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‘Cookie lobbyist’ employs sweet-tooth strategy

Charleston Gazette photo by Marta Tankersley Hays Lori Jo Magana, dressed in her “water dress” for lobbying, holds up one of the many cookies she has made to lobby West Virginia state legislators to keep stringent water safety standards.
Charleston Gazette photo by Marta Tankersley Hays
Lori Jo Magana, dressed in her “water dress” for lobbying, holds up one of the many cookies she has made to lobby West Virginia state legislators to keep stringent water safety standards.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Lori Jo Magana is a citizen lobbyist with a sweet touch.

A literally sweet touch.

For the past two years, the Charleston woman has been lobbying West Virginia state legislators with blue-frosted cookies in the shape of water droplets, adorned with the words: “Protect our water!”

Her efforts began after the Jan. 9, 2014, Freedom Industries chemical leak into the Elk River that left 300,000 people in a nine-county area without potable water.

“It pretty much overwhelmed me, the whole process of knowing that there were lax regulations — that we were, I call it, poisoned — and that we had to try to fight to keep our water clean,” she said. “I got involved because I was angry and I wanted to do something.”

Magana is a physical therapist and yoga instructor and had never before tried to lobby legislators.

“So, it was definitely a different experience to think that I could help or make a change and talk to our government leaders,” she said.

Initially, she was dealing with the crisis at home.

“I immediately started catching rain. I became a raincatcher — went out the next day and bought a rain barrel and caught hundreds of gallons of water and lived off that for about four months. Took showers with rainwater.”

She began attending meetings of the group Citizens Actively Protecting the Environment, or CAPE, and took part in their training, she said.

“They were wonderful to say, ‘Lori, you can do this, you can express your voice.’ ”

That gave her confidence to speak at the public hearing last year…

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