IN MARYLAND, VIRGINIA and the District of Columbia, the governments and the gas companies have been taking various steps to meet the emergency for the duration. Unfortunately, the variety of actions taken in the three jurisdictions has compounded the public confusion in this region.
In Virginia, for instance, Gov. Mills Godwin - faced with serious gas supply problems in certain areas of the state - has proclaimed a statewide emergency policy that needs some refining. To begin with, his order holding businesses to 40-hour weeks has generated all sorts of confusion: Late yesterday, owners of businesses were still trying to determine precisely how this policy is to be interpreted. For example, does the 40-hour limitation apply only to actual business hours, or does it include pre-opening and after-closing work? Also, there's an exemption for gas stations within three miles of an interstate highway; wouldn't it help things to have repair crews from other stations that do not use gas heat on duty at all hours to assist motorists? There is some question, in fact, as to whether the application of the restrictions on all businesses - gas-heated or not - is really a sound policy. The governor has said he included all sources of fuel in the plan as a way to prevent businesses from possibly creating a general shortage of fuel sources by switching to heating devices such as small electric heat generators. But if the broad restrictions create additional unemployment, it is worth it?
For now, at least, the stores in Virginia ought to try to coordinate their limited schedules of hours so that those customers who are working can also shop for food and other necessities. Some have done so. Unfortunately, the absence of any coordinated effort by Maryland, Virginia and D.C. officials has resulted in an even greater disparity of hours, rules and other conditions in effect in this metropolitan area. Surely Govs. Godwin and Mandel and Mayor Washington could agree on ways to brings about more uniformity in the region.
There is other matter that District officials ought to clear up immediately. The city's housing regulations state that landlords who control the heat in buildings must kept 6-a.m.-to-11-p.m. temperatures at no less than 68 degrees while President Carter has asked everyone to drop it to 65 degrees. The city administration is said to be looking into this problem but officials have been reluctant to agree that the local law should be changed. If city council action is necessary to make the change, even temporarily, so be it - otherwise the city government is either (1) unwilling to comply with a federal policy or (2) merely winking while landlords break the law and risk suits.