A new report accuses the federal government of allowing Alberta's tarsands to become "the most destructive project on earth".

The study was commissioned by Environmental Defence, a health organization, and features satellite imagery of the vast project.

Alberta's tarsands are second only to Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil reserve.

"The enormous toxics problems go hand-in-hand with massive global warming pollution and the impending destruction of a boreal forest the size of Florida," the report says in its introduction.

Group spokesperson Matt Price blames Ottawa for failing to enforce federal environmental laws.

"I think there's sort of a conspiracy of silence, especially on the part of the federal government, with regards to the tar sands," Price said, "because there's an agenda to expand it dramatically over the next 10 to 15 years."

The report says the federal government needs to address environmental concerns ranging from greenhouse gases and cancer levels, to polluted water.

It also estimates that greenhouse gas emissions from the tarsands are likely to grow enough by 2020 to completely offset Ontario's planned emissions cuts.

Effects the report says are already being noticed:

  • Toxic pollution from the tarsands has created what amounts to a slow motion oil spill in the region's river systems, and could be worse than the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
  • First Nations living downstream are already seeing deformed pickerel and walleye in Lake Athabasca.
  • Game animals are being found covered with tumours and mutations.
  • In humans, unusual cancers and autoimmune diseases have been cropping up in the community of Fort Chipewyan.

The report says that instead of properly managing the tarsands, government has "outsourced" monitoring to the industry, "creating a classic situation of the fox guarding the henhouse."

This isn't the first such report on the oilsands industry. In 2006, The World Wildlife Fund Canada's warned that the expansion of the industry was threatening Canadian freshwater reserves.

The report on water resources also warned that even a small amount of global warming could have a dire impact on flows in bodies such as the Great Lakes and Athabasca River.