Besides world domination, Smithfield Packing Company could want little more than permission to slaughter a million more hogs each year (see “Big pig,” April 4).

And the world’s largest packing plant got just that, when the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources renewed the wastewater permit for the Tar Heel facility.

After the plant receives certification for upgrades to control additional nitrogen in wastewater, it will be allowed to increase its kills from 8.4 million to 9.5 million hogs annually.

The five-year permit goes into effect July 15; it expires in 2012.

DENR did reduce by 5 percent the amount of groundwater Smithfield can withdraw each day, to 1.8 million gallons. The plant must cut those withdrawals by another 10 percent within the next five years. Because of the amount of groundwater the plant has used, a sinkholeor “cone of depression”has formed beneath the plant, although DENR officials say it appears to have stabilized. Neighbors have also complained that pumping the aquifer has affected their private drinking water wells.

By a 46-2 vote, the Senate passed a controversial renewable portfolio standard bill last week. SB 3 includes mandatory targets for clean energy generation, but sweetens the bitter pill for utilities with perks to build coal and nuke plants. Sens. Janet Cowell (D-Wake) and Ellie Kinnaird (D-Orange, Person) voted against the bill, which now shuttles to several House committees. The House counterpart, HB 77, has none of the utility incentives, which, considering those companies’ power, could doom that measure.