The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has delayed action on a major gas pipeline for New England, and the project's backer said the move probably would upset a tight construction timetable.

The commission, known as FERC, decided on a 3 to 1 vote Wednesday that it needs more information on the 364.4-mile Iroquois Gas Pipeline, a project designed to link New England to Canadian gas fields. The commission, which has been considering the proposed pipeline for four years, said it will examine whether the gas is needed in the Northeast and whether it would be supplied at competitive rates.

"I perceive as part of my job to move projects along, put pipe in the ground," said FERC Chairman Martin L. Allday. But he said that "policy dictated that we have this {additional} hearing. I think that what we're doing is moving the process along."

Under FERC's decision, an administrative law judge would conduct a hearing on the outstanding issues within 45 days of the date the commission formally issues its report on the project. After the hearing, proponents and opponents would file written responses and then the commission would make a decision by the end of November.

Robert J. Reid, the president of Iroquois Gas Transmission System, said the delay likely would push back the pipeline's projected construction schedule. Work was set to begin this fall and be completed in October 1991, in time for that winter's heating season.

Utilities and elected officials, including Govs. Mario M. Cuomo (D) of New York and Michael S. Dukakis (D) of Massachusetts, support the pipeline as a low-cost energy boon to a region dependent on costly imported oil. The Iroquois Gas plan would supply the natural gas equivalent of 30 million barrels of oil per year to Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey, enough to meet the annual energy needs of 1.5 million residences.