Residents of Bakersfield breathe some of the most polluted air in the nation, thanks to a confluence of vehicle exhaust, industrial operations, and stagnant valley air. In an effort to combat pollution, air quality advocates are now targeting a potential source of emissions that, at the moment, is not even operating.
Ride your bike along the Kern River just west of downtown Bakersfield, and you pass joggers and people walking dogs. To one side of the trail, families play Frisbee golf in the grass. To the other side, a symbol of Kern County’s economy looms silently.