Interstate Compacts and Agreements
Horizontal intergovernmental relations are of great importance in the U.S. federal system although they typically are overshadowed in the media by vertical inter- governmental relations. Interstate compacts and agreements are formal methods of interstate cooperation and settlement of disputes. They are traceable in origin to disputes between British colonies which were settled by litigation or negotiations leading to an agreement that was submitted to the Crown for approval. 1 Use of a compact to resolve a dispute relieves the U.S. Supreme Court of the burden of adjudicating an interstate dispute as described in Chapter 2.
The drafters of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union were aware that bilateral and multilateral compacts could be employed to solve interstate disputes and allow cooperative action to solve problems not coinciding with boundaries of a single state. Hence, they included Article VI stipulating that "no two or more states shall enter into any treaty, confederation, or alliance without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, specifying accurately the purpose for which the same is to be entered into, and how long it shall continue." The requirement of congressional consent was included in the articles to ensure that two or more states would not enter into an agreement that would split the confederacy or be directed against other states. A number of compacts were entered into under the articles with the consent of the unicameral Congress, including a 1795 compact entered into by Maryland and Virginia establishing rules for navigation and fishing on the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River.
Numerous boundary disputes were raging when delegates to the Philadelphia Convention were drafting the U.S. Constitution. They recognized that interstate compacts were capable, among other things, of resolving such disputes, but also could cause problems for the Union. Interestingly, delegates did not debate the interstate compact clause and the authors of the Federalist Papers only made a passing reference to it. Although an interstate compact is similar to an international treaty, the constitution makes an important distinction between the two.
Article I, Section 10 of the constitution absolutely forbids states to enter into any alliance, confederation, or treaty but authorizes them to enter into compacts with