President Carter's suggestion for turning thermostats down to 65 degrees has received a cool reception in some government agencies.

"I just came from an office below street level where even before the reduction the temperature was 60 degrees," Justice Department administrator Tommy Hudson said yesterday. "There was a young lady down there with an electric heater, which employees are not supposed to have, and I told her to keep it on."

Some employees in the old building said they spent part of the day bundled up with woolen scarves while in other offices the temperatures still hovered in the mid-70s. According to a stoic secretary in the office of new Attorney General Griffin Bell. "It's just been kind of chilly in here."

Hudson said he is in "philosophical disagreement" with Walter Woodhead, of the General Services Administration, over the best way to adjust the heat in the old building. (GAS controls heating and cooling in federal buildings.)

"I am plotting a graph of the heat in all the offices, so I can defend my viewpoint," Hudson said. Rather than turn the steam all the way off, as Woodhead has done, he said, he believes the steam should be fed into the building at a reduced rate.

"It's pretty complicated. It's an old system. You can't do it by turning down a thermostat," Hudson said. "And if it's 65 on the sixth floor, the people in the basement are going to freeze to death."

Woodhead's only comment was, "We're attempting to lower the temperature to 65 degrees" in accordance with the President's wishes. Woodhead is GSA buildings manager for the Justice Department and the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

As for D.C. government offices, a spokeswoman for Mayor Walter Washington says that except for hospitals and other such facilities, they will comply with the 65-degree suggestion.

In some cases, however, the President's energy conservation gesture has run a foul of the law. An Associated Press survey yesterday noted that New York City landlords who turn their building thermostats below 68 degrees in the winter face fines of $1,000 and up to one year in jail, under city law. Similar laws exists in parts or all of several states and apply in some cases to homeowners or businesses as well as landlords, the survey reports.

In the District, officials reportedly plan to enfore a local ordinance requiring temperatures of 68 in the daytime and 65 at night in rental dwellings, "if they receive complaints."