Oil sands production in Alberta is up 25 percent compared with 2008 levels and investment analysts estimate unconventional crude could bring long-standing benefits to the country.
But a panel set up by Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner drew fire when he named Hal Kvisle, a former president and chief executive officer of pipeline company TransCanada Corp., as a co-chairman, the Calgary Herald reports.
"We were expecting a science panel with environmental scientists," Julia Ko, a program coordinator at the Water Matters Society of Alberta. "But instead, it seems like the environmental scientists are outnumbered."
Critics are concerned about the level of toxins released into the area watershed from oil sands production.
David Schindler, a biologist at the University of Alberta, who wrote a study on high levels of toxins associated with oil sands, told the Herald he had "no problems" with the science side of the panel.
"The other guys, I sort of wonder how much they know about this subject but I guess we'll find out," he was quoted as saying.
The Alberta panel is to issue a report on oil sands production by June.