Two B.C. cities soldier on with decades-old ban on self-serve gas pumps

Coquitlam and Richmond don’t let commuters pump their own gas

Two western Canadian cities that mandate gas stations employ attendants to pump fuel are outliers in a nation where most citizens are accustomed to do-it-yourself fill ups.

Richmond and Coquitlam, B.C., have prohibited self-service stations for decades and against multiple waves of industry pushback, including a recent salvo by Chevron Canada Ltd. for Coquitlam to revoke its regulation.

Their choice is once more in the spotlight as Oregon shifted this week to permit some gas stations to allow drivers to refuel their vehicles without assistance.

Oregon passed the bill, which took effect Jan. 1, in counties with populations of 40,000 or less — much to the chagrin of some locals, with those who vehemently oppose the change saying they don’t know how to pump gas, fear for their safety when doing so, or aren’t keen on smelling like fuel.

While many have mocked such responses on social media, Richmond and Coquitlam still believe there’s good reason to enforce full-service pumps in 2018.

Richmond adopted its bylaw in 1966 primarily due to the fire chief’s safety concerns, said spokesman Ted Townsend in an email.

“The principle objection to this type of service is the danger to life and property from fire due to lack of supervision by competent persons,” wrote then-fire chief R.J. Sowden in a letter to city officials dated Aug. 12, 1966.

He listed a number of potential dangers, including customers leaving motors running, smoking, under the influence of liquor, or driving off with the hose and nozzle left in the fill pipe.

At the time, some neighbouring municipalities had already passed by-laws outlawing self-service stations, according to a council report.

Coquitlam, which still enforces the rule, started to do so years earlier in 1959.

No official council records were found in city archives to explain why the restriction was adopted, according to a 2016 city document, but public correspondence suggests the move came partly to protect local employment.

Both cities have faced pressure over the years to revoke or ease the rule.

The Canadian Fuels Association, which represents the nation’s transportation fuels industry, has had discussions with each city in the past, said Rob Hoffman, the association’s director of government and stakeholder relations.

“We prefer for the market to decide, and the market has done a very good job of deciding that all over,” he said.

At the close of 2016, there were 11,931 retail gas stations in the country, according to Kent Group Ltd., a London, Ont.-based data, analytics and consulting firm for the downstream petroleum industry.

The firm collected service type data for about 81 per cent of those and found 76.7 per cent were self-service, 7.7 per cent split-service and 15.6 per cent full-service.

Recently, Chevron filed an application to amend Coquitlam’s bylaw and permit self-service stations.

That application is currently in process, said the city’s director of development services George Fujii in an email. The city is researching the benefits and drawbacks of their current model, Chevron’s request of moving to all self-service, or a split between the two, he said.

Staff will provide city council with a recommendation in a report expected later this quarter, he said, and council can choose whether or not to accept it.

Richmond’s bylaw has been reviewed multiple times, including in 1989 when council decided to keep the status quo to help protect youth employment.

More recently, in 2003, industry members argued the bylaw deters development of new and improved stations with additional amenities, like convenience stores, said Townsend.

Staff recommended amending the bylaw to allow adding split-serve stations, saying in a report that it “could have significant economic and community benefits,” as well as reduce crime and reduce hazardous emissions.

Council rejected the repeal, Townsend said, and there has been no direction to revisit the issue.

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Developers to unveil plan to transform Aldergrove mall into new town centre

Community to find out new Aldergrove Town Centre plan for dormant 10-acre lot in heart of downtown.

Tardi and team playoff bound in junior curling worlds tonight

Friday night Team Canada’s men’s team faces off against Norway, hoping to secure a spot in the finals

Langley’s Hong takes silver in Winter Games vault

The Langley athlete completed a tricky move in competition to clinch the podium.

First phase of 208th widening in Langley Township budget

Work could star this year, if the council approves the first project.

Injured nurse back in the saddle after horse riding accident

Keya Milaire has been recovering from an accident that occurred on May 24.

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Man sentenced to 7 years for smuggling drugs and shooting at border guards in Sumas

Nathan Hall was arrested in Abbotsford in 2013 after day-long manhunt

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Most Read