As lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill this week, a bipartisan group of 26 governors on Monday urged Congress to pass a federal renewable energy standard (RES), saying that it could spur rapid growth of the nation’s renewable electricity sources.

In a letter to Senate Democratic and Republican leaders, the Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition said a strong RES would be the “cornerstone for the nation’s new clean energy economy,” and that it could help the U.S. recapture economic benefits of wind and other renewables lost to Europe, China, and India.

“The economic stakes are high for our states, and we see a narrow window of opportunity for Congress to enact a long overdue reworking of federal laws governing renewable energy,” the letter states.

The letter was signed by Iowa Democratic Gov. Chet Culver and Rhode Island Republican Gov. Donald L. Carcieri and addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the chairman and ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

It said that although the U.S. has some of the world’s richest wind resources, it lacks a “strategic long-term policy with a bold yet practical RES requirement as its centerpiece that creates sufficient certainty for renewable energy investors, developers, and manufacturers to deploy such resources.”

The value of a state-level RES, enacted by more than half the states in the U.S., had been proven, the governors said. “We believe a federal RES should build on these state examples while allowing states the flexibility to set higher renewable energy goals.”

The House last year passed a RES in its now-dead comprehensive energy and climate bill. A bill approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year also included a federal RES that would require utilities to provide 15% of their power from renewable sources by 2021.

An RES wasn’t included, however, in an energy package unveiled in the Senate before the August break. Reid last week said that the Senate likely won’t tackle climate legislation this year, but he has since suggested that the federal RES could be considered during the lame-duck session.

Reid also reportedly said that he would allow a vote on legislation to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gases for two years.

A group of industry trade associations has been urging lawmakers to delay looming regulations from the EPA. On Tuesday, two dozen groups—including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Mining Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers—reportedly sent joint letters to House and Senate appropriators claiming climate change rules will harm the economy.

The letters were sent as the Senate Appropriations Committee prepares to mark up the EPA’s annual spending bill on Thursday.

Sources: POWERnews, Governors Wind Energy Coalition, Huffington Post, The Hill