The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has voted to "postpone indefinitely" President Carter's nomination of Marion Edey, and environmental activis, to the Council on Environmental Quality.

In a statement issued yesterday, Sen. Edmund S. Muskie (D-Maine), chairman of the environmental pollution subcommittee, said Edey was "rejected" because she "has been an inflexible and undiscriminating opponent of the kinds of projects and activities which the council must review." The three-member council reviews environmental impact statements on federal projects and advises the President on environmental policy.

The 8-to-4 vote on Edey apparently took both administration officials and environmentalists by surprise, Fifty-one environmental and fiminists groups issued a statement yesterday afternoon asking the committee to reconsider the nomination.

The committee vote was taken Monday, right after the rejection of Kent F. Hansen's nomination to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Consideration of Edey's nomination had been delayed since May, reportedly by Republican senators who supported Hansen and were holding her nomination hostage for his.

Environmentalists speculated yesterday that Edtey was "sacrificed in retaliation" for Hansen, who was opposed by environmentalists. However, committee staff members said opposition by Chairman Jennings Randolph (D-W. VA.) and Muskie, neither of who supported Hansen, killed the Edey nomination.

Both nominees appeared to lack the sense of balance and ability to make objective judgments that are necessary to the performance of their respective assignments.' Muskie said.

However, CEO member Gustave Speth said Edey "is qualified. She has my deepest respect and affection. She has knowledge on a wide range of environmental issues."

Muskie spokesman Robert Rose said that although the nomination "has been here since May, nobody was lobbying for it. It's a curiosity that everybody's getting on the banwagon after fact."

According to Speth, however, "We'd make periodic inquiries and had not been informed it was in serious trouble. We were told it was strategy [to delay it] to be sure the committee didn't put off a vote on Hansen."

Edey said she does not know why the committee voted against her. "Some of it is quite mysterious to me," she said, adding that "I expect the President will affirm his support for me."

Edey, 32, is former chairman of the League of Conservation Voters, which raises money for environmantal candidates and was a strong Carter supporter during the campaigne. The league, has, in the past, opposed the candidacies of Environment Committee members Lloyd M. Bentsen (D-Tex.) and James A. McClue (R-Idaho).

Bentsen was out of town for the committee vote. McClure, who sponsored the motion to postpone her nomination, said the league "has been irresponsible. It has injected liberal causes as a test for rating members of Congress." He added that Edey "has almost no qualifications. Just because you have strong views doesn't mean you're qualified. She didn't create a terribly favorable impression."

An unknown factor in Edey's rejection is what committee sources and environmentalists called her casual appearance and manner."Whe was not effective selling herself at the hearing," said one committee staffer. A Randolph spokesman speculated, "It may be a matter of personal style." Another source said Muskie had taken a personal dislike to Edey.

One possible reason for Muskie's dislike, one source said, was Edey's early opposition to the nomination of Eliot R. Cutler as assistant director for natural resources. Cutler, who was appointed in spite of Edey, was a former Muskie staffer.