Two months ago, the Department of Energy proposed a set of standby regulations to deal with a severe fuel emergency.They set the boating industry into a dither.

One proposal called for a federal ban on the use of motorboats one or two days a weekend in states that lacked fuel conservation programs.

Boaters felt they were being singled out and picked upon. Which they were. So they raised a ruckus at public hearings across the country.

The Department of Energy listened, and concedes today that it made a mistake and will change the proposal. The exact nature of the charges won't be known until some time after April 7, when the public-comment period closes. b

"That particular proposal raised the greatest outcry and controversy," said Philip Garon, DOE's press officer.

"The word around here among senior officials is that the boating provision as now drafted is unfair because it shifts the burden to one group in an energy emergency," Garon said.

"By the time the final plan is published (sometme before May 30) is seems likely that provision will be modified some way to make it more fair," Garon said.

"Some boaters interpret that to mean it will be dropped entirely. That isn't necessarily so," Garon added. "Our options cover a wide spectrum dropping the provision entirely to expanding it to include other recreational activities where gasoline is used -- aircraft, snowmobiles, dune buggies, off-road vehicles and so forth."

Garon stressed that the emergency measures would only go into effect in a severe shortage, and that states will have the option to submit their own plans to reduce fuel use. Such a state plan, if approved, would override the federal nine-point plan.

"One thing I've learned," said Garon, "is that every state, even the landlocked ones, depend in a large way on boating. It's a big industry. The public hearings have been dominated by boaters."

And as a result, boaters will not be singled out in the final energy emergency proposals.