N.J. Senate Leader Hits Brakes on Pump-Your-Own Gas

TRENTON (AP) -

New Jersey drivers won’t be pumping their own gas any time soon.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said on Tuesday that recently introduced measures to roll back the law requiring gas station attendants to pump gas will not pass as long as he’s in charge.

“There’s nothing wrong right now with our system,” Sweeney said. “There’s not a problem.”

Republican Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon and Sen. Gerald Cardinale, as well as Democratic state Sen. Paul Sarlo, want to end the prohibition that dates to the 1949 law. O’Scanlon said his legislation calls for a three-year period where merchants can offer self-service gas but must also provide full service. He called the current law unnecessary.

“I’ve always known the Senate president was opposed to it and my thoughts on it weren’t to have it move, it’s to stir debate, and it worked,” Sarlo said.

Some defenders of the 1949 Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act specifically cite potential hazards. Meanwhile, critics point out that 48 other states operate without much trouble. Sweeney said it’s a matter of convenience, not safety.

When it’s snowing, how many people are clamoring to pump their own gas, Sweeney asked.

The trade group representing gas stations, which had opposed self-service previously, now supports the idea.

“How many times have you driven into a gas station and seen pumps blocked off by orange cones?” said Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience Store, Automotive Association, adding that’s a sign that stations do not have enough workers on duty.