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You know, that silly little idea that gave states some autonomy from despotic central government rule? I just read an Oped in the WSJ citing how a (federal) EPA ruling on the Endangered Species Act has had the (yet again) unintended consequence of helping thousands of California farmers into a severe drought. Aside from the obvious problematic policy, I’d like to highlight there there seems to be a simple remedy to the problem – turning back on the water pumps.

So why doesn’t California do it?

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that he “doesn’t have the authority to turn on the pumps” that would supply the delta with water, or “otherwise, they would be on.” He did, however, have the ability to request intervention from the Department of Interior. Under a provision added to the Endangered Species Act in 1978 after the snail darter fiasco, a panel of seven cabinet officials known as a “God Squad” is able to intercede in economic emergencies, such as the one now parching California farmers. Despite a petition with more than 12,000 signers, Mr. Schwarzenegger has refused that remedy.

Whatever you think of the Endangered Species Act, or this incident in particular – this should make you shudder. Would a state have no recourse if a federal policy resulted in thousands of children becoming ill? Would a state have no recourse if federal policy drove thousands into hunger? If not then, and if not in a situation like this, then when?

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