IN AN EXTRAORDINARY burst of regional foresight, the governors of Maryland and Virginia and the mayor of the District have signed a formal agreement to coordinate their responses to any energy emergencies in this metropolitan area. Rather than simply waiting around for President Carter's next moral equivalent of any energy policy and then peppering the local area with conflicting rules about who can buy how much gasoline when, the three government leaders have promised uniformity.

Given the station-to-station madhouse that confronted area motorists five years ago and the commercial confusion that was caused by varied closing hours of business establishments, this latest local move is a signficant preemption. It also should set a naional example-since about one-fourth of the population now lives in regions that cross state lines.

There's nothing all that complicated about this local pact, either. Govs. Hughes and Dalton and Mayor Barry have merely stated formally that the metropolitan area will act "as a unified energy-consuming and economic unit," through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. This group is to develop policies covering any mandatory restrictions on gasoline sales, the management of any gasoline "set-aside" programs and the establishment of some standard under which emergency powers would be invoked-to coordinate the timing of such steps.

We hope the preparations won't end here-and that D.C. Council Chariman Dixon, who as COGchairman this year has been pressing for regional unity, will continue to work with the three top leaders on specific policies. For example, will it be an odd-even system for license plates and dates (and what about the 31st)? Will gas-pump and commercial store hours be set by individual merchants or by the governments? And how will fuel be allocated around the region? Naturally these decisions will have to mesh with whatever federal policies and rules evolve. But the bulk of responsibility for forming and policing energy conservation effectively rests with state and local governments, and it is at this level that coordinated initiatives should prove most valuable.