New York state plans to sue 17 coal-burning power plants in the Midwest and the Virginias, a new approach in the effort to clean up air pollution that blows into the Northeast from Midwestern and Southern states. Northeastern states and the federal government have long fought to get coal-burning plants to reduce the emissions that cause smog and acid rain, but recent court rulings have hampered those efforts and negotiations between states have broken down. Meanwhile, rain contaminated with mercury from coal-fired power plants is polluting Midwestern lakes and rivers, according to a report released by environmental groups. Rain falling on Chicago can contain as much as 41 times more mercury than federal safety standards for Great Lakes water.