Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the NAACP, said yesterday his board would not have adopted the energy statement it did Jan. 9 if it had thought it was endorsing natural gas price deregulation.
The statement did not contain the word "deregulation," and if it had, "I don't think a majority of our board would have voted for that," Hooks said.
Meanwhile, one member of the board, Detroit AFL-CIO President Tom Turner, said he will ask that the statement be made "a little more clear" at the board's next meeting in April.
Turner and another board member said board Chairman Margaret Bush Wilson, who helped draft the statement, told them during the meeting that the statement did not support deregulation.
Wilson, a St. Louis attorney, was attending a meeting yesterday of another board of directors of which she is a member - that of the Monsa Corp. one of the nation's [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] chemical companies. She could not be reached for comment.
The Jan. 9 energy statement created conflict both within NAACP board and between NAACP and other civil rights groups with which it has traditionally allied.
The most controversial part of statement was the sentence: "The aspects of the plan which would [WORD ILLEGIBLE] price controls on newly discovered oil and natural gas and extend those controls to new areas appear to us to be incompatible with the need for new supply development."
This is exactly the argument the oil and gas industry is using in behalf of the gas price deregulation in legislation before Congress.
The NAACP's energy statement was largely written by blacks who work in the energy industry and are also NAACP members.
President Carter has opposed gas price deregulation, saying it would give too much money to the industry.
Hooks said yesterday that the deregulation flap had distracted from the main point the NAACP wanted to make in its statement, which was essentially that blacks require for their further progress, an overall national policy of economic expansion.
The organization fears that Carter's energy policies would have the effect of restricting economic growth, thereby costing jobs.
The NAACP is mailing out a letter, signed by Hooks, calling its policy "pretty neutral" on the issue of gas prices. The letter says, "The NAACP has other priorities and we do not think we should spend a lot of time on this matter. Our main concern is jobs and employment for our people."
An accompanying statement says Carter's plan "overly emphasizes conservation" in a way that "could severely restrict the expansion of the national economy."
Critics of the NAACP's statement have noted, among many other things, that it did not discuss the impact on low-income families of oil and gas price controls were removed.
Hooks said in a telephone interview that the NAACP believed the original statement was neither pro-industry nor pro-administration.
He said the NAACP hoped the statement would generate debate on the best way to produce the expanding economy that he, other NAACP officials, and the black groups that criticized the NAACP believe is necessary for minorities to gain economic equality with whites.
Ira Haupt, a New York City member of the NAACP's board, said he told the board's steering committee before the vote that the statement ". . . did not support the president and it did not support the oil industry."
Someone on the steering committee asked about the deregulation issue, and was told "that term was not used," Haupt said. "It wasn't looked at as coming out for regulation or deregulation. It was looked at more as anti-conservation, in the sense of inhibiting industrial growth."
Haupt said he believes that when they discussed the statement, board members were preoccupied with ". . . the underlying interest of the association in the creation of jobs for black Americans."
Board member John J. Mance of Burbank, Calif., said the favors deregulation, and that when he voted ". . . It was my understanding that the statement included that kind of language. I do not have any reason to believe personally that any board member did not understand . . ."
Board member William E. Pollard, director of civil rights for the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., said he thinks the statement will be reconsidered when the NAACP board meets again April 17 in Atlanta.