By Paul Vieira

OTTAWA--The Canadian government said Friday it intends to toughen environmental rules governing the release of benzene from the country's nearly 12,000 gas stations, a move that could materially increase compliance costs for fuel-pump owners.

The proposed measures were included in the Canada Gazette, the government's official publication. Officials from Canada's health and environment departments said action is required due to health concerns related to exposure to benzene at gasoline stations.

The officials said an assessment conducted last year concluded that the "inhalation exposures to benzene from gasoline station emissions may pose unacceptable risks to human health for the general population living in the vicinity of gas stations."

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, benzene is found in the air from emissions from burning coal and oil, gasoline service stations, and motor vehicle exhaust. Short-term exposure of humans to benzene may cause drowsiness, dizziness and headaches, the agency said, while long-term exposure has caused blood disorders.

In a separate press release, Canada's ministers of the environment and health said the Liberal government intends to "drive down benzene emissions from gasoline stations."

A spokesman from the Canadian Fuels Association, which represents both refiners and fuel retailers, wasn't immediately available for comment. On its website, the association said investments by members have helped reduce benzene emissions by 38% since 2002.

Among the biggest gas-station owners in Canada is Calgary, Alberta-based Parkland, which owns about 2,000 gas stations under banners such as Ultramar, Esso, Chevron and Pioneer. A spokesman for the company didn't respond to a request for comment. In securities filings, Parkland said compliance with environmental laws may require significant expenditures by the company, "including capital costs to maintain and upgrade equipment and facilities" to ensure compliance.

"Any changes to environmental laws that are adverse to Parkland or our properties could affect our operating and financial performance," according to its annual information form published last year.

Canada's effort to limit benzene emissions comes as the Liberal government looks to compel that all new vehicles sold in 2035 be powered by electricity. The Liberal government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has made the shift from fossil fuel consumption a key pillar in its policy agenda.

Write to Paul Vieira at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

02-23-24 1610ET