HALIFAX – Atlantic Canadians are being gouged by gas price regulation, according to a new study from a Halifax-based think-tank.

The privately funded Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, which has expressed its disapproval of the policy in the past, concluded that regulation is estimated to cost consumers from .31 cents per litre in Nova Scotia to a high of 1.54 cents in P.E.I.

In Nova Scotia, the additional cost is .51 cents, while Newfoundland registers at 1.31.

As of Feb. 1, the study says, Atlantic Canadians have paid more than $155 million extra for gasoline since regulation began in each province.

Most of that money – $63 million – was paid in Prince Edward Island, where regulation has been in effect for 18 years. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have had regulation since July 1, 2006. Newfoundland introduced the policy in October 2001.

In each province the legislation was brought in to prevent prices spikes, the kind that routinely left motorists infuriated before long weekends in the summer. Gas price regulation, in general, doesn’t guarantee lower prices, but it does stabilize them.

“The only thing (we) know for sure is that we, as consumers, pay more for gas than we would without regulation,” said Charles Cirtwill, executive vice-president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

Dale Madill, a spokesman for Service Nova Scotia, said the institute is ideologically opposed to regulation.

“They have constructed a model with numbers that support that position. I wouldn’t expect anything else,” he said. “Whether it stands up to scrutiny is something we don’t know yet, but over time we will find out.”

Last November, the Nova Scotia government released a report that concluded gas price regulation was working as it should, stabilizing prices and helping rural gas stations survive.

The study, conducted by consulting company Gardner Pinfold, said regulation was costing the average motorist about $1 a month.