough staff to keep their stations open,” reads a statement from another sponsor, Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, D-33rd District, from Hudson County.
The proposal comes as the state eyes a major adoption of electric vehicles by the middle of the decade, with the goal of having 330,000 electric cars on the road by 2025. Other efforts are looking at the adoption of electric trucks, which proponents say account for a major share of greenhouse gas emissions.
State officials are also looking at how to rework the gas tax, which is tacked onto the price per gallon at the pump for motorists, given the rising use of electric cars. The tax went down this past October, but was up in 2020 given the drop-off in travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
With less people filling up at the pumps, the gas tax would only increase, and lawmakers for years have been looking at some kind of road-usage fee in its place.
And the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine only serves to worsen already-rising gas prices, warned the American Automobile Association, given the supply of crude oil from Russia which has faced heavy sanctions.