The closing of gas-heated schools in Virginia during last winter's severe cold wave resulted in the diversion of natural gas - not to hard hit communities in rural Virginia - but to the District of Columbia and Maryland.
The closing of schools and the cutback in business hours in Northern Virginia helped keep schools and businesses open throughout the rest of the metropolitian area, according to testimony before a congressional committee yesterday.
Emergency orders of Virginia Goa. Mills E. Godwin requiring the stringent cutbacks were severely criticized at the time for placing unfair restrictions on Northern Virginians in comparison with their neighbors.
Godwin, testifying before a congressional inquiry into the ways area governments dealt with gas shortages in January and February, defended his actions yesterday. A District of Columbia officials, however, sharply criticized the differing regulations among jurisdictions served by the same pipeline and natural gas retailer.
Godwin said, "It was . . . brought to my attention (during the crisis) that the restrictions in Northern Virginia were not the same as those in Washington or Maryland," and I considered the possibility of a special arrangement in the Northern Virginia area.
"However, my best judgment was that Virginia should continue her conservation efforts statewide and uniformly," Godwin continued, "in order to be certain that our homes and essential human services would be supplied during the centre heating season."
However, George R. Rodericks, director of the D.C. Office of Emergency Preparedness, said in a document filed with the subcommittee," . . . The lack of consensus of governmental actions by the three (jurisdications), with Virginia imposing more severe measures . . . must be severely criticized." He said it was "indicative of a lack of coordination and communication by those involved in making decision."
Rodericks said the Washington Gas Light Co., the retailer of natural gas to most of the Washington area, contributed to the problem by failing to notify government officials before it filed emergency petitions Jan. 28 with the region's three utility regulatory commissions.
Notified by the Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. that its gas supply was being curtailed immediately, Washington Gas sought and received permission to restrict gas service temporarily to "human needs," chiefly the heating of homes.
With the remainder of Virginia suffering severely, Godwin issued a statewide order the following day that, among other things, shut down gas-heated schools and limited businesses to operating 40 hours a week.
Soon, however, James C. Dunstan, an energy aide to Godwin, related, "We were advised that Washington, D.C., schools were open.A little later we learned that the governor of Maryland had ordered the Maryland schools open, and Virginia was left alone obeying the request" from the gas companies.
"We held firm until informed by the Washington Gas Light Co. that the gas conserved in Northern Virginia was going to Maryland and D.C., and could not be saved or transferred to priority needs in other locations in (Virginia)," Dunstan said.
Virginia revoked the school-closing rule Feb. 4. Other restrictions were removed soon afterward.
Rep. Herbert E. Harris, chairman of the House District Subcommittee on Economic Development and Regional Affairs that held the hearing, won promises from Godwin., D.C. Mayor Walter Washington, and Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel that they would plan this summer for better coordination during any future crisis.
However, Godwin, who flew from Richmond for the hearing and Mandel, who wrote a letter, said they would not relinquish to local or regional officials the state's power to deal with such emergencies.
Mandel, who entered the hospital yesterday for treatment for exhaustion, wrote in his letter that he - like Godwin - believes restrictions should generally be applied on a statewide basis.
" . . . I believe it is incumbent on a governor or a major to treat all their citizens alike when possible," Mandel said.
Major Washington, in supporting better regional coordination, warned that the planning must be done before the problem arises. "Don't (wait and call me when we get into an energy crisis," he said.
On another matter, the subcommittee decided to let a D.C. law go into effect yesterday that requires oil companies to get out of the retail service station business by 1981 and puts a two-year moratorium on conversion of full-service stations to limited-service "gas-and-go" operation. The motion to support the D.C. City Council action was made by Rep. Newton I. Steers Jr. (R-Md.).