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Portable Fuel Container Fact Sheet

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has adopted emission and spill-control regulations for portable fuel containers, commonly known as "gas cans," and gas can spouts. The regulations apply to gas cans and spouts manufactured and sold in New York State starting January 1, 2003. The cans and spouts help to reduce air and water pollution, decrease exposure to harmful liquids and fumes and reduce loss of fuel through evaporation. There is no requirement to modify old gas cans or to scrap them and buy new ones.

A Major Source of Smog-Forming Pollution

Air emissions from a single portable gas can appear to be small, but the total number of such containers in use means they contribute significantly to smog-forming emissions in New York in several ways, including:

  • Vapors escaping through walls in gas cans made from plastic;
  • Escaping fumes while fuel is being dispensed;
  • Spillage and/or over-filling as fuel is poured into equipment;
  • Spillage and evaporation through secondary vent holes; and
  • Evaporation through inadequately capped spouts.

Currently, gas cans account for about 70 tons per day (TPD) of smog-forming pollution. That's equal to emissions from about 800,000 cars. The regulations will mean a 73 percent reduction in VOC emissions from gas cans by 2013, cutting the amount of smog-forming emissions by 50 TPD. The improved gas cans will also reduce exposure to harmful fuel vapors during use and in areas where they are stored (garages and sheds).

How Do the Improved Gas Cans Work?

A new gas can is being used to fill a lawn mower

All newer spouts have an automatic shut-off feature to prevent overfilling of fuel tanks. The spouts will also have an automatic closing feature so the can will be sealed when it is not being used to fill an equipment fuel tank. This feature also prevents leaking vapors when the can is not in use. Secondary venting holes will be eliminated under the new standards since these openings allow venting of fumes to the air. In addition, vapors that escape from the walls of the improved gas cans will be reduced to no more than 0.4 grams per gallon per day.

Improved Equipment for Clean Air and Clean Water

The gas can and spout regulations bring the state cleaner air and help meet federally mandated requirements to reduce harmful air emissions. Evaporative emissions from gas cans include hazardous air pollutants like benzene which is a carcinogen. Emissions from gasoline in storage may contaminate the air we breathe in our homes. The spill-proof gas cans will reduce exposure to these toxic chemicals and improve our air quality.

The gas can and spout regulations also help protect the state's water. Even the release of small amounts of gasoline can contaminate surface and groundwater and result in impacts to public and private drinking water sources. Use of the newer gas can and spout will prevent many of the small spills of gasoline that result from recreational and household activities associated with the use of small engines such as lawn mowers, chain saws, snowmobiles, motorboats and jet skis.

Protect the Environment from the Threat of Gasoline Contamination:

  • Use an improved gas can that is designed to minimize toxic spills and vapors.
  • Whenever possible, fill small engines on a concrete or hard surface.
  • Avoid spilling gasoline on the ground, or in lakes, ponds or rivers.
  • Store all gasoline containers in a well-ventilated shed or detached garage, away from the reach of children.
  • Buy and use gasoline in the season it is purchased.

Report spills to the NYS Oil Spill Hotline: (800) 457-7362 or from outside NYS (518) 457-7362.

  • Contact for this Page
    Division of Air Resources
    Gasoline Vapor Recovery
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-3255
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