WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) - The Justice Department is expected to join the hundreds of civil lawsuits that have been filed as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Wall Street Journal said on Tuesday.
The Justice Department will allege violations of environmental protection regulations, which could trigger penalties under such laws as the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act, according to the newspaper.
The government lawsuit is expected to be filed on Wednesday, the Journal reported.
"We're not confirming it," a Justice Department spokesman said of the newspaper report.
The well blowout, that began in April and was finally sealed in September, fouled resort beaches and fishing grounds, and led to hundreds of lawsuits against BP Plc and its partners over lost revenues and wages.
Those lawsuits were consolidated in a New Orleans federal court and are being led by a committee of lawyers who represent injured workers and businesses.
The Justice Department has said in court filings it has claims stemming from the spill including the destruction of natural resources as well as lost tax and royalty revenues.
Penalties against BP under the Clean Water Act could top $20 billion if a court determines there was gross negligence.
In September, the Justice Department wrote to the court to say it might join the litigation and it requested a special "track" just for government lawsuits. Alabama and Louisiana have also sued over the spill.
The Justice Department said at that time it wanted to be separated from the decisions of the attorneys leading the civil lawsuits, most of which were brought for economic losses.
The judge has not decided the issue.
(Reporting by Tom Hals; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)