MARTA censors campaign against Southern Co.

You've probably seen the "Clean Up Southern Co." billboards from I-75/I-85 in downtown Atlanta. They're part of an advertising campaign sponsored by 122 state and national environmental groups to pressure Southern Co. into cleaning up its coal-burning power plants.

One billboard reads: "Southern Company. Bringing you electricity and as much pollution in a year as 17 million cars." Another reads: "Southern Company. Giving families electricity, asthma attacks and a shorter lifespan."

One place you won't see the ads, though, is on MARTA property. Jennifer Giegerich, the campaign coordinator in Atlanta, wanted to buy ad space at MARTA bus stops, but Giegerich says her group was told the ads wouldn't run because of the transit agency's 'no controversy' clause kept them out.

Spokeswoman Steen Miles says MARTA doesn't rent ad space to non-profit groups.

In the end, MARTA's conservative stance helped the enviros. Since the ad agency Giegerich hired promised to deliver the MARTA bus stops but was stymied, it forked over enough money for eight billboards instead of one, which was the original agreement.

"It's unfortunate that MARTA has chosen to limit speech in this way," Giegerich says. "Ironically, we'll reach more people because they wouldn't run our ads."??

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