Interstate compacts Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Contracts between two or more states binding them to certain specified provisions of an agreement.

The U.S. Constitution provides for a federal governing system, with those powers not exercised by the federal government being retained by the states. According to Article I, section 10, of the Constitution, with the approval of Congress, states can enter into interstate compacts that involve such matters as water resources, navigation, pollution control, port development, or management of offenders of the law. Compacting states are bound to observe the terms of the agreements, even if the terms are inconsistent with other state laws. Because compacts have the force and effect of statutory law, they take precedence over any conflicting state laws.

In the late 1990’s interstate compacts governing allocation and flow of water were targeted by environmentalists in order to protect western rivers and forests. An environmental group known as the Forest Guardians filed suit in the Supreme Court under the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act to force federal and state agencies to address environmental problems created by interstate compacts and bring the compacts into compliance with environmental laws. In addition, in the late 1990’s, the U.S. Department of Justice pursued amendments to interstate compacts regarding the supervision of probationers, parolees, and fugitives from the law.

Common carriers

Fugitives from justice

State action

States’ rights and state sovereignty

Tenth Amendment

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