Energy Secretary James M. Schlesinger rejected requests yesterday by the governors of Maryland and Virginia and the mayor of the District of Columbia to order emergency supplies of gasoline immediately into the fuel-hungry Washington area.
But in a two-hour meeting with the three chief executives, Schlesinger did agree to consider changing the national formula for allocating gas to possibly provide more fuel here later this summer. Schlesinger asked the three jurisdictions to give him fuel usage statistics to justify an increase here.
Motorists continued to line up for gasoline here yesterday - the second day of a government-imposed odd-even gasoline sales plan for the District, Maryland and suburban Virginia.
Lines appeared generally shorter than those a week ago but longer than those Thursday, the first day of odd-even. Service station dealers attributed the longer lines yesterday to motorists stocking up for the weekend.
Both today and Sunday are "open" days when all drivers may buy gas, but many service stations will be closed, especially on Sunday.
Meanwhile yesterday, some District of Columbia taxi drivers distributed fliers downtown, announcing plans to strike on Monday and picket major hotels in the city. In a separate action, some local gas station dealers said they are considering joining a national shutdown of stations proposed for July 1.
The cab drivers are unhappy with a recent 10-cent increase in fares, which they say does not cover spiraling gasoline costs.
Members of the 1,500-member Greater Washington-Maryland Service Station Association are to meet Monday to decide whether to join the proposed nationwide shutdown of stations.
As the fuel crunch continued, Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, Virginia Gov. John N. Dalton and D.C. Mayor Marion Barry took their case to Schlesinger yesterday, contending the Washington area is getting far less gasoline than other metropolitan areas in the nation.
Hughes, Dalton and a spokesman for Barry said after the closed meeting at the Department of Energy that Schlesinger took their various requests for help under consideration but offered no immediate relief. (Barry left early to attend a housing conference in Pittsburgh and was not with Hughes and Dalton for a press conference after the meeting. Schlesinger also did not attend the press conference).
The two governors and a spokesman for Schlesinger said the energy chief agreed to consider granting emergency gas allocations to the Washington area. At the moment, however, they said he felt the Washington area is not uniquely hurt by shortages and that portions of at least 11 other states have comparable problems and have taken official steps to ease shortages.
Under DOE emergency regulations, Schlesinger can order oil companies to shift up to 5 percent of fuel allocations from one area to another.
The area receiving an emergency allocation must be "clearly disadvantaged," said DOE spokesman James Bishop.
Schlesinger was "very sympathetic" to the three chief executives' pleas, Bishop said, "but he pointed out that many other areas are in bad shape, too . . . Some areas are in even worse shape - like Connecticut. Connecticut's the classic example. They've getting less than the D.C. area. There are parts of the Connecticut Turnpike that are out [of gasoline]."
More important than the question of emergency allocations, Bishop said, was that there was a "joint agreement to look for a formula to ease the impact on large metropolitan areas like Washington.
Also, he said, Schlesinger and the chief executives agreed to pool manpower to check whether the oil companies are delivering less fuel to local retailers than they claim. Both federal and local governments maintain elaborate records on oil company deliveries, and these will be examined, Bishop said.
As for a new formula for determining allocations, Bishop said Schlesinger agreed to examine what appears to be an "imbalance of rural and urban allocations," with rural areas getting a disproportionately large share.
Schlesinger asked the three chief executives to assemble statistics on gasoline usage, population density and economic growth factors that could demonstrate the need for greater fuel allocations here and in other metropolitan area.
Even if the statistics are assembled in the next week or so and Schlesigner agrees to a new formula, there are numerous bureaucratic procedural steps required before the new formula can be written into the government regulations for implementation.
Despite Schlesinger's refusal to grant immediate help, Hughes and Dalton voiced cautious optimism that the area may get some relief later this summer.
"We were a little bit encouraged," said Dalton.
"You always hope for more than you get," said Hughes when asked if he was satisfied with the meeting. "I can't say I was disappointed by the meeting."
Dalton said Schlesinger told them "there's some additional product coming into the refineries" to help bolster stocks later this summer.
Bishop said after the press conference that the "supply ratio" for the Washington area is expected to reach 95 percent of last year's level. DOE estimates the Washington area's current supply ratio at 89 to 90 percent of last year - a figure disputed by many local officials and service station retailers who claim the area is getting far less.
Controversy over DOE statistics and complaints that Schlesinger is overly protective of the oil industry continued to bubble up yesterday.
Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.) called for Schlesinger's dismissal. And in suburban Virginia, John F. Herrity, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, charged that a current DOE investigation of oil company storage tanks in his county is like "asking the fox to guard the chicken coop."
DOE launched an investigation following recent reports in The Washington Post that the huge storage tanks are full to the brim with excess amounts being piped on to New Jersey while local gas stations here are receiving reduced allocations.
Herrity, in a letter to the Northern Virginia congressional delegation, asked that an independent investigation of the shortage tanks be done by the General Accounting Office instead of DOE.
Shell Oil, one of the oil companyies with storage tanks in Fairfax County, held its own press conference yesterday, denying there are excess amounts in the tanks.
"If we deliver all our inventory now," said Shell marketing manager Don Healy, "there isn't going to be [any gasoline] available the last of the month."
The fuel shortage, already the cause of anger, frustration and a few fist fights on the gas lines, has created a new casualty - the motorist burned by flaming gasoline.
The Washington Hospital Center burn unit says at least five drivers have been seriously burned in the last 10 days. In each case, the driver poured gasoline directly into the carbuetor of his stalled car after it ran out of gas. The gas ignited when the car started. CAPTION: Picture, Discussing gasoline request are, from left, Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, Virginia Gov. John N. Dalton, Energy Secretary James Schlesinger, Mayor Marion Barry. By James A. Parcell - The Washington Post