Norway Gas-Pipe Dispute Has Generated $10 Million in Lawyer Fees

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The lawsuit against Norway seeking to reverse a cut in gas pipeline tariffs has generated almost $10 million in lawyer fees as five law-firms battled it out in an Oslo court.

Fees to BA-HR, Wiersholm, Arntzen de Besche, Kluge and Selmer reached 76.6 million kroner ($9.9 million) for a total of more than 28,900 billed hours, according to court documents obtained by Bloomberg News. The government’s part has come to 23.1 million kroner and the rest was attributed to the four owners in the pipelines.

The companies, owned by Allianz SE, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Canadian pension funds and other international investors, sued Norway last year over unexpected tariff cuts in 2013 that they say will reduce their income from gas shipments by $1.9 billion by 2028. The investors bought a 44 percent stake in Gassled, the pipeline network, in 2011 and 2012, from oil companies including Statoil ASA and Total SA.

“The government has a high cost claim in this case, because of the complexity,” Christian Fredrik Michelet, a partner at Arntzen de Besche, which represents the state, said by phone Wednesday.

Covering Expenses

After court proceedings ended Tuesday, both parties have until the end of next week to comment on each other’s costs, Michelet said. A ruling due in September or October will also specify whether one party will have to cover all legal expenses or if they will be split.

Michelet declined to comment on the plaintiffs’ costs.

“This is certainly one of Norway’s costliest cases,” Rune Lium, a Soer-Troendelag District Court judge, said in a phone interview. Lium, who’s among a group of judges that stand as national media contacts for the court system, said he had no view on whether the cost level in this instance was fair.

Two successive governments have justified the reductions of as much as 90 percent that will apply to new gas volumes from late 2016, saying lower transportation costs will boost offshore exploration and make more discoveries profitable.

Norway’s Petroleum and Energy Ministry declined to immediately comment, spokeswoman Ella Bye Moerland said by phone.

Thomas G. Michelet, a partner at Selmer which represents the plaintiffs also declined to comment. He represents Njord Gas Infrastructure AS, owned by a UBS AG-controlled fund and the French government.

He also faced off against his brother Christian Fredrik, the partner at Arntzen de Besche, during the trial.

Expenses for the plaintiffs also included at least 3.9 million kroner in remuneration to Oslo-based oil and gas consultant firm Rystad Energy AS, documents detailing costs for the three other plaintiffs show. These three companies include Solveig Gas Norway AS, which owns 24.8 percent of Gassled.

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